Friday, August 19, 2011

Roy Cohn's Extended Family--Marcus and Cowen

There was a long tradition of fraud and corruption lurking in Roy Cohn's genetic makeup, as a review of his mother's family reveals.
The Marcus Family

Roy Marcus Cohn was the only child of American-born Doris "Dora" Gladys Marcus and her attorney husband Albert Cohn, an Assistant District Attorney in New York. The couple married in January 1924 and took a five-week honeymoon to Europe. Thereafter, Dora became a frequent traveler, including a summer voyage aboard the Queen Mary in 1951 with her son Roy when he was 24 years of age.

Dora's father had come to America in 1885 and became a naturalized citizen three years later. Joseph S. Marcus was of Russian ancestry, but born in Germany, while his wife, the sister of Joshua Lionel Cowen, was born in England.

After arriving in America as a young man, Marcus quickly became a successful clothing manufacturer, who by 1910 was a bank president, and resided at 315 Riverside, later moving to a high-rise apartment at 525 West End Avenue.
Joseph S. Marcus founded "Bank of United States" on Delancey Street in 1913, and after his death in 1927, the bank was managed by Roy Marcus Cohn's uncle, Bernard K. Marcus,
who acted in close association with Bank Vice-President Saul Singer. Their strategy involved three elements. One was expansion through mergers and bank purchases. The second involved a series of securities affiliates and a syndicate for stock trading. The third was extensive investment in real estate development projects. These operations generated a bewildering variety of affiliated corporations. The complex linkages among the Bank and the affiliates ultimately gave rise to the fraudulent bookkeeping on the basis of which Marcus and Singer served prison terms. A. Within the space of a year, between May 21, 1928 and May 13, 1929. when the stock market boom was very strong. BUS merged with or purchased five other banks with total book value of about $26 million and with about $170 millions in deposits. [Source: The Failure of the Bank of United States, 1930: A Rejoinder to Anthony Patrick O'Brien by Paul B. Trescott]
Bernard Marcus's obituary in 1954 stated under the headline, "Principal in U.S. Financial Debacle Passes at 63":
Photo of Bernard K. Marcus' arrest in 1931
HUNTER, N.Y. — (AP) — Bernard Marcus, 63, who headed the Bank of United States when it collapsed in one of the spectacular financial debacles of the depression, and who later served a prison term, died Friday.

Marcus spent 23 months in prison in the aftermath of the Bank of United States' closing on Dec 11, 1930. He was later granted a pardon by then governor Herbert H. Lehman.
With 400,000 depositors and deposits of nearly $203,000,000 the bank was forced by the state banking superintendent to close its 82 offices in New York City. For days it had been subjected to a "run" of unprecedented proportions as word that it was in trouble spread like wildfire through the city.

Marcus was convicted in 1931 of charges of misapplying funds of the Municipal Safe Deposit Co a Bank of United States subsidiary.
Amidst the huge bank scandal involving Bernard Marcus, statements made by the judge at his 1931 sentencing were reported as follows:
In passing sentence, Judge Donnellan said he believed despite the testimony of the defendants that they acted in good faith in the transaction which led to the indictment that there was a "consciousness of wrong-doing."
He asserted that the willful misapplication of which the three men were convicted resulted from their gambling in Bank of United States/Bankus Corporation stock units and he said if the units had gone up in price instead of down, he had "absolutely no doubt the profits would have been pocketed by these defendants."
The court granted a week's stay to permit defense attorneys to petition for a certificate of reasonable doubt. During this stay, the defendants will be housed in Tombs prison.

Trial Lasted 12 Weeks

The trial of the bankers and young Singer, a law clerk, lasted 12weeks, the longest criminal trial in the history of New York county.

Marcus, 41 years of age, became known as one of the youngest presidents of a large bank, when at 37 he was elected president of the Bank of United States in 1927 as the successor of his father, the late Joseph S. Marcus.

As the executive vice president, Singer was a powerful figure in the expansion of the bank that started shortly after Bernard Marcus became president and made the institution one of the largest in the city with 59 branches. He is 49, and a native of Crimea, Russia.

Singer became prominent in the cloak and suit business from a humble start as a $2 a week worker. He finally became president of the cloak, suit and shirt manufacturers.

He was first associated with the Bank of United States as a director in 1919 and six years later became vice president.

Herbert Singer, 24, a law clerk in the office of Isidor J. Kresel, counsel and a director of the bank, was indicted with the men sentenced today but was granted a severance due to illness.

The Cowens

A few blocks away from the Joseph Marcus apartment lived Rachel Celia Cohen (Mrs. Joseph) Marcus' brother, Joshua Lionel Cowen, in an apartment at 219 West 81st Street, along with his wife and two children, Lawrence and Isabel (later moving closer downtown to 305 West End Avenue). The Cowen/Cohen siblings' parents were Hyman Nathan and Rebecca Kantrowitz Cohen, who lived in the Bronx. Joshua Lionel Cowen was married to the former Cecilia Liberman of New York.

Cowen manufactured authentic-looking electric toy trains through his company, Lionel Corporation, founded with Harry C. Grant in 1900. A native New Yorker, Cowen nevertheless was eager to convert his business of toy-making into making war instruments during World War I; his passport application made in 1922 shows that Lionel Corporation was making scientific nautical instruments out of its Irvington, N.J. factory at that time. City directories indicate he had an office at 48 East 21st Street.

But even much earlier than that "Great" war, Cowen had made other inventions which were of interest to the American military. His write-up in Who Was Who calls him the  
"Pioneer developer of the dry-cell battery, flashlight; builder galvanic and faradic batteries, also cytoscopic lamps; inventor fuse to set off magnesium flash powder used in photography; awarded contract to equip mines with detonators USN, 1898; builder model r.r.s, 1900, early engines equipped with battery, later engines electricified."
Cowen lived to be 88 years old and died at his home on Nightingale Trail in Palm Beach in 1965. He had long since (at least by 1945) turned over the operation of the Lionel Corporation to his son Lawrence Cowen, who by 1930 was married and working as a stock broker, living at 1125 Park Avenue on the upper east side of Manhattan. Lawrence was interviewed by Mary Harrington, a reporter for United Press International in 1945, as Christmas approached:
Lawrence Cowen, president of the Lionel Corp., largest maker of
electric trains, said his company will produce 15 per cent of his
1941 dollar volume business. "We're through with war work,
and we'll have two electric train sets, transformers, electric switches
and tracks." he said. "But there won't be nearly enough for all the kids."
A June 1943 item by Peter Edson, appearing on the editorial page of numerous newspapers, and headed "War Industry Reconversion," had relayed information that "Lionel Corporation, which used to make toy trains, had an ordnance parts contract taken away from it so that its workers could get onto more delicate fire control and navigation instruments requiring labor of a higher skill."

Lawrence would later move up to bigger and better things, so to speak. According to Time magazine on March 21, 1960 :
Lawrence Cowen, 52, president of Lionel Corp. from 1946 until last fall, was named chairman and chief executive officer of Schick Inc., makers of electric shavers. Cowen, who bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange at the age of 21, was ousted from Lionel when a new group led by Lawyer Roy M. Cohn took control of the company founded by Cowen's father (who gave his middle name, Lionel, to the toy electric trains he created). At Schick, Cowen succeeds Chester G. Gifford, who took over as Schick chairman in November 1958 when Revlon President Charles Revson bought a controlling 20% share of Schick stock for Revlon, resigned after a stormy tenure.

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