Rich, Marc

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RICH, MARC (1934– ), international commodities trader. Born Marc David Reich in Antwerp, Belgium, he and his family emigrated to the United States in 1942. He attended New York University, but did not graduate, and worked as a commodities trader for his father, who was a successful producer of burlap sacks. Rich then worked with Philipp Brothers, a dealer in raw metals, learning about the international trading of raw materials with Third World nations. He later focused on trading with dictatorial regimes and embargoed nations such as Iran. In 1983 Rich and his partner, Pincus Green, were indicted on charges of tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran. According to the indictment, Rich set up a scam to have his company's oil relabeled by a reseller, and thus seemingly exempted from price controls. Rich's lawyers sought a deal to end the prosecution and spare him jail time. They offered $100 million if all charges were dropped. This was on top of $50,000 a day Rich was paying in contempt-of-court fines. During this period, Rich and Green were in Europe. When the deal was finally rejected, Rich and Green became fugitives when they decided to stay abroad. The resellers who were the main co-conspirators in the fraud were convicted and served 12 months in jail. Rich's companies pleaded guilty to 78 counts and paid over $150 million while he and Green remained fugitives.

Rich was joined in Switzerland by his wife, denise eisenberg rich (1944– ), the daughter of Holocaust survivors who fled Germany for Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father made millions in a shoe factory while Denise went to Boston University, where she taught herself to play the guitar and began a songwriting career. They married in 1966 and she stayed with her husband in Europe. After about 10 years, she returned to New York City with their three daughters and reportedly received a large divorce settlement. Denise began pursuing her songwriting career in earnest, contributed heavily to the Democratic Party and the campaign of Bill Clinton, whom she met in 1993, and became famous for large parties in New York City. Over the years, her songs were nominated for Grammys and Oscars and she wrote songs for pop stars like Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, and Patti LaBelle. The songs and parties continued until 1996 when the Riches' middle daughter, Gabrielle, died of leukemia at the age of 27. Denise then created the G & P Charitable Foundation (G for Gabrielle, P for Philip, her daughter's husband) to finance cancer research. Since its formation in 1998 the foundation raised millions, aided by an appearance at the first gala by then-President Clinton.

While in exile, Rich continued his questionable business practices. In 1988, the Defense Logistics Agency lifted its bar on contracting with a Rich company and between 1989 and 1992, the U.S. Mint issued at least 21 separate contracts for nickel, zinc, and copper to the company.

Over the years, Rich kept trying to win a pardon, his lawyers arguing that he was the victim of overly zealous prosecutors. Many of those who wrote letters of support for a presidential pardon were leaders of Jewish philanthropy in the United States and Israel. Rich had given to a variety of major institutions in Israel, including Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Ben-Gurion University, the Israel Museum, and the Jerusalem Foundation. He also helped bring dozens of Jews from Ethiopia and Yemen to Israel and was one of 14 people who pledged five million dollars to Birthright Israel, a program that sends young, primarily North American, Jews on free trips to Israel. On January 20, 2001, only hours before leaving office, Clinton granted Rich a pardon. Clinton explained his decision by noting that similar situations were settled in civil, not criminal, court, and cited clemency pleas from Israeli government officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

After his pardon, Rich began lucrative business dealings with Saddam Hussein of Iraq, which were disclosed in 2005 in connection with the United Nations oil-for-food scandals.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]