Gupta was caught on wiretaps using his status to share tips, though much of the evidence against him was circumstantial
Former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta has been found guilty of leaking insider secrets to hedge-fund manager Raj Rajaratnam.
The jury in New York took two days to convict Gupta on charges of securities fraud and conspiracy, the latest player to be found guilty in the biggest insider dealing investigation in US history.
Gupta, who was also managing partner of consulting firm McKinsey, faces more than 20 years in jail. He will remain free on bail until sentencing on October 18.
The 63-year-old was once one of the US’s leading business figures. The prosecution accused Gupta of using his privileged status to supply insider tips to Rajaratnam, including information from Goldman Sachs.
In one incident Gupta called Rajaratnam a minute after taking part in a conference call with his Goldman Sachs colleagues at which the bank’s boss, Lloyd Blankfein, announced billionaire investor Warren Buffett planned to invest $5bn in it.
Galleon, Rajaratnam’s hedge fund, bought $43m of Goldman stock in the final three minutes of the trading day and made nearly $1m on the trade. Blankfein was called to testify in the case.
Gupta was also accused of leaking information about Procter & Gamble, where he was also a director.
The Indian-born executive, who served on the boards of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is the biggest conviction since Rajaratnam in a case that has sparked arrests from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.
So far 66 cases have been brought against people involved in the insider dealing associated with Galleon, once a $7bn hedge fund. He is the 62nd person to be convicted or to have pleaded guilty out of 68 people charged since 2009. So far no-one charged has been found not guilty.
The case brought by Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara controversially used wiretaps to gather evidence, a technique more usually associated with mafia cases.
Gupta’s lawyers had objected to the use of information gathered in wiretaps, but district judge Jed Rakoff ruled that prosecutors could play three tapes for jurors.
In calls Rajaratnam boasted to colleagues that he had heard “something good” about Goldman from a Goldman director. In another he told an employee: “I heard yesterday from somebody who’s on the board of Goldman Sachs that they are gonna lose $2 per share. The street has them making $2.50.”
Much of the evidence brought against Gupta was circumstantial, and legal experts said they were surprised at the speed of the jury’s verdict.
John Coffee, Adolf A Berle professor of law at Columbia law school, said: “Even in the Rajaratnam case where there was more of a ‘smoking gun’ the jury took 12 days,” he said.
Coffee said Gupta’s legal team had mounted an “impressive” defence against a case that he said many prosecutors would have been reluctant to bring.
The prosecution never accused Gupta of personally trading on inside information but argued he benefited from his stake in Voyager, an investment firm he set up with Rajaratnam which invested in Galleon funds. The defense argued that there was no evidence that Gupta profited, or traded on, any alleged tip and said Gupta had considered suing Rajaratnam over Voyager, which failed.
Rajaratnam was caught on dozens of wiretaps discussing inside information and trades he had made, but the evidence against Gupta was far less compelling. The prosecution offered only one substantive conversation between the two men, and Rajaratnam did not trade on the information prosecutors alleged was shared.
The jury appears to have been convinced by the pattern of Gupta’s behavior. Prosecutors argued that he called Rajaratnam time and again after learning of developments at companies where he served as a director.
“This is an significant win for Preet Bharar. A lot of other attorneys would not have been as gutsy,” he said. “It is pretty clear evidence that juries will convict on circumstantial evidence.”
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