NEW YORK – Former star technology banker Frank Quattrone (search), convicted on criminal charges of obstructing justice, has been barred from the securities industry for life by regulators for allegedly failing to cooperate in an investigation of his activities.
The National Association of Securities Dealers (search), the brokerage industry's self-policing group, announced Monday that its National Adjudicatory Council had permanently banned Quattrone from the industry, overruling a January decision by a hearing panel to suspend him for only a year. The NASD panel also had fined Quattrone $30,000, which stands.
Quattrone will appeal the NASD ban to the Securities and Exchange Commission (search), which he has the legal right to do within 30 days, his attorney Ken Hausman said. Hausman called the ruling "publicity-driven" and said it unfairly singles out Quattrone for harsher treatment than that accorded people in similar cases.
The NASD action went beyond the 10-year ban stemming by law from Quattrone's criminal conviction, which brought him a sentence of 1 1/2 years in prison and a $90,000 fine. Quattrone was convicted in May — in his second trial — of hindering a federal probe into how his Wall Street investment bank, Credit Suisse First Boston, had allocated shares of initial public offerings of stock during the late-1990s Internet boom.
The banker, who took prominent companies like Amazon.com public during that period, is the highest-profile Wall Street figure since junk-bond pioneer Michael Milken to face a criminal conviction. He has been allowed to remain free while he appeals it.
Quattrone had appealed the hearing panel ruling, contending that being compelled to testify in the NASD's investigation while criminal charges were pending against him would violate his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The NASD's permanent ban "singles out Frank Quattrone for harsher treatment than other individuals in related cases," the attorney, Hausman, said in a statement. "The decision also deprives Frank Quattrone of his constitutional rights, which he exercised in seeking to delay his testimony."
Quattrone, Hausman said, had provided two days of testimony to the NASD in October 2002 and three days of testimony in July and October of this year after his criminal trial was resolved.
In ordering the permanent ban, which had been sought by the NASD's top enforcement official, the group's council called Quattrone's conduct "egregious" and said it "impeded an NASD investigation and undermined the NASD's ability to carry out its regulatory mandate."
"In view of the serious nature of Quattrone's misconduct and the lack of mitigating facts, we conclude that a bar is necessary in this case to protect the integrity of NASD's investigative responsibilities and its role as (a self-regulatory body) serving the public interest," the council's ruling said. The NASD lacks subpoena power and therefore must rely on enforcing its rules to compel companies and individuals in the securities industry to provide information in investigations, it noted.
Quattrone endorsed an e-mail on Dec. 5, 2000, that encouraged bankers at Credit Suisse First Boston to "clean up those files" before the holidays. At the time, federal investigators were looking into the bank's stock-allocation practices. Quattrone has always maintained that he did not know the scope of the inquiry and was simply following CSFB policy, which called for routine destruction of some outdated documents.
Quattrone's first criminal trial ended in October 2003 with jurors hopelessly divided on a verdict.
The NASD alleged in March 2003 that Quattrone had failed to cooperate in its investigation of whether he asked the employees to destroy documents after being notified of federal and NASD investigations. The NASD also has alleged that Quattrone was involved in distributing shares of hot new stocks to Silicon Valley executives whose companies did investment-banking business with CSFB.
The practice, known as "spinning," has since been outlawed by federal regulators.
CSFB, one of Wall Street's biggest investment firms, agreed in 2002 to pay $100 million to resolve allegations by the NASD and the SEC of abuses in its distribution of new stocks. The $100 million, comprised of $70 million in restitution and fines totaling $30 million, was one of the largest civil penalties ever imposed on a brokerage firm. The firm neither admitted nor denied the allegations.
Two analysts who became celebrities during the high-tech boom, Internet expert Henry Blodget of Merrill Lynch and telecom specialist Jack Grubman of Salomon Smith Barney, were permanently banned from the securities industry by the NASD in April 2003, as part an industrywide settlement of allegations of conflicts of interest at Wall Street firms that skewed analysts' research.