A Veteran Tech Banker Invests in Criminal Justice Reform

Who's the "Prince of Silicon Valley"? South Philly native Frank Quattrone, has made a living as one of the leading investment bankers for Silicon Valley, helping spearhead landmark IPOs of companies like Amazon.com in a career that dates back to the 1980s, and which landed him in serious hot water in the dot com era. 

After graduating from Wharton and Stanford, Quattrone began in finance with Morgan Stanley. He's been advising technology companies since the early 1980s, and headed the global technology groups for Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse. In 2008, Quattrone co-founded Qatalyst Partners.

It's unclear how much Quattrone is currently worth, but he once earned more than $120 million in a year. With Quattrone's successes, though, he's also dealt with controversy. Last decade, he faced obstruction charges before the case was eventually dropped. 

At IP, we've looked before at financiers with controversy in their past who've also engaged in philanthropy in a big way. Michael Milken and Steve Cohen come to mind. To be fair, some of these donors engaged in charity well before they were in the negative spotlight.   

As for Quattrone, he and his wife Denise established their Frank and Denise Quattrone Foundation in 2002. The foundation provides grants for educational scholarships, medical research, science and technology, social justice, a healthy environment and the arts.

Let's talk about the couple's social justice focus for a bit. Denise plays a strong role in this area. She's an advocate for criminal justice reform who serves as a research volunteer and advisory board member of the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The family, via their foundation, has supported the University of Michigan Law School. 

Moreover, a few years ago, the couple gave a $15 million gift to create the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at Penn Law. The center describes itself as a "national research and policy hub created to catalyze long-term structural improvements to the US criminal justice system." UPenn graduates Quattrone and Denise both serve on the advisory board of the center. 

Chalk up yet one more major donor who's lately taken on criminal justice. We're coming across more and more of these folks, and it's easy to see why. Not only is the U.S. justice system cruelly dysfunctional, but the stars finally seem to be aligning for real reform. And as we know, philanthropists prefer to push doors that are likely to open. 

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But consider the irony of Quattrone's interest in this issue. A big fish who navigated the justice system with high-powered lawyers is now looking out for the little guy navigating the justice system, often with grossly inadequate legal counsel. Interesting. 

Similarly, Maryland liquor retailer David Trone, now a major benefactor of the ACLU, once had charges pursued against him by an AG before the case was thrown out.

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Apart from the Quattrone Center, the couple has also supported places like Criminal Justice Research, Death Penalty Focus, Innocence Project, Pennsylvania Innocence Project, and Prison University Project. For a complete overview of this funder, read our profile of Frank Quattrone linked below. 

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