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Former McKinsey & Co. CEO hit with fine, 2-year prison term for insider trading October 26, 2012

Filed under: Corporate Malfeasance,Uncategorized — larsfforsberg @ 2:05 am
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Rajat Gupta, formerly one of the most respected CEOs in the US and a board member of financial giants like Goldman Sachs and Russia’s Sberbank, received a prison term and a $5 million fine for insider trading during the height of the 2008 crisis.

Prosecutors accused Gupta, the former head of the global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and a onetime director of the huge consumer products company Procter & Gamble, of being “above-the-law” in feeding his close friend and partner Raj Rajaratnam insider knowledge between March 2007 and January 2009. Billionaire Rajaratnam is also a founder of the Galleon hedge fund.

During the trial which has been going on since May, the prosecution highlighted a September 23, 2008, phone call made by Gupta to Rajaratnam just minutes after Gupta had learned about Warren Buffett’s planned investment of $5 billion by Berkshire Hathaway in Goldman Sachs.

Shortly after the called ended, Rajaratnam purchased $40mln in Goldman stock, which made him nearly $1 million at the height of the financial crisis that had engulfed the country.

In sentencing the judge called the phone call “the functional equivalent of stabbing Goldman in the back.”

Judge Jed Rakoff said the punishment was sufficient for the 63-year-old Gupta.“… no one really knows how much jail time is necessary to materially deter insider trading; but common sense suggests that most business executives fear even a modest prison term to a degree that more hardened types might not. Thus, a relatively modest prison term should be `sufficient, but not more than necessary,’ for this purpose,” Rakoff said.

However, the sentence was well below the 10 years requested by government prosecutors, and well below sentencing guidelines, which made some experts question whether it’s a fair punishment.

Chicago attorney Andrew Stoltmann says Gupta “intentionally betrayed his duties to Goldman Sachs” and refused to take responsibility for his actions. Gupta’s sentence should have been closer to the 10 years prosecutors had recommended, as his actions were more serious a crime than those of his friend Rajaratnam, who was sentenced for 11 years in prison.

“At the same time Mr. Gupta did not trade and did not make money. Rather his motive was friendship. Here the fall from grace for him will be much harder than for most given his stature in the community. That may well be the worst punishment,” said Thomas Gorman, a former senior counsel in the division of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Prosecutors say Rajaratnam earned up to $75mln illegally through his trades while Gupta’s attorneys point out that their client earned nothing.

 

Goldman Director in One Million Fraud Trial June 2, 2012

Jamaica Observer Wednesday, May 30, 2012

 NEW YORK — A former Goldman Sachs board member brazenly committed securities fraud by feeding confidential information about the investment bank to a high-flying hedge fund manager, who used it to make a killing on the stock market, a federal prosecutor said Monday at a closely watched insider trading trial.

Rajat Gupta “threw away his duties, threw away his responsibilities and broke the law”, Assistant US Attorney Reed Broadsky told jurors in federal court in Manhattan.

In his opening statement, Broadsky recounted how the hedge fund manager, Raj Rajaratnam, earned close to $1 million after Gupta allegedly told him that Goldman had received an offer from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway to invest $5 billion in the banking giant in 2008. “That was trading on secrets coming from someone who actually knew what was happening in the confines of the board room,” Broadsky said. “That’s called insider trading and that’s a serious crime.”

The jury, which includes a grade schoolteacher, a psychiatric nurse and a non-profit executive, was selected Monday morning.

Before the jurors were picked, prosecutors said they planned to call Bill George, a Harvard Business School professor who serves on Goldman’s board, as a government witness.

The 63-year-old Gupta is also a former director of Procter & Gamble Co, one of the 30 companies that make up the Dow Jones industrial average and the owner of many well known brands including Bounty, Tide and Pringles.

The Westport, Conn., resident has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and five counts of securities fraud stemming from his communications with convicted former hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam. His lawyer was to give his opening statement later Monday.

A key to the case is a July 29, 2008, phone call between Gupta and Rajaratnam that began with the old friends exchanging mild pleasantries, but then quickly turned serious and — by the government’s account — criminal.

Rajaratnam asked about a rumour that Goldman Sachs “might look to buy a commercial bank”. On the other end of the phone, Gupta confided there was a “big discussion” on the subject at a recent meeting.

Prosecutors will try to convince a jury that the intercepted call show and other evidence shows Gupta was providing inside tips that gave Rajaratnam an illegal edge in massive stock manoeuvers. The tips from Gupta were like “getting tomorrow’s business news today”, Brodsky said Monday.

As a Goldman board member, Gupta had intimate knowledge of the confidentiality standards, the prosecutor added. “He broke the very same rules he put in place,” he said.

Defense lawyers say they’ll argue Gupta was a straight arrow who only shared public information with the billionaire hedge fund boss. They also say he was devoted to raising money for charity as to Goldman’s bottom line.

The 24-minute phone call that’s central to the Gupta case helped convict Rajaratnam last year in the same courthouse. The Galleon founder is serving an 11-year prison sentence, the longest ever given in an insider trading case.

Rajaratnam, who was born in Sri Lanka, has been the biggest catch so far in a wide-ranging insider-trading investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara that’s resulted in more than two dozen prosecutions of white collar defendants. But based on Gupta’s standing in the world of finance, his trial could draw more attention, and a potential conviction could resonate farther.

Aside from his role at Goldman Sachs, the Indian-born Gupta is the former chief of McKinsey & Co., a highly regarded global consulting firm that zealously guards its reputation for discretion and integrity.

Prosecutors in effect previewed their case against Gupta at the Rajaratnam trial.

Jurors in that case heard testimony that at an Oct. 23, 2008, Goldman board meeting, members were told that the investment bank was facing a quarterly loss for the first time since it had gone public in 1999.

Prosecutors produced phone records that they said show Gupta called Rajaratnam 23 seconds after the meeting ended, causing Rajaratnam to sell his entire position in Goldman the next morning, saving millions of dollars.

Also played at trial was the tape of Rajaratnam grilling Gupta about whether the Goldman Sachs board had discussed acquiring Wachovia or an insurance company. “Have you heard anything along that line?” Rajaratnam asked Gupta.

“Yeah,” Gupta responded. “This was a big discussion at the board meeting.”

Prosecutors sought to maximize the impact of the Gupta tape by calling Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein to testify that the phone call violated the investment bank’s confidentiality policies. Prosecutors say Blankfein will return to the stand at Gupta’s trial.