Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) co-founder Bill Gates and former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked a judge to show leniency in 11 days when he sentences ex- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) director Rajat Gupta for insider trading.
Gates and Annan were among more than 200 supporters seeking mercy for Gupta, citing his lifetime of good deeds. He will be sentenced on Oct. 24 for leaking stock tips to hedge-fund manager Raj Rajaratnam. The letters were made public yesterday by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan.
“I urge you to recognize Rajat for the good that he has done in this world, to give him the credit that he deserves for helping others, and to take into account his effort to improve the lives of millions of people,” Annan said of Gupta’s work to reform management of the UN.
“I wanted to add my voice to those of other friends and colleagues of Rajat Gupta who are writing to you in order to round out Rajat’s profile,” Gates said of Gupta’s service as chairman of an organization fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Gupta is the most prominent of the 69 people convicted since a nationwide crackdown on insider trading began in August 2009. Besides his tenure at Goldman Sachs, he served as managing partner of McKinsey & Co. from 1994 to 2003 and on the boards of Procter & Gamble Co. (PG:US), the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gupta, 63, was convicted in June of three counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy. While securities fraud carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, Gupta is likely to be sentenced to fewer years under federal guidelines.
After a four-week trial, a federal jury in Manhattan found Gupta guilty of leaking tips to Rajaratnam, 55, about New York- based Goldman Sachs, including information about a $5 billion investment by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (B:US) on Sept. 23, 2008, and a tip on a quarterly loss. Rajaratnam is serving 11 years in prison for trading on tips from Gupta and others.
Letter writers included Gupta’s family and former associates in the worlds of academia, business and charity.
They included Kushal Pal Singh, the billionaire chairman of DLF Ltd., India’s largest developer; Leonard Lauder, the chairman emeritus of Estee Lauder Cos. (EL:US); and Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and the chairman of Mumbai-based Reliance Industries Ltd., the world’s largest refining complex.
‘The Prison Fence’
Singh credited of the Kolkata-born Gupta with bringing Microsoft’s Gates to India and with helping DLF create an urban development initiative there. Because of the case, Gupta’s charitable works in India have been at a “standstill,” he said.
“We as a society need more visionaries like Rajat Gupta,” Singh wrote. “Rajat Gupta is no threat to anyone inside or outside the prison fence.”
Other writers included Ajit Jain, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s reinsurance chief; Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation; Amartya Sen, a Harvard University professor; and author Deepak Chopra.
Chopra called Gupta “compassionate, caring, selfless and dedicated” and cited his work helping found the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.
“I think Rajat has tremendously contributed to humanity,” Chopra said.
Jain, who testified at the trial as a defense witness, talked about his long friendship with Gupta and family. Jain said Gupta has already “been disgraced personally and professionally.”
Jain said Gupta “customarily chided me during our social meetings to become more active in philanthropic causes” and said he never saw Gupta abuse “his many positions of trust for personal gain.”
“On no occasion of our meetings did Rajat ever seek to inappropriately obtain or leverage information or opportunity by speaking with me, and I would have considered even a mild effort in that regard to be completely foreign to his character,” Jain wrote.
Gupta’s wife, Anita, wrote a heartfelt account of meeting her husband in 1968 at the Indian Institute of Technology, where she was the only girl in a class of 250 and he was “a big man on campus.”
“I have never forgotten his kindness to the very shy, quiet, small-town girl who felt so out of place,” she said.
She told the judge the case has been “devastating” for her family. “Never in my wildest dreams” did she imagine she would be “separated from my husband in this way,” she said in an apparent reference to prison.
She recounted how Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein “loudly gave Rajat an ultimatum that he had to choose between Goldman and KKR,” citing a 2008 offer he received to join KKR & Co. (KKR:US) as an adviser. Gupta, who joined Goldman Sachs’s board in 2006, opted for KKR, then agreed to a request by Goldman Sachs that he return when the financial crisis hit, she said.
“I tried very hard to counsel Rajat against it because I felt he had been treated unfairly by Goldman Sachs,” she wrote. “He felt he owed Goldman Sachs his loyalty.”
Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs, declined to comment on Anita Gupta’s letter. Gupta left Goldman Sachs’s board in 2010.
Jurors acquitted Gupta of charges that he leaked information that Cincinnati-based P&G’s organic sales growth would fall below estimates and that he tipped Rajaratnam about Goldman Sachs’s earnings in the first quarter of 2007.
The case is U.S. v. Gupta, 11-cr-00907, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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