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Wall Street Shrugs, Shivers at Boesky Sentence

December 19, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ Many Wall Streeters shrugged off stock speculator Ivan F. Boesky’s three- year prison sentence with a chuckle, but there were shivers in more private financial enclaves over what may lie ahead.

″Boesky was light years ago,″ said Tom Croonquist, a 26-year-old bond broker interviewed in front of the New York Stock Exchange building in lower Manhattan. ″Big things happen down here and they’re forgotten the next day.″

In the shadow of Wall Street skyscrapers bedecked with holiday wreaths and bows, a group of young brokers shouted ″Who cares?″ as they hurried off to lunch in the bitter breeze.

The sentencing on a criminal conspiracy charge Friday came 13 months after Boesky stunned the financial community by paying a record $100 million penalty to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle an insider-trading complaint. He was barred from the securities business for life.

Boesky’s broad cooperation with the goverment already has implicated several prominent Wall Street professionals and is expected to result in more indictments.

He could have received five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Still, his prison term was the longest meted out so far in the unwinding revelations that have rocked the securities industry over the past year and a half.

An indifferent attitude pervaded a good faction of the financial district’s lunchtime set, more interested in shopping or staying warm than discussing the ex-financier’s fate.

Hours after his sentencing, many Wall Street professionals still were unaware of the outcome.

″It was nice news - it was sensational″ when it first became public, one hurried man said. ″There were overwhelming dollar figures involved, people talked about it. But he dropped out of sight.″

There were arguments over the length of the sentence, and skepticism over the amouth of time Boesky actually would spend in prison. Legally, he must serve one-third of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

″Three years is not enough for a guy who got as greedy as he got,″ said Julian Ennis, a tourist from Alabama as he reloaded his camera after a tour of the stock exchange.

″For the amount of money involved, it really doesn’t fit the crime,″ said Jesse Davis, 28, who writes computer trading programs.

But one 40-year-old investment banker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said one year’s incarceration ″may be a sufficient deterrant″ for shady speculators.

″They need to see it. People have come to accept that you can do business that way as long as you don’t commit a criminal felony - I mean as in harming someone or stealing money. Boesky didn’t hold up a bank, he held up the system,″ the man said.

But Davis argued that people were harmed by Boesky’s dealings. ″Unfortunatel y, the people really affected - the small time investor - won’t benefit″ from the sentence, he said. ″There are victims out there and they probably don’t even realize it.″

There was a profound reticence among businessmen who often speak and trade barbs with the press. At Harry’s, a popular downtown watering hole, dozens of well-clad Wall Streeters cowered behind drinks or turned away when asked what they thought of Boesky’s sentence.

One of the handful of female patrons at Harry’s said: ″I’m not saying anything till the rest of it comes out. There will be more.″

Surrounded by heavy wood paneling in the basement bar-restaurant, a group of businessmen said they were not allowed to comment without ″permission″ from their firms.

″The reason people don’t want to talk about it is because Boesky’s filthy,″ said a 60-year-old consultant perched at the bar. No one knows who Boesky may have fingered in cooperating with the government, he said.

Insider trading ″is insidious. It’s been going on for ages,″ he said. ″My clients are all crooks. I try to keep them clean even though the temptations to be crooked are extraordinary.″

″Wall Street is an incestuous community - everybody’s using everybody else,″ he said.

Croohquist, the bond trader, said: ″If I had been working with him and had a guilty conscience about any of my deals, I’d be nervous. He gave a bad name to the business. He was one of the bad apples out there.″

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