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SEC files insider trading charges against Rajat Gupta

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged former McKinsey & Co global head Rajat K Gupta with insider trading for illegally tipping convicted hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam while serving on the boards of Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble (P&G).

The SEC also filed new insider trading charges against Rajaratnam after first charging him with insider trading in October 2009.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, Gupta illegally tipped Rajaratnam with insider information about the quarterly earnings of both Goldman Sachs and P&G as well as an impending USD5 billion investment in Goldman by Berkshire Hathaway at the height of the financial crisis. Rajaratnam, the founder of Galleon Management who was recently convicted of multiple counts of insider trading in other securities stemming from unrelated insider trading schemes, allegedly caused various Galleon funds to trade based on Gupta’s inside information, generating illicit profits or loss avoidance of more than USD23 million.

“Gupta was honoured with the highest trust of leading public companies, and he betrayed that trust by disclosing their most sensitive and valuable secrets to the disadvantage of investors, shareholders, and fellow directors,” says Robert S Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Directors who exploit board room confidences for private gain can be certain they will ultimately be held responsible for their illegal actions.”

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Gupta provided his friend and business associate Rajaratnam with confidential information learned during board calls and in other communications and meetings relating to his official duties as a director of Goldman and P&G. Rajaratnam used the inside information to trade on behalf of certain Galleon funds, or shared the information with others at his firm who caused other Galleon funds to trade on it ahead of public announcements by the firms. During this period, Gupta had a variety of business dealings with Rajaratnam and stood to benefit from his relationship with him.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Gupta while serving as a Goldman board member tipped Rajaratnam about Berkshire Hathaway’s USD5 billion investment in Goldman and Goldman’s upcoming public equity offering before that information was publicly announced on 23 September, 2008. Based on this inside information, Rajaratnam arranged for Galleon funds to purchase more than 215,000 Goldman shares. Rajaratnam later informed another participant in the scheme that he received the tip on which he traded only minutes before market close. Rajaratnam caused the Galleon funds to liquidate their Goldman holdings the following day after the information became public, making illicit profits of more than USD800,000.
The SEC also alleges that Gupta tipped Rajaratnam to inside information about Goldman’s positive financial results for the second quarter of 2008. There was a flurry of calls between Gupta and Rajaratnam on the evening of June 10, 2008, after Gupta learned from Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein of the firm’s quarterly earnings results, which were significantly better than analyst consensus estimates. The following morning, minutes after the markets opened, Rajaratnam caused Galleon funds to start purchasing Goldman securities including 7,350 out-of-the-money Goldman call options and 350,000 Goldman shares. Rajaratnam liquidated these positions on or around June 17 – the date when Goldman announced its quarterly earnings – generating illicit profits of more than USD18.5 million for the Galleon funds.

The SEC’s complaint further alleges that Gupta tipped Rajaratnam with confidential information that Gupta learned during an Oct. 23, 2008, board posting call about Goldman’s impending negative financial results for the fourth quarter of 2008. Mere seconds after the board call ended, Gupta tipped Rajaratnam, who then arranged for certain Galleon funds to begin selling their Goldman holdings shortly after the financial markets opened the following day until the funds finished selling off their holdings, which had consisted of more than 150,000 shares. In discussing trading and market information that day with another participant in the insider trading scheme, Rajaratnam explained that while Wall Street expected Goldman to earn USD2.50 per share, he heard the prior day from a Goldman board member that the company was actually going to lose USD2 per share. As a result of Rajaratnam’s trades based on inside information provided by Gupta, the Galleon funds avoided losses of more than USD3.6 million.

The SEC’s complaint additionally alleges that Gupta illegally disclosed to Rajaratnam inside information about P&G’s financial results for the quarter ending December 2008. Gupta participated in a telephonic meeting of P&G’s Audit Committee at 9 am on 29 January, 2009, to discuss the planned release of P&G’s quarterly earnings the next day. A draft of the earnings release, which had been mailed to Gupta and the other committee members two days before the meeting, indicated that P&G’s expected organic sales would be less than previously publicly predicted. Gupta called Rajaratnam in the early afternoon on January 29, and Rajaratnam shortly afterwards informed another participant in the insider trading scheme that he had learned from a contact on P&G’s board that the company’s organic sales growth would be lower than expected. Galleon funds then sold short approximately 180,000 P&G shares, making illicit profits of more than USD570,000.

The SEC’s complaint charges each of the defendants with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933. The complaint seeks a final judgment permanently enjoining the defendants from future violations of the above provisions of the federal securities laws, ordering them to disgorge on a joint and several basis their ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, and ordering them to pay financial penalties. The complaint also seeks to permanently prohibit Gupta from acting as an officer or director of any registered public company, and to permanently enjoin him from associating with any broker, dealer or investment adviser.

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