Metal Men: How Marc Rich Defrauded the Country, Evaded the Law, and Became the World's Most Sought-After Corporate Criminalby A. Craig Copetas, Marc Rich
Marc Rich the most wanted white-collar criminal in America was one of the most successful metal traders in the world. Before there was Michael Milken or Ivan Boesky, Rich rose through the ranks to amass a multibillion dollar fortune in the halcyon days of high-flying commodities trading. But he did it by cutting corners and pulling the wool over the
Marc Rich the most wanted white-collar criminal in America was one of the most successful metal traders in the world. Before there was Michael Milken or Ivan Boesky, Rich rose through the ranks to amass a multibillion dollar fortune in the halcyon days of high-flying commodities trading. But he did it by cutting corners and pulling the wool over the eyes of his competitors. Eventually his companies pleaded guilty to 38 counts of tax evasion, paying $90 million in fines. Rich fled to Switzerland, where he faced a potential jail term of over 300 years if he ever returned to the United States. This is a story of greed, corruption, and money gone wild, in truly astronomical proportions. Posing as a commodities trader, A. Craig Copetas goes behind the scenes to give us a riveting, true-to-life portrait of Rich's corrupt world and his incredible escape from the law.
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Read an Excerpt
Marc Rich had it all.
A commodity trader with a Midas touch, Marc Rich from the late 1970s until the present ran a multibillion-dollar empire that stretched from Russian nickel mines through Malaysian tin deposits and into trading rooms in London, Hong Kong and New York. He owned a fleet of oil tankers, counted Henry Kissinger and Placido Domingo as his friends, and married the heiress to an American footwear fortune. He had a $9.5 million home along Spain's Costa Brava and maintained equally lavish residences in Switzerland and Israel. Rich purchased Picassos and grain silos, scooped up Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox at one point and helped bankroll everything from the Jamaican Olympic team to the Rhodes prep school in Manhattan. Although his personal wealth is a closely guarded secret, Rich is routinely estimated to have a net worth in excess of $1 billion.At the same time, his friend and colleagues joked, those who compile lists of the world's richest men have failed to include Rich because they have been unable to calculate an algorithm from which to accurately gauge the true value of his wealth.
But despite his wealth and power, there was one thing Rich could not do for the past 17 years: set foot on U.S. soil. For Rich, until Bill Clinton granted him a presidential pardon in January, 2001, was the most wanted white-collar fugitive in American history.
This was a man who fled to a safe haven in Switzerland just before being indicted in 1983 on more than 50 counts of wire fraud, racketeering, trading with Iran despite a trade embargo and evading more than $48 million in U.S. income taxes. Today, he is free to return toAmerica, his past record forever cleansed of legal stain by the pardon Clinton issued in his last day as president.
The pardon has drawn sharp criticism. Former U.S. Justice Department officials have characterized it as "outrageous" and "disgusting." New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was a federal prosecutor at the time Rich fled, said he was "shocked" by the pardon and has called for a congressional investigation into the matter by the House Government Reform Committee.
Sandy Weinberg, the U.S. prosecutor who spent years investigating the exploits of Rich's empire, is dumbfounded."It's astonishing," he says "The act of trading with the enemy is so egregious in itself, and indicative of the kind of attitude Rich and his companies had in relation to being good citizens of the U.S.," Weinberg adds.What Clinton did is incomprehensible.It demeans the whole system."
Many aspects of the pardon remain muddy. Why, for instance, would Clinton intercede on the behalf of Rich? But one thing seems clear: According to a seminal Supreme Court ruling, acceptance of a pardon generally implies a concession of guilt. Thus, if Rich accepts the pardon, he will tacitly acknowledge, among other things, that ' as the 1983 indictment put it ' he "traded with the enemy," a crime classified as "a treasonable offense." In the past, Rich has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
Seventeen years is a long time. Rich, who has always declined to be interviewed by me, has been lying low most of that time, quietly running his trading kingdom out of a Swiss residence called "Villa Rosa" on the shores of Lake Lucerne and from offices in Zug. He has stayed out of the public eye, and many people have forgotten why he has been on the lam all this time.
For the past 17 years, Rich bided his time in Switzerland, beyond the reach of a special team of U.S. marshals and international executives who operated under the code name Otford Project and had been given the task of bringing him back to the U.S. But Rich has always taken pride in his ability to trade for anything, even the right to return to the U.S. The negotiations began in 1987, when Rich first expressed a desire to return, providing he had written assurance from the Justice Department that he wouldn't have to spend any time in jail. Weinberg and his successors laughed at the proposal. "We met with Rich privately in Zurich in 1992," says one former Justice Department official. "Rich didn't look the part of the all powerful Oz. He was sweating and he was scared of spending even one minute behind bars. And that's where we were going to put him, for at least three years."
