NEW YORK — Question: So my question is, when first queried on your scheme and knowing that it was wrong, you decided to blame it on David Clark, did you not?
Q: Is that a fair measure of your loyalty and friendship, Mr. Brant?
A: I don't see that that has got anything to do with it.
\o7 --Excerpt from the testimony of Peter N. Brant at the fraud, embezzlement and perjury trial of David W. C. Clark
On the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 28, Peter N. Brant, 33, formerly a $2-million-a-year stockbroker at the Wall Street firm of Kidder, Peabody & Co., was sitting in a hallway at the Manhattan federal courthouse here, waiting to resume his testimony against his former friend, lawyer David W. C. Clark.
By all accounts, Brant was minding his own business when Clark's wife, Natalie, an interior decorator, approached and began to stare at Brant silently. Then, using her finger to imitate a pistol, Natalie Clark pointed at Brant's head and simulated pulling the trigger.
"I don't mean to make it a bigger deal (than it was)," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Gage, who described the incident to the trial judge. "But it is upsetting to the witness, who at one time was close friends with the Clarks."
It is not easy to preserve a friendship in the fast-paced culture of modern Wall Street, where career, money and the size of one's cooperative apartment are often seen as the key measures of personal achievement. But few friendships formed during the recent years of high-flying prosperity here have proved as fragile, or as tragic, as the one between stockbroker Peter Brant and lawyer David Clark.
After meeting 11 years ago on the polo grounds of an exclusive Connecticut hunt club, the pair embarked on a mind-boggling odyssey of social ascent, high living, wild spending sprees and frenzied stock trading--finally crashing in a tangle of embezzlement and fraud.
The history between them concluded in a Manhattan courtroom Nov. 20 when a jury returned a 16-count guilty verdict against Clark. The 38-year-old lawyer was accused of embezzling money from his wealthy clients, evading taxes and lying to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigator in connection with the insider stock trading scheme involving former Wall Street Journal reporter R. Foster Winans. The verdict followed a six-week trial at which Brant was the key prosecution witness.
Wanted It All
"It's a sad thing because, like in a book, ambition's fine--but a lot of people get torpedoed by it," Martin Bornstein, Brant's father, reflected in a telephone interview from his home in Buffalo, N.Y., last week. (Brant changed his name in 1976 and has not spoken to his father in a decade.) "I think all these guys like my son, (Ivan F.) Boesky, and (Dennis B.) Levine--they get manic. They make all this money and they think they've died and gone to heaven.
"My son made more money in one year than I've made in a lifetime. . . . He wanted it all, I guess," Bornstein said.
So, it appears, did David Clark. Both Brant and Clark await sentencing before federal judges. Brant, who earlier pleaded guilty to securities fraud charges as part of his cooperation agreement with the government, faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. Clark faces a possible term of 75 years.
Their story, as it unfolded in courtroom testimony, is about more than a friendship gone haywire. It is also suggestive of the unrestrained atmosphere on Wall Street during the 1980s, a period characterized by many critics as one of speculation and excess. At the least, it was a time of financial excess in the lives of Clark and Brant.
Q: Was it explained to you that a high degree of integrity was necessary for the position of stockbroker at Kidder Peabody?
Q: Was it explained to you that loyalty to your customers would be an important trait for a broker at Kidder Peabody?
\o7 --From Peter Brant's testimony\f7
Peter Brant was born Peter Bornstein in Buffalo, the second son of a middle-class Jewish insurance salesman who lived in a mixed neighborhood on the city's north side. From the beginning, his father said, Brant was an exuberant, outgoing and materialistic child who took an early interest in racehorses, money and fine clothes.
"He was a great kid, he really was," Martin Bornstein said. "He was smart, good-looking--but he wasn't much of a student."
Brant seemed determined to leave the prosaic setting of his Buffalo neighborhood far behind him. In 1972, he enrolled at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., a management school. He earned high marks in classes such as music appreciation and poetry writing, but mainly Ds in finance courses. "I would say I excelled at liberal arts," Brant recalled.
Brant fell in with a group of friends at college who were absorbed in the rituals and appearances of Northeastern privilege. The group formed a campus Bombay Club, whose uniform was a crisp white shirt, pressed slacks and a dark blazer. On the blazer was a patch depicting a pair of crossed polo mallets and a martini glass.