Conrad Black, who was sentenced to six and half years in prison last week on fraud charges, lashes out at two former friends this morning in the pages of the New York Sun for what he sees as their betrayal. It’s the first time that Black, who has been writing a regular column for the past several months, has spoken out about his triaand he’s decided to use it to lambast two prominent erstwhile defenders. Their crime? They have said that maybe Black might have done something or another wrong. They don’t realize that Black is fighting the good fight for all of us—or at least all of us that might someday be the target of a RICO investigation by the feds.
Breaking: Conrad Black sentenced to 6.5 years in prison!
Update: Told to report to prison in 12 weeks. Time to break out the good stuff, Conrad. It won’t be there when you get out.
Update: Reuters link here.
Conrad Black has been anything but contrite since being found guilty of fraud and obstruction of justice. He has vigorously maintained his innocence and is appealing his conviction every which way he can. His lawyers say that won’t change today, when he appears before a judge in Chicago to be sentenced. His camp says this shows he is “principled” but others point out that refusing to follow the usual confessional script may result in a stiffer sentence.
Prosecutors are calling for up to 30 years in prison for Black. His lawyers say that based on these convictions, he deserves more like 2 years. Get your bid in now. We’ll reward the closest bidder who doesn’t go over (Price is Right rules) with a free copy of Charlie Gasparino’s King of The Club. (If you need a bit more incentive, Business Week says “Gasparino’s detailed account of Wall Street insider machinations, and the tick-tock of boardroom negotiations during the worst crisis in NYSE history, makes for riveting reading.”)
Yesterday, in a Chicago courtroom, prosecutors trying to take down press guy Conrad Black for racketeering brought an email into evidence that they believe stacks the cards against Mr. Black, sent from him to Donald Trump, prior to Hollinger’s 2003 shareholders’ meeting:
“Dear Donald”, began Lord Black. “Could I ask a rather esoteric favour?” He continued: “Some of the [investing] institutions are engaging in an insurrection and I plan on a forceful rebuttal… If you were able to make a cameo appearance and put in a supportive word, I’m sure it would have an impact.”
Does this prove guilt? Who knows. What we do know: Black got this great idea from close personal friend Dennis Kozlowski, who brought in Ken Lay (may he rest in peace…if he’s really dead…) to speak on his behalf when things were getting dicey with Tyco shareholders. (Koz had ripped it off from Stalin, who tried a similar tactic on the Soviets with the glowing recommendation of colleague Adolf Hitler).
Trial hears how Black played Trump card to mollify angry investors [The Guardian]
[Apparently the Don obliged and gave such a beautiful account of Black’s “tremendous management” that Melania was offered a spot with Hollinger’s board of directors, though in what capacity we’re unsure.]
Conrad Black wants us to know that he is not Jay Gatsby.
More specifically, he has no plans to end up ruined at murdered, the end met by the title character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby.” The “don’t shoot me” protest arose after journalist William Rees-Mogg published a supportive essay comparing his friend to the literary figure.
Black, who is on trial in Chicago for looting the company he controlled, protests.
I understand he meant well by his reference to The Great Gatsby, but Gatsby was an amiable charlatan who ended up being murdered in his own swimming pool. I accept the sentiment but not the analogy. Lord Rees-Mogg seems to imagine that while I may well be acquitted, my world has somewhat imploded, like Gatsby’s. I don’t think so.
Conrad Black: a response [TimesUK]
We like Alan Murray—and not just because he was so easy to beat up on when we were up against him on Squawk Box. He’s a smart guy but he’s a bit too credulous sometimes. And he constantly trips himself up on the grand illusion of our time—that moral problems can be solved by technical means. To cure a problem such as corporate fraud, all that is needed is a set of cleverly designed regulations. It is apparently very easy for the intelligent to forget that not all problems can be solved by the application of intelligence, even Alan Murray’s intelligence.
In the video above—and in his column on page 11 of today’s Wall Street Journal—you can hear him quickly jump from describing the Tom Wolfe-ian character of Conrad Black to the conclusion that we should be cautious about reforming or repealing Sarbanes-Oxley because, you know, it’s supposed to make doing bad things harder.
Larry Ribstein isn’t so sure. First of all, he wonders, what evidence is there that Sarbanes-Oxley really would do much to prevent the kind of intentional wrong-doing alleged in the Black case? “Indeed, it’s unclear that SOX would have prevented even Enron, which had a completely independent audit committee,” Ribstein writes.
But the real problem with Murray’s argument is even worse—like so many of the arguments for regulations that stem from anecdotal tales of wrong-doing, it fails to even attempt a basic cost-benefit test.
