Marc Rich lawyers ordered to turn over documents

CNN - December 14, 2001


-- A federal judge said lawyers for Marc Rich acted "principally as lobbyists" in helping the fugitive financier win a pardon from President Clinton and must hand over documents withheld from a grand jury investigating the controversial pardon.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said attorney-client privilege does not protect the materials from release.

"The Marc Rich lawyers were acting principally as lobbyists, working with public relations specialists and individuals -- foreign government officials, prominent citizens and personal friends of the president -- who had access to the White House," Chin wrote. "They were not acting as lawyers or providing legal advice in the traditional sense."

After the ruling, which did not give details of what is in the materials, Rich lawyer Laurence Urgenson said: "We're reviewing the opinion and considering our options."

Rich was indicted in 1983 on federal charges of evading more than $48 million in income taxes and illegally buying oil from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. Rich, ex-husband of Denise Rich, a major financial contributor to the Democratic Party, left the United States before he was indicted and has been living in Switzerland.

He received one of 176 pardons and clemencies Clinton issued on his last day in office, Jan. 20.

The pardons and commutations prompted congressional hearings and an investigation by federal prosecutors in New York.

Clinton said in February that he granted the Rich pardon based "on the merits as I saw them, and I take full responsibility for it."

He rejected any suggestion that he granted the pardon because of political contributions or donations Rich's ex-wife made to the Clinton library foundation.

Clinton spokeswoman Julia Payne referred queries to the former president's lawyer in Washington, David Kendall, who did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Former White House counsel Jack Quinn, whose work on behalf of the Rich pardon received special note in the judge's ruling, also did not return a call.

The judge said Quinn was hired not because of his legal skills but because he was "Washington wise" and understood "the entire political process."

"He was hired because he could telephone the White House and engage in a 20-minute conversation with the president," the judge said. "He was hired because he could write the president a `personal note' that said `I believe in this cause with all my heart,' and he would know that the president would read the note and give it weight."

Quinn and Denise Rich have denied allegations that the pardon was tied to her political contributions.

Lawyers for Rich's pardoned business partner, Pincus Green, also must release documents, the judge said.

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