Frank Quattrone, the investment banker whose deal-making helped fuel the 1990s dot.com boom, has had his conviction for obstructing justice overturned.
When the former star technology specialist at CSFB was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2004, it was a moment that defined the regulatory clean-up after the excesses of the bubble years.
But the jury which convicted him was given flawed instructions and there was not enough evidence to be sure of his guilt, an appeal court decided.
He could now face a new trial over charges that he told employees it was "time to clean up" their files because a grand jury was investigating alleged kickbacks. CSFB, in common with most Wall Street banks, was being quizzed on whether favoured clients were allowed in on must-have flotations and dot.com fundraisings, to the exclusion of other fund managers.
Mr Quattrone was tried twice on two charges of obstruction of justice and one of witness tampering. The first trial in 2003 ended with the jury deadlocked.
And the second trial was riddled with errors, a three-judge panel of the US court of appeal agreed yesterday. The jury was given erroneous instructions, it said, and the judge made comments "that could be viewed as rising beyond mere impatience or annoyance".
Federal prosecutors must now decide whether to pursue a third trial against Mr Quattrone.
He has always protested his innocence, saying he thought the Justice Department was investigating other areas of the bank. He was on bail pending the outcome of the appeal.
Responding to yesterday's ruling, John Keker, who defended Mr Quattrone at both original trials, said he was "gratified that justice has finally been done", and Mr Quattrone is "very, very happy to have this off his back".
Mr Quattrone earned $120m (£70m) in 2000, when he was seen as an oracle with an eye for the hottest new technology companies. The sentence just quashed was one of the harshest doled out to an investment banker.
The burst of the dot.com bubble prompted a wave of regulatory and criminal investigations into questionable practices at the investment banks promoting new technology stocks. CSFB agreed to pay $100m in a legal settlement and no charges were ever brought against it.Reuse content