Last week, Frank Quattrone, the infamous Silicon Valley investment banker whose rapid ascension and precipitous fall mirrored the boom-and-bust dot-com era, had obstruction-of-justice charges against him dismissed by a federal judge in Manhattan. If Quattrone — who made no admission of guilt — stays clear of the law for the next year, he should have no trouble restarting his financial career; indeed, many of his friends and associates are already predicting that Quattrone's return will lead to a re-invigoration of the Web-based investment scene. It's another dramatic reversal of fortune for Quattrone, who was tried and convicted in May 2004 on two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of witness tampering, which would have carried a prison term of up to 20 years. But in March, a federal appeals court nullified that conviction, and a lifetime ban by the National Association of Securities Dealers was also overturned. His critics say Quattrone's case is just another example of a wealthy defendant mustering the best legal defense money can buy, but there's no masking the buzz his reinstatement has created in Silicon Valley. Are you an apologist for Frank Quattrone? Take our quiz and find out!
1) Quattrone rose to prominence during the 1990s tech boom, as he presided over 175 initial public offerings, including those for Cisco Systems, Amazon.com, and Netscape. It's estimated he advised on 425 mergers, worth about $500 billion, and was earning more than $125 million a year at the height of his influence. Were you surprised when you heard he was being targeted by prosecutors in 2002?
A) Stunned. I thought they would come after him in '98.
B) Was I surprised when I heard? No … I was shredding when I heard.
C) Honestly, I was still trying to figure out how to use Netscape.
2) Quattrone drew the attention of prosecutors because of an e-mail he forwarded in late 2000, endorsing a suggestion that his underlings at Credit Suisse “clean up” their files. What made the e-mail particularly explosive was that Quattrone had been told two days earlier that the firm was under investigation by federal prosecutors in an IPO allocation matter. What do you think Quattrone really meant by his e-mail?
A) “Start cleaning as if your lives depended on it, because mine might.”
B) “Has anyone seen the Windex?”
C) Are you kidding me? Have you ever seen a dot-com file? They're filthy! You've got dirt, ink smudges — I don't even want to think about the unseen bacteria. What Quattrone was trying to do was prevent plague.
3) Given that the government's case rested largely on that one e-mail, many of Quattrone's friends and former associates maintained that he was simply a high-profile scapegoat for the billions lost in the dot-com crash. Do you think the man nicknamed “God's banker” was prosecuted mainly because of his stature and influence?
A) That, and the fact that he was involved with more money than most countries see in their history.
B) Hey, man, even God lost millions in the Internet crash.
C) You have to ask yourself this question: Would God place his personal fortune in the hands of a money-hungry, duplicitous, law-breaking snake? Besides the pope, I mean.
4) Quattrone, 50, announced on the courthouse steps that he planned to get back into business, although many industry analysts expect him to run his own boutique investment firm rather than join another large conglomerate. As competitor Sanford Robertson told the San Francisco Chronicle: “The whole tech community will welcome him back very quickly. The slate is clean. Everyone understands what a witch hunt this was.” What do you think?
A) I tell you, with all the witch hunts supposedly going on in the Bay Area, it's a wonder they don't all up and move to Salem.
B) I couldn't agree more. We've got a clean slate, clean files … Quattrone might not launch the most successful boutique firm of all time, but the office will be spotless.
C) This feels like the return of Sopranos to HBO after a long layoff … without the criminal element, of course.
5) Quattrone's return comes at a time when technology companies are again gathering buzz: Employment in Silicon Valley rose over the 12 months to June for the first time since 2001. With Quattrone again wining and dining among the tech sector's elite, do you forecast another dot-com boom in the Bay Area's near future?
A) God, I hope not. My apartment costs three times too much as it is.
B) I dunno, but I just put “Frank Quattrone” into YouTube and got a video of a monkey riding a chicken, so I think the boom is a ways off yet.
C) Alas! If only Frank had been around to steer the good ship Friendster to profitability! I might still be popular …
6) In addition to covering his legal costs in the three-year showdown with the government, Credit Suisse will likely have to pay Quattrone as much as $120 million in overdue compensation — provided he doesn't break the law for a year. How does the resolution of Quattrone's case leave you feeling about the government's ability to crack down on shady corporate practices?
A) Hey, Kenneth Lay is dead, isn't he? What more do you want?
B) Quattrone gets $120 million for being prosecuted? Man, I need to get into the sending-almost-incriminating-e-mail business.
C) I think the government is doing a marvelous job. Oh, wait, can you hold a minute? Frank's on the other line.
7) In recent years, Quattrone has turned to philanthropy, giving his time and money to Santa Clara University's Northern California Innocence Project and the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. What do you think Quattrone will pour his energies into now that he's free of prosecution?
A) The Friends of Frank Quattrone Fund.
B) I think he's already found the perfect organizations. After all, innocence and technology are what Frank Quattrone is all about. (Bonus point for adding: “And cleanliness.”)
C) His bank account. In Switzerland.
How to score:
Score zero points for every “A” answer, one point for every “B,” and two points for every “C.”
0-6 points: Look, it's Frank's world. We just live in it.
7-10 points: It's so hard to tell the good guys from the bad in the dot-com world. Glad to know Quattrone is one of the good guys, huh?
11-14 points: Congratulations! You're a true apologist for Frank Quattrone. Now go clean those files!