Marc Rich (born December 18, 1934) is an international commodities trader and entrepreneur. He is best known for founding the commodities company Glencore. He was indicted in the United States on federal charges of illegally making oil deals with Iran during the late 1970s-early 1980s Iran hostage crisis and tax evasion. He was in Switzerland at the time of the indictment and has never returned to the U.S.
He subsequently received a presidential pardon from U.S. President Bill Clinton on January 20, 2001, Clinton's last day in office.
Early life, marriage and career
Marcell David Reich was born in 1934 to a Jewish family in Antwerp, Belgium. His family emigrated to the United States in 1941 to escape the Nazis. Rich attended high school at the Rhodes Preparatory School in the Manhattan borough of New York City. He later attended New York University, in Manhattan, but dropped out after one semester to go work for Philipp Brothers (now known as Phibro LLC). He worked as a commodities trader for his father, who sought to build an American manufacturing fortune through burlap-sack production.
Mark Rich married Denise Eisenberg, a songwriter and an heiress to a New England shoe manufacturing fortune, in 1966. They divorced in 1996; she continues to use the name Denise Rich. They had three children, one of whom, Gabrielle Rich Aouad, predeceased her parents.
He worked with Philipp Brothers, a dealer in metals, learning about the international raw materials markets and commercial trading with poor, third-world nations. One of his biggest market coups came during the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo, when he used his Middle Eastern contacts to circumvent the embargo and buy crude oil from Iran and Iraq. After purchasing the crude for roughly US$12 per barrel, Rich doubled the price and sold it to supply-starved U.S. oil companies. In 1974 he and co-worker Pincus Green set up their own company.
Rich has been credited with having created the spot market for crude oil in the early 1970s, revolutionizing commodity trading. His tutelage under Philipp Brothers afforded Rich opportunities to strike deals with various dictatorial régimes and embargoed nations, such as Iran, using a special relationship with Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Despite the American embargo, Iran would become Rich's most important supplier of crude oil for more than 15 years.
His company, Marc Rich Real Estate GmbH, is involved in large developer projects (e.g., in Prague, Czech Republic). Rich was also accused of being involved with the Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
Forbes reported Rich had a net worth of US$1 billion in 2011, a significant decrease from previous wealth.
U.S. indictment and controversial pardon
In 1983 Rich and Green were indicted by then-U.S. Federal Prosecutor (and future mayor of New York City) Rudolph Giuliani, on illegal trading with Iran and charges of tax evasion. They were indicted while they were in Switzerland. The pair failed to return to the U.S. following the indictment, and were on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most-Wanted Fugitives List for many years.
In 1989 the U.S. Justice Department ceased using statutes of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in tax cases such as the one in which Rich and Green were indicted, and relied instead on civil lawsuits. However, Marc Rich remained on page 1 of the Justice Department's Most Wanted International Fugitives.
On January 20, 2001, hours before leaving office, Clinton granted Rich a presidential pardon. Because Rich's former wife had made large donations to the U.S. Democratic Party and the Clinton Library during Clinton's time in office, Clinton's critics alleged that Rich's pardon had been bought. Marc Rich had made substantial donations to Israeli charitable foundations. 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 then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Federal Prosecutor Mary Jo White was appointed to investigate. She stepped down before the investigation was finished and was replaced by James Comey. Comey was critical of Clinton's pardons and Eric Holder's pardon recommendation. According to Rich's attorney, Holder advised to circumvent standard procedures and to submit the pardon petition directly to the White House.
As a condition to the pardon, it was made clear that Rich would drop all procedural defenses against any civil actions brought against him by the U.S. upon his return there. That condition was consistent with the position that his alleged wrongdoing warranted only civil penalties, not criminal punishment. As of November 2010, Rich has not returned to the U.S. During hearings after Rich's pardon, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who had represented Rich from 1985 until the spring of 2000, denied that Rich had violated the tax laws but criticized him for trading with Iran at a time when that country was holding U.S. hostages.
In his February 18, 2001, op-ed essay in The New York Times, Clinton (by then out of office) explained why he pardoned Rich, noting that U.S. tax professors Bernard Wolfman of the Harvard Law School and Martin Ginsburg of Georgetown University Law Center, concluded that no crime was committed, and that Rich's companies' tax-reporting position was reasonable. In the same essay Clinton listed Libby as one of three "distinguished Republican lawyers" who supported Rich's pardon.
Clinton's pardon was also supported by the Spain's King Juan Carlos I. Speculation about another rationale for Rich's pardon involves his alleged involvement with the Israeli intelligence community. Rich claims he provided valuable information to the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service.
Glencore International AG and Trafigura AG, headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, are corporate successors to Marc Rich & Co AG.
Although Rich believed that he had relinquished his United States citizenship when he became a citizen of Spain, an appeals court ruled in 1991 that for purposes of U.S. law Rich remains a citizen and therefore is still subject to U.S. income taxes. In order to renounce U.S. citizenship, a citizen must "appear in person before a U.S. consular or "diplomatic officer" outside the U.S. and "sign an oath of renunciation". Today he holds Spanish and Israeli passports.
After spending several years in Zug, Switzerland, Rich moved to Meggen, a city in the Canton of Lucerne, Switzerland, residing in a house called "La villa rose" (the pink villa) on the shores of Swiss Lake Lucerne, where he zealously guards his privacy. Rich also owns property in the ski resort of St. Moritz, Switzerland, and in Marbella, Spain. He is an important art collector and friends say he lives surrounded by Renoirs, Monets and Picassos.
In May 2007 Rich received an honorary doctorate from Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, in recognition of his contribution to Israel and to the university's research programs. He received the same honor from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel, on November 18, 2007. The Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer in suburban Tel-Aviv, Israel, honored Rich with the "Sheba Humanitarian Award 2008". Former recipients of this award include actor Michael Douglas, actress Elizabeth Taylor and former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford.
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Rich is an international commodities trader and entrepreneur. He is best known for founding the commodities company Glencore. He was indicted in the United States on federal charges of illegally making oil deals with Iran during the late 1970s-early 1980s Iran hostage crisis and tax evasion. He was in Switzerland at the time of the indictment and has never returned to the U.S.
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