Financier's career hits highest of highs and lowest of lows

Bond's guilty plea Friday follows June conviction in separate fraud scheme

Invested Md. pension fund money

October 14, 2002|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

At the height of his brief career, Alan B. Bond was a Wall Street phenom, a rich and telegenic guru whose stock picks were eagerly parsed during the great bull market of the 1990s.

But now Bond, like the market, has crashed to Earth, and the reverberations are being felt in Maryland. Investigators are probing investments he made on behalf of the state's biggest public-employee pension fund.

He is in a New York City jail awaiting sentencing. In June, jurors deliberated for barely an hour before convicting him of swindling millions of dollars from clients. On Friday, he pleaded guilty to additional charges of conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion in an unrelated scheme.

Records show that the 41-year-old investor once owned 75 luxury and antique cars, as well as homes in two states. His assets are frozen, his business is shuttered, and he is relying on a public defender.

His bail - backed by a mortgage on his parents' home - was yanked after the June conviction. The judge sent him away in handcuffs, noting scornfully that the victims in the case were people who had "trusted Mr. Bond at a time when others were abandoning him."

Among them: Baltimore money manager Nathan A. Chapman Jr., a fellow star among African-American financiers. Chapman had been hired to find minority-run investment firms for the State Retirement and Pension System, operated on behalf of thousands of teachers, police officers and other government workers and retirees. He selected Bond as a "sub-manager" and entrusted $33 million of the state's cash to him.

Bond used more than $5 million of that money to buy stock in companies largely owned and operated by Chapman. The investments boosted the fledgling firms but lost money. Federal and state authorities are now investigating the transactions, which experts say appear to represent a conflict of interest and may be illegal.

Bond's fall has been almost as sharp as his rise. He was born in Queens, the son of a teacher. He graduated with honors from Jamaica High School, a New York public school, then received a bachelor's degree in economics from Dartmouth in 1983 and a master's in business administration from Harvard in 1987.

He began his career as a sales associate at Wall Street's blue-chip Goldman Sachs Group Inc. but was accused of inflating his expense account and fired in 1989, according to testimony at his trial.

It was a minor setback. Bond, who through his attorney declined to comment for this article, became a portfolio manager for W.R. Lazard & Co., then the nation's largest black-owned money management firm.

Soon he was rubbing shoulders with Harrison J. Goldin, who had just retired as New York City comptroller and wanted to create his own African-American investment company.

`Something great'

Goldin introduced Bond to John and Ernesta Procope, owners of the venerable E.G. Bowman Co., the largest black-owned insurance brokerage. They decided to join Goldin in backing the new venture, which Bond would lead.

Bond, Procope Capital Management went into business in 1991, making Alan Bond one of the youngest African-American chief executive officers on Wall Street.

"We thought with his credentials, this would be something great," John Procope said. "Blacks don't have that kind of opportunity that often."

A few months later, Bond made a splash by winning a popular contest in The Wall Street Journal, in which stock picks by professionals were matched against random selections made by the newspaper's staff using a dartboard. Bond's imaginary portfolio returned 37.5 percent over six months.

Bond became a fixture on PBS's Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser, traveling from his home in Montclair, N.J., to Owings Mills for tapings. He was one of the "elves" who predicted market trends. He was also a guest on CNBC and was widely quoted in newspapers and magazines.

Each year he brought scores of inner city kids to his offices for investment seminars, a program called A Day on Wall Street that was designed to expose the children to high finance.

Anthony Chappelle, publisher of Securities Pro, a newsletter about African-American financial professionals, said Bond established himself as player on Wall Street, and his company grew to be one of the biggest black-owned investment firms.

"Alan was highly respected," Chappelle said.

Despite a spotty investment record - Bond acknowledged in his trial this summer that his 10-year return was below average - Bond, Procope compiled an impressive roster of clients.

The company invested hundreds of millions in pension money for players in the National Basketball Association, bus drivers in Philadelphia and Washington, and city workers in Birmingham, Ala. In 1997, Maryland's system was added to the list.

`A lackluster job'

One of the first to invest with Bond, Procope - and among the first to dump it - was the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System.

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