The Justice [Abe Fortas]…and the Stock Manipulator [Louis Wolfson]

William Lambert, The Justice…and the Stock Manipulator. Life, 9 May 1969. “In an investigation over a period of several months, LIFE found evidence of a personal association between [US Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas] and [stock manipulator Louis] Wolfson that took place after Fortas was seated as a member of the nation’s highest tribunal.”

Excerpts from story:

It is not easy to pin down the exact extent of the Wolfson-Fortas relationship, nor has LIFE uncovered evidence making possible a charge that Wolfson hired Fortas to fix his case. But the conflicting accounts of participants…, coupled with the findings of LIFE’s independent investigation, yield certain facts.

On Jan. 3, 1966, three months after Fortas was sworn in as Associate Justice, a check for $20,000 was drawn to him personally on a Jacksonville, Fla. bank account of the Wolfson Family Foundation, and signed by Gerbert as foundation treasurer. It was endorsed with the Justice’s name and deposited in his personal–not his old law firm’s–bank account.

In February [1966], Alexander Rittmaster, a Wolfson business associate who later was to be indicted with him, asked Wolfson what he was doing about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation, then at least 15 months in progress. Rittmaster said Wolfson told him it was going to be taken care of ‘at the top,’ and that the matter wouldn’t get out of Washington. He also said that Fortas was joining the foundation.

On March 14 [1966], the SEC forwarded a report to the Justice Department in Washington and to U.S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau in New York. The report, highly classified, recommended criminal prosecution of Wolfson and Gerbert. The charge was that they conspired to unload secretly their control shares in the Wolfson-dominated Continental Enterprises, Inc., by failing to publicly register their projected stock sales. (The SEC investigation showed they realized 3.5 million from the sale, after which the remaining stockholders found their shares had dropped from $8 to $1.50)….

When it came to light that Fortas was to receive $20,000 a year for life from the Wolfson Foundation, he resigned from the Supreme court on 15 May 1969.