See Updates Below
(As of last evening, Gupta resigned his lucrative board seat at Procter & Gamble.)
Washington, D.C., March 1, 2011 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced insider trading charges against a Westport, Conn.-based business consultant who has served on the boards of directors at Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble for illegally tipping Galleon Management founder and hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam with inside information about the quarterly earnings at both firms as well as an impending $5 billion investment by Berkshire Hathaway in Goldman.
The SEC’s Division of Enforcement alleges that Rajat K. Gupta, a friend and business associate of Rajaratnam, provided him with confidential information learned during board calls and in other aspects of his duties on the Goldman and P&G boards. Rajaratnam used the inside information to trade on behalf of some of Galleon’s hedge funds, or shared the information with others at his firm who then traded on it ahead of public announcements by the firms. The insider trading by Rajaratnam and others generated more than $18 million in illicit profits and loss avoidance. Gupta was at the time a direct or indirect investor in at least some of these Galleon hedge funds, and had other potentially lucrative business interests with Rajaratnam. (press release continues below CNBC News Report)
The SEC has previously charged Rajaratnam and others in the widespread insider trading scheme involving the Galleon hedge funds.
“Gupta was honored with the highest trust of leading public companies, and he betrayed that trust by disclosing their most sensitive and valuable secrets,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Directors who violate the sanctity of board room confidences for private gain will be held to account for their illegal actions.”
In the order that institutes administrative and cease-and-desist proceedings against Gupta, the SEC’s Division of Enforcement alleges that, while a member of Goldman’s Board of Directors, Gupta tipped Rajaratnam about Berkshire Hathaway’s $5 billion investment in Goldman and Goldman’s upcoming public equity offering before that information was publicly announced on Sept. 23, 2008. Gupta called Rajaratnam immediately after a special telephonic meeting at which Goldman’s Board considered and approved Berkshire’s investment in Goldman Sachs and the public equity offering. Within a minute after the Gupta-Rajaratnam call and just minutes before the close of the markets, Rajaratnam arranged for Galleon funds to purchase more than 175,000 Goldman shares. Rajaratnam later informed another participant in the scheme that he received the tip on which he traded only minutes before the 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 $900,000.
The SEC’s Division of Enforcement alleges that Gupta also illegally disclosed to Rajaratnam inside information about Goldman Sachs’s positive financial results for the second quarter of 2008. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein called Gupta and various other Goldman outside directors on June 10, when the company’s financial performance was significantly better than analysts’ consensus estimates. Blankfein knew the earnings numbers and discussed them with Gupta during the call. Between that night and the following morning, there was a flurry of calls between Gupta and Rajaratnam. Shortly after the last of these calls and within minutes after the markets opened on June 11, Rajaratnam caused certain Galleon funds to purchase more than 5,500 out-of-the-money Goldman call options and more than 350,000 Goldman shares. Rajaratnam liquidated these positions on or around June 17, when Goldman made its quarterly earnings announcement. These transactions generated illicit