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Former Inside Trader Reviews His Misdeeds : Wall Street: Dennis Levine says in a magazine article that his downfall was well deserved.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former inside trader Dennis B. Levine, out of prison now and struggling to resume a normal life, has gone public with a breast-beating mea culpa in the latest issue of Fortune magazine.

The former investment banker, who in the mid-1980s turned $39,000 into more than $11 million from illegal trading, states that his subsequent downfall was well deserved. In a first-person, bylined article in the magazine’s May 21 edition, Levine writes:

“I will regret my mistakes forever. I blame only myself for my actions and accept full responsibility for what I have done. No one led me down the garden path.”

In the article, Levine says the experience reinforced his faith in American justice. “When I broke the law, I was punished. The system works.”

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But Levine doesn’t dwell much on the chain of events he set in motion when he agreed to plead guilty to four felonies in 1986. Information he shared with prosecutors touched off the biggest securities fraud investigation in history, toppling former stock speculator Ivan F. Boesky and a slew of other prominent financiers, including, most recently, Michael Milken.

Levine merely notes that when he decided to plead, “Everyone else involved in (Levine’s specific) case also entered guilty pleas and cooperated.”

Marshall Loeb, the magazine’s managing editor, said in a telephone interview that the article came about as a result of an offer first put to Levine in 1986. The magazine didn’t hear back from him, however, until late last year.

Levine doesn’t reveal much that wasn’t already in newspaper accounts and the book “Levine & Co.” by Times staff writer Douglas Frantz. But he does forthrightly retell how he used his access to confidential information about pending takeover and merger deals to place personal orders for stock through offshore banks.

In a succession of jobs, beginning at Citicorp and then Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co.; Lehman Bros. Kuhn Loeb, and finally Drexel Burnham Lambert, Levine was directly involved in advising companies on takeovers or leveraged buyouts. He writes that “eventually insider trading became an addiction for me.”

He also describes Boesky’s relentless efforts to lure him into a scheme in which Boesky would pay him handsomely for tips about deals at Drexel. “He had such an insatiable desire for information that he would call me up to a dozen times a day,” Levine says. “I turned Ivan down and resisted his overtures for weeks.” But eventually Levine relented.

Since he was released last year from a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., Levine has opened a financial consulting business and gone on the college lecture circuit.

Levine talks about the toll of his misdeeds and punishment on his family. “Saying goodby to your family is painful enough, but imagine having to explain to your 5-year-old son why his father is going to prison,” he says. Despite his acceptance of his own punishment, Levine says he isn’t convinced that prisons are a cure for society’s ills.

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Loeb said Levine was paid for the article at the magazine’s usual rate for free-lancers. He declined to specify how much.


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