Stars Fall on Wall Street

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TAKING HEAT: Quattrone left an e-mail trail

There's a fine line between cleanup and cover-up. The question is, On which side was Frank Quattrone? A rainmaker who turned Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) into Silicon Valley's top investment bank, Quattrone, 47, was charged last week with obstruction of justice. Federal officials in New York City say he advised his staff to delete computer files even though he knew the firm was under investigation for using lucrative shares of initial public offerings (IPOs) of stock to woo clients. Quattrone's lawyer says his client was just echoing CSFB's document-retention policy.

The truth lies somewhere in a trail of e-mail. According to U.S. Attorney James Comey, one of Quattrone's colleagues suggested, in an e-mail dated Dec. 4, 2000, that company bankers clean out their files before the holidays. "Today, it's administrative housekeeping," the message says. "In January, it could be improper destruction of evidence." Quattrone replied, "I strongly advise you to follow these procedures." Days earlier, company lawyers had told him CSFB had been issued a subpoena. His lawyer, John Keker, says Quattrone is innocent. CSFB, which paid $100 million to settle the ipo charges, declined to comment. Quattrone resigned in March.

The criminal charges remind Wall Street that it is not off the hook yet. Several big firms settled charges that they had slanted stock research to win investment-banking fees. But other probes continue. If convicted, Quattrone would face a 10-year-maximum prison sentence—and a life sentence as a symbol of a decade's greed.