So why, one might ask, did U.S. government departments continue to do business with Rich and Green? In 1985, for example, U.S. Congressional investigators discovered that Rich's Swiss-based grain operation, Richco, had racked up nearly $100 million in sales through a Department of Agriculture subsidy program designed to help foreign nations purchase American wheat and barley. Then in 1988 and 1989, investigators learned that a Rich-controlled company named Clarendon sold nearly $30 million worth of nickel, copper and zinc to the U.S. Mint. Shortly after that, the Interior Department approved a request from the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands that allowed Rich to finance its purchase of a $45 million alumina plant in St. Croix.
Former congressman Dan Glickman, who later served as Secretary of Agriculture in the Clinton Administration, at the time called for hearings into the U.S. doing business with its most-wanted white-collar fugitive. "What I say is for the U.S. to be on the side of the angels," Glickman said in 1989. "The government currently isn't on that side. Rich is using a corporate identity to shield himself from his corruption. America ought not to do business with him. Absolute negligence and incompetence caused this to happen."
A few years ago, Rich moved from his palatial residence atop aZug street called the Kingdom of Heaven to the Villa Rosa in Meggan. From there, he continues to pull the levers of a global trading machine in investment, finance and real-estate companies. At least six of these companies bear his name.
Despite his presidential pardon, Rich so far has remained in seclusion.Efforts to reach him at his home and his office were unsuccessful."He's on vacation," says the housekeeper of Villa Rosa. How much longer that vacation can last remains to be seen.
Meet the Author
A. Craig Copetas is a staff reporter at the Wall Street Journal and the author of Bear Hunting with the Politburo.
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Mr. Copetas has written a highly readable and informative book. No doubt much of the information is true; however, the author appears to rely heavily on government documents for the prosecution of Mr. Rich when it come to writing about Marc Rich himself. Without Mr. Rich¿s input much of the book is open to speculation. The U.S. ¿justice¿ system is notorious for magically changing allegations into facts and hearsay and second-hand information into evidence. I also noticed the copyright dates and found it interesting that the same political party was in office both times and that members of both of these administrations, privately, have a vested interest in the oil business. Which prompts me to ask: Is Marc Rich a corporate criminal, did he defraud the country and evade the law, or is it a case of sour grapes with a private vendetta being carried out in a public forum? I question, too, the fact that Mr. Rich was indicted while Oliver North ran for public office after committing virtually the same ¿crime¿. It¿s mentioned that greed was a huge motivator and this I don¿t agree with. Profit is simply the by-product. Currently, I¿m paper trading and honing my skills. Last December I placed a June DJIA put option costing me 2,100; in March, when the Dow fell I liquidated my option for 263,000. The excitement that¿s felt while everyone else is wringing their hands is incredible and the money was plowed right back into trading. Money is a marker, and trading is a test of skill and competition against yourself more than anything. Mr. Rich, in his business dealings, reminds me of J.P. Morgan when he started out; and I would willingly relocate to Switzerland and become a lehrling, so persuasive is Mr. Copetas¿ writings.
I am perhaps not alone in thinking the review of Metal Men by Mr. Janos was subsidized by Marc Rich. I was one of the author's sources when he wrote Metal Men in the early 1980s and can say with authority that everything in the book is true and that the only problem was Mr. Rich's constant refusal to be interviewed by the author in order to clarify certain points in the story and give Mr. Rich the opportunity to tell his side of the story. Nonetheless, the question is whether or not Mr. Rich is a criminal. Mr. Rich's acceptance of a presidential pardon, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, is an acceptance of the fact that he had been involved in the criminal activities described in Metal Men.
The author wrote an interesting book about two men who changed the world of certain commodities trading, Marc Rich And Pincus Green. I take exception to the title including the word 'Scam' when both gentlemen actually set up a $30 Billion dollar business located in 125 countries. The book will outline to the reader the origins and inner workings of the commodities business worldwide. The writing style is easy, informative and adds some intrigue. Marc Rich and Pincus Green started in the mail rooms and using their wits and hard work became the owners of many Board Rooms. One thing the book lacked was the listing of real enemies that were out to stop Marc Rich. When ones goes out to beat giants one must do it or the giant will beat them. Developing and dominating a spot market for oil did not please many powers whom once controlled such markets. Thus, Rich and Green were accused of many things that were hard to prove. The book was written before the RICO Laws were limited by the Supreme Court in 1987 and would not apply today to Rich. The author failed to mention the many good works of these Metal Men because the business is run best in secret or you can lose the deal. The same thing can be said for the many times they have helped others including governments and people in need. Marc Rich and Pincus Green practiced the highest form of charity in Judaism by giving anonymously and sometimes this includes your enemy. Suffice it to say, Marc Rich Companies have helped many nations, communities and institutions including matters of national security. Thus, the book must be taken in the light it is written. Lacking true inner circle confirmations, too much reliance on persecution evidence that would have been thrown out on appeal and not looking into who made the allegations. All I know is when you read it, you will have difficulty believing such reality is not fiction, and you may be right! I highly recommend this book on anyone seeking how the world trades in commodities.