Marc Rich, the oil trader famously (or infamously) pardoned by Bill Clinton at the end of his presidency, died today in Switzerland. He was 78.
Switzerland is where he spent a lot of time since his days as a fugitive in the 1980s when he was trying to outrun charges of tax evasion and illegal trades with Iran. It's been a long time since we've heard from Rich but his influence hasn't faded.
"Rich was the first of the celebrity Wall Street rogues and everyone else by comparison was, and is, an amateur," said A. Craig Copetas, the author of "Metal Men: How Marc Rich Defrauded the Country, Evaded the Law, and Became the World’s Most Sought after Corporate Criminal."
Rich's trading group eventually became the global commodities giant Glencore Xstrata.
"He actually bought and sold the earth's crust. Everything in your iPhone, your computer and your light bulb, Rich was involved in buying, selling and delivering," said Copetas. "He invented the spot oil market and he's the only individual in history to have successfully manipulated OPEC, the oil companies and ultimately the price of oil in the United States and the United States government."
Copetas said Rich made friends with some unfriendly governments overseas.
"And if the federal prosecutors had caught him at the time, they were ready to slap him with charges of treason that would make the kerfuffle over Edward Snowden look like a spat between two gerbils," said Copetas.
Rich secured a controversial pardon from Bill Clinton hours before he left office. He spent his remaining years at his home in Switzerland.