The first of many, it is to be hoped.
Only once before, 18 years ago, had I received a telephone call from an incumbent president of the United States, prior to Monday of last week, and I had not spoken to the current president since he took office. When my assistant said there was a call from the White House, I picked up, said “Hello” and started to ask if this was a prank, (suspecting my friends in the British tabloid media), but the caller spoke politely over me: “Please hold for the president,” and two seconds later probably the best known voice in the world said “Is that the great Lord Black?” I said “Mr. President, you do me great honor telephoning me.”
He could not have been more gracious and quickly got to his point, that he was granting me a full pardon, that would “Expunge the bad wrap you got.” He had followed the case closely and offered to come to give evidence at my trial in Chicago in 2007 on one of the counts that was later an acquittal. He said that there would be some controversy, “But you can handle that better than anyone.” I asked “Do you authorize me to say that your motivation is that it was an unjust verdict?” He checked with the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, who was in the room, if this would be a problem legally, and was told and affirmed to me that I could say that was his motive and that he was reversing an unjust verdict. “We’ve known each other a long time, but that wasn’t any part of the reason. Nor was any of the supportive things you’ve said and written about me.” I suggested that he knew ”better than anyone” the antics of some U.S. prosecutors. (I had had Robert Mueller as director of the FBI, which we caught installing illegal bugging devices in our home in New York and in many falsehoods; James Comey as deputy attorney general, and Patrick Fitzgerald, now Comey’s counsel, as U.S. attorney in Chicago. They were all, as my distinguished caller on Monday has described Comey, “bad cops.”) We moved briefly on to generalities, greetings to wives, I thanked him for his call and again for the purpose of his call, and the conversation ended.
It was never anything but a confluence of unlucky events, the belligerence of several corporate governance charlatans, and grandstanding local and American judges, all fanned by an unusually frenzied international media showing exceptional interest in the case because I was a media owner. The rock-slide began in 2003 when it came to light that some payments from our American to our Canadian company and to certain executives, including me, though fully revealed in public filings, had not been fully authorized.
Of course, the damage was already done.
As the controversy continued, Local Toronto judges and the Ontario Securities Commission prevented us from running the company, where there was no accounting fraud, hard profitable assets, and $2 billion of shareholder equity, all of which was squandered in poor administration and greedily consumed by court-appointed or sanctioned lawyers and accountants and the relentless intrusions of regulators seeking headlines and not the shareholders’ interest.
The vaporization of two billion dollars of shareholder value affected tens of thousands of families in all parts of Canada and the United States. With aching slowness the case against me disintegrated. Of the 17 counts in 2005, four, including money-laundering and perjury, were abandoned. Nine others were acquittals by a prodigiously un-Solomonic jury, many of whom slept through the proceedings.
On May 7, 2012, I went directly from Miami Federal Prison to the airport and onto a chartered plane and returned to my home in Toronto after an absence of five years. It was seven years less a day after that that President Trump called me. I am now, at last, officially not guilty even in the conviction-mad United States. None of this would have been the subject of a criminal case in any other serious jurisdiction. It was for this fiction that I spent three years and two weeks in prisons and endured significant official persecution in Canada, and the great companies my associates and I built over more than thirty years were torn down, driven into bankruptcy and destroyed, while the trans-border corporate governance hypocrites stuffed a third of a billion dollars into their pockets in ill-gotten professional fees.
I did have the satisfaction of winning the greatest libel settlement in Canadian history ($5 million) from the egregious Richard Breeden, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the other authors of the infamous special committee report of 2004, which really poured gasoline on the fire and ignited the criminal charges. The American criminal justice system is frequently and largely evil; I was convicted for attempted obstruction of injustice. It was never anything but a smear job.
Three years in prison; a multi-billion dollar business destroyed, its who-even-knows-how-many employees thrown out of work; a rightfully-earned personal fortune zeroed out; years and years of hassle, humiliation, anxiety, and surreal, slow-mo destruction. Over a decade and a half of abuse while Grond crawled relentlessly on, shredding everything and everyone caught up in its ravenous maw into bloody pulp.
After having been so ruinously tormented—personally and professionally bled white—at its gratuitous instigation, I’d say Conrad Black is being entirely too generous when he says the American “justice” system is only “frequently and largely evil.” It is WHOLLY so—distorted, dysfunctional, and perverse through and through, incapable of rendering true justice except by accident or happenstance.