When junk-bond king Michael Milken was sent to prison at the end of the 1980s, his name was stricken from a donors' wall at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
But since South Philly native Frank Quattrone's 2003 conviction on federal charges he urged subordinates to destroy potential evidence in a stock trading investigation was overturned by a federal appeals court, the University of Pennsylvania Law School has agreed to accept $15 million from investment banker Quattrone to set up the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, "a national research and policy hub created to catalyze long term structural improvements to the US criminal justice system."
Quattrone, son of a garment workers' union officer who attended Stella Maris and St. Joseph's Prep before heading off to Wharton, rose through the crowd of tech bankers taking companies public during the dot.com bubble to collect a fortune estimated at more than $100 million before the market flamed out in 2001. Prosecuted amid public reaction to the dot.com blow-up, Quattrone always maintained he did nothing illegal, and has made justice reform his charitable cause since the government allowed him back into the securities business.
According to Penn, the Quattrone Center "will take an interdisciplinary, data-driven, scientific approach to identifying and analyzing the most crucial problems in the justice system, and proposing solutions that improve its fairness for the long-term benefit of society. It will conduct independent, unbiased research and programs, engaging all parties—academia, judiciary, law enforcement, defense attorneys, prosecutors, legislators, forensic and social scientists, media, and other participants – required to effect substantial change for the better.
"The Center’s initial funding comes from The Frank and Denise Quattrone Foundation, whose trustees Frank Quattrone W’77 and his wife Denise Foderaro SAMP’78 are Penn graduates and Philadelphia natives.
"The fundamental accuracy and fairness of the American criminal justice system was once taken for granted. In recent years, however, scientific advances such as those in DNA testing have challenged our idealism by revealing errors in findings of guilt and innocence, with significant consequences to individuals, families, and the system as a whole. Further examination by scholars and attorneys nationwide has led to the recognition that a wider variety and higher occurrence of errors exist, eroding the public’s faith that justice is universally achieved."
According to law school dean Michael A. Fitts, the Quattrone center "will extend to justice the same revolution in evidence-based approaches and outcomes that are already taking place in medicine and education, by evaluating the justice system broadly to determine why systemic problems occur and how best to address them for the long term.” Penn also says the center will foment policies "to reduce or eliminate wrongful convictions." Penn President Amy Gutmann expressed confidence it will help " improve the fairness of our legal system.”