Dennis Levine : biography
Dennis B. Levine (born August 1952) was a prominent player in merger and acquisition business and the Wall Street insider trading scandals of the mid-1980s. As a managing director at Drexel Burnham Lambert, he was at the center of the frenetic 1980s merger and acquisition boom and was charged with insider trading by the U.S Attorney Rudy Giuliani.
After completing his sentence and making full restitution, Levine returned to the finance world as president of ADASAR Group, a financial consulting firm. Over the last 25+ years, Levine has reemerged as a global strategist for innovative technology trends, most recently focusing on controlled environment agriculture and sustainability, including food, water and energy systems. He also lectures throughout the world at universities and organizations on a host of contemporary issues from business ethics to emerging technology developments.
After a brief stint at Citibank, he joined Smith Barney in 1978, moving to Lehman Brothers in 1981. Shortly after Lehman was bought by American Express in 1985, he moved to Drexel as a managing director.
Levine spent most of his career as a specialist in mergers and acquisitions. He was known as a good researcher with a voracious appetite for information. He soon became a major player in the M&A field, and played key role in two of the more notable hostile takeovers of the 1980s—James Goldsmith's takeover of Crown Zellerbach and Ron Perelman's takeover of Revlon. It was very common to see him on a telephone with an extra-long cord while hunched over a Quotron, checking out signs of possible deals.
In 1991, Levine wrote a book about his experiences, Inside Out—an Insiders Account of Wall Street. He accepted full responsibility for his actions and claimed the vast majority of professionals on Wall Street followed the rules. In his lectures to students since then, he acknowledges his mistakes, stresses the importance of ethical standards to young professionals through his real-life experiences and has heightened awareness for ethical education programs at universities.
Levine grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in Bayside in eastern Queens. He graduated from CUNY's Baruch College, obtaining an MBA from the same school in 1976.
Over the years, Levine built up a network of professionals at various Wall Street firms who engaged in insider trading. Participants exchanged and traded on inside information they obtained through their work. Levine placed his trades through an account maintained at Bahamian subsidiaries of Swiss banks. After briefly doing business with Pictet & Cie, he moved his business to Bank Leu in May, 1980, eventually earning $10.6 million in profits. Levine believed he was safe from detection. Like most Swiss banks, Bank Leu had a long tradition of secrecy. Also, the Bahamas had some of the strictest bank secrecy laws in the world.
Bank Leu officials soon realized that Levine was trading almost entirely on inside information. In order to get a piece of the action for themselves, some of them copied, or "piggybacked," his trades for their own accounts. In the process, they made a tidy profit on Levine's trades. To cover the trail, they broke up Levine's trades among several brokers. Unfortunately for Levine, they steered a large number of his trades through a broker at Merrill Lynch, who began piggybacking the trades for himself.
In May 1985, Merrill Lynch detected suspicious activity in two other brokers' personal trading accounts. An internal investigation led to Bank Leu. Unable to pierce the veil of secrecy, Merrill Lynch forwarded the affair to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Bank officials suggested that Levine come up with reasons to justify the trades. However, they also forged or destroyed many documents related to Levine's activity—thus opening themselves to charges of obstruction of justice. Their story fell apart when noted attorney Harvey Pitt, whom the bank had retained, noticed a huge gap between the actual statements of the bank's managed accounts and the omnibus records. At that point, the bank decided to cooperate with the SEC.
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