Several employees in Credit Suisse First Boston’s technology-banking unit discarded documents two years ago after investment banker Frank Quattrone urged them to dispose of files as CSFB was facing probes of its business practices, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
The discovery by prosecutors that employees of the Wall Street securities firm appear to have followed the advice of Mr. Quattrone then the technology-banking chief is being viewed as a key development in the investigations of Mr. Quattrone by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the Manhattan U.S. attorney, James Comey.
While e-mails already have surfaced indicating that Mr. Quattrone advised employees to “clean up” their files and that he did so at a time when he had been told of inquiries into the firm it hasn’t been clear whether anyone actually followed his advice. That gap in the evidence raised questions about the prospects for any case against him if his urging to purge some files wasn’t followed.
Now, people close to the investigation say that gap is closing, pointing to at least three cases where CSFB employees appeared to follow Mr. Quattrone’s advice.
An effort is now under way to interview the 300 people who worked for Mr. Quattrone at the time and determine who else may have acted in response to his e-mail. A spokeswoman for CSFB, owned by Zurich’s Credit Suisse Group (CSR), declined to comment, as did officials for Mr. Spitzer’s office and the U.S. attorney’s office.
Mr. Quattrone also declined to comment, but in the past he has denied any wrongdoing.
“I did nothing wrong,” Mr. Quattrone said in a statement two weeks ago, when he was placed on administrative leave by the firm. “I am confident the investigation will show that.”
The obstruction investigation is the latest and possibly most damaging of the multiple investigations into Mr. Quattrone’s business activities during the 1990s, when he helped CSFB gain a top spot in bringing to market technology stocks and became one of the highest paid executives on Wall Street.
Mr. Quattrone faces possible civil action by the National Association of Securities Dealers into some of his business practices.
But the obstruction investigations by Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Comey are criminal in nature, meaning that stakes are higher for Mr. Quattrone.