As Ribstein writes:
…even accepting Murray’s conclusion, this is not an excuse for SOX. Is it really worth huge costs to thousands of legitimate companies to (possibly!) prevent one Conrad Black? Do we really need a massive federal law to “mak[e] it clear that directors work for shareholders, not management.” In firms where directors and managers don’t already know this despite an already large structure of federal and state criminal and civil remedies and regulation, is SOX 404 really going to make a difference?
Edward Greenspan, AKA Conrad Black’s attorney, AKA “Fast Eddie,” whose comedy routine failed to amuse Judge Amy St. Eve several days back in a Chicago courtroom is really taking things up a notch. By falling asleep. The Post reports this morning that Greenspan’s daughter—part of Black’s defense team—had to lean across the table yesterday and whisper, “Dad…Dad…Dad,” to try and waken the slumbering giant and after failing to do so, got Ed Genson, another member of the team, to “give him a nudge.” Next up in Greenspan’s bag of tricks? Something tells us it’s got to involve china white and a feral cat.
FAST ASLEEP [NYP]
Edward Greenspan, Conrad Black’s attorney, is finding out the hard way that his brand of humor doesn’t necessarily translate on American soil. Greenspan, whose personal cross to bear is that he’s been labeled one of the “most famous lawyers in Canada” and whose nickname is, no joke, “Fast Eddie,” was taken to task by Judge Amy St. Eve for “making tongue-in-cheek” remarks about his treatment as a foreigner in America’s legal system.” Black’s set included bits such as “I love that I’ve been officially certified as stupid by the Illinois judge” (told to the Times) and “[I’m] so stupid [that] no matter how incompetent I may be, Conrad can’t rely on it [as an excuse].” The judge, not a fan of Mr. Eddie’s Cona-esque sensibilities, lambasted Fast Eddie yesterday in front of a full house, telling him, “You have reportedly made a statement that I’ve certified you as stupid…that…is patently wrong. If you were stupid, you wouldn’t be here. To the extent that you were under that impression, you were patently wrong.”
Black claimed that the barbs at his own expense were taken out of context and that he “meant it purely with a sense of humor.” He then turned to the court and asked, “What’s the deal with this judge, huh? What is she, fresh from the Amelia Bedelia School of Comedy?” and pantomimed “Cut It Out” when the laughter reached an acceptable decibel. Greenspan then told the audience “There’s plenty more where that came from” and instructed them to refer to his website for a comprehensive list of tour dates.
Earlier: Où est Monsieur Black?
Conrad Black’s lawyer gets on wrong side of judge [The Guardian]
Can you feel the excitement in the air? The electricity? The sensation down your spine that something HUGE is happening? That could be the early stages of crack-induced spinal cord failure but more likely it’s the Conrad Black trial. Set to begin this morning in downtown Chicago (got a great Cubs story for you, btw, ask me about it later), Mr. Black (and some lawyer-types) will be defending himself against accusations of plundering a sizeable chunk of change from his newspaper empire. Of course, the question that’s weighing on all of our minds isn’t ‘guilty or not guilty?’, since, by rule, we assume that all Canooks are Crooks (see our .blogspot.com site devoted entirely to this assertion), but where the heck is CB shacking up during this whole thing? The Post is guessing the Ritz, though one of their (less classy) sources believes it to be the Four Seasons (and Ritz doormen “claimed yesterday they’d never heard of Black,” which puts him in the same category as Muqtada al-Sadr, but doesn’t necessarily refute that Black’s staying there). We’re actually more inclined to believe he’s turning in at the Courtyard Marriot, for reasons we cannot disclose at this time. But what about you? The Venn diagram overlap of your expertise in the areas of Conrad Black and hotels is quite sizeable, is it not? How about you take your best guesses and we’ll do whatever it takes to determine the truth and whoever it turns out guessed correctly (we’ll be going by the honor system here) will get a free copy of Jack Welch’s Winning and a drink with John Carney? Sound good? Great. Remember that at the Ritz they put chocolate on your pillow but at Super 8 there are lots of fun things to examine on your sheets with a UV light. Toss up indeed.
Federal prosecutors are seeking to revoke or modify the $20 million bail bond of Conrad Black, the former Hollinger International Inc. chairman who is accused of looting the company he founded and built into one of the largest English language newspaper companies in the world.
Black pledged a Palm Beach, Florida home for the bail bond. Prosecutors now say he overstated the property, understated a Canadian tax lien on it, had defaulted on a mortgage on the property and didn’t reveal that his wife was part owner. Black, along with others at Hollinger, face charges of stripping $92 million from Hollinger International. He was forced to step down from his position with Hollinger International after the alleged misdeeds came to light.
Lots of newspapers have the story. But we’re linking to the Chicago Sun-Times, one of the papers Black once owned. And not just because it seems mean.
Prosecutors seek bail revocation of Black