A former star investment banker with Credit Suisse First Boston was arrested and charged yesterday with witness tampering and obstructing U.S. federal criminal and civil securities probes by directing the destruction of evidence.
The complaint said Frank Quattrone, “unlawfully, wilfully and knowingly, corruptly influenced, obstructed and impeded the due administration of justice.”
It said he directed CSFB’s officers and employees to destroy evidence required for investigations by a federal grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Quattrone, 47, of Menlo Park, Calif., was released after agreeing at his initial court appearance to surrender his passport and confine his travel to within the United States. He declined comment outside court.
“Frank Quattrone is innocent. He never obstructed justice,” his lawyer John Keker said.
Quattrone resigned from Credit Suisse in early March. During the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, he was one of the highest-paid figures on Wall Street, earning almost $100 million (U.S.) a year and wielding enormous influence. He presided over lucrative initial public offerings of companies such as Amazon.com and Netscape Communications Corp.
When the tech bubble burst in 2000, regulators began taking a closer look at the firm’s IPO practices.
The complaint unsealed yesterday outlined a series of e-mails in 2000 that investigators allege led to the destruction of numerous Credit Suisse documents they believe would have been helpful to the SEC and grand jury.
In several internal Credit Suisse e-mails sent on Dec. 5-6, 2000, certain company employees directed other employees to destroy IPO-related documents, according to the complaint.
The complaint alleged that Quattrone was told about grand jury subpoenas and probes by securities regulators on Dec. 3, 2000, and asked in an e-mail, “Are the regulators accusing us of criminal activity?”
“They are investigating because they think something bad happened,” Quattrone allegedly was told in an e-mail from a company lawyer. “They are completely wrong but merely being investigated and having something leak could be quite harmful, so the idea is to get them to back off their inquiry.”
On the same day, he was warned by a company lawyer, “Everything we say now is going to come under a microscope,” according to the complaint.
On Dec. 4, 2000, Credit Suisse First Boston’s “Global Head of Execution Technology Group” told Quattrone and others in an e-mail that securities lawyers were “mounting an all-out assault on broken tech IPOs.”
The executive reminded Quattrone and three other senior officers of the technology unit about a company policy, which called for destruction of most documents related to a securities offering unless litigation began over the transaction or the company received subpoenas to produce documents.
The executive suggested “that before they leave for the holidays, they should catch up on file cleanup,” the complaint said.
“Today, it’s administrative housekeeping. In January, it could be improper destruction of evidence,” the e-mail warned, according to the complaint.
The complaint said Quattrone distributed an e-mail on Dec. 5, 2000, saying he had once been a key witness in a securities litigation case in south Texas and that he would “strongly advise” other Credit Suisse employees to follow procedures outlining which documents should be kept or destroyed.