Outside the media glare of the trial of the Lay-Skilling trial, decade, a true corporate crook — financier Martin Frankel — was re-sentenced yesterday in a post-Booker hearing to 17 years in prison for pulling off one of the biggest insurance frauds in American history.
Frankel was a small-time New York money manager in the early 1990’s who arranged for the acquisition of a group of financially-troubled insurance companies throughout the 1990’s, which he then used to pull off a several hundred million dollar scam.
With investigators closing in on him in May,1999, Frankel bought millions of dollars worth of diamonds, wired money to accounts all over the world, torched any remaining paper trail and fled the country for Germany under a blaze of publicity.
He was apprehended in Germany several months later, spent a year and a half in a German prison, and then was extradicted to the US to face criminal charges here.
The Wall Street Journal’s Ellen Joan Pollock was a lead writer on the reporting team that covered the FBI’s four-month international manhunt for Frankel, and she eventually wrote a good book about the affair called The Pretender (Free Press 2002).
Meanwhile, as Frankel returns to prison to serve the remainder of his 17-year sentence, Jamie Olis — an honest, hard-working, American success story who did what his bosses told him to do in regard to a merely questionable business transaction — continues to await resentencing after his previous 24-year sentence was overturned on appeal.
Comparing the sentences of Frankel and Olis provides a stark example of the injustice involved in the government criminalizing corporate agency costs to assuage public animus after a business meltdown such as Enron.
If the government cannot tell the difference between Martin Frankel and Jamie Olis, then it is highly unlikely that it can tell the difference between Martin Frankel and you or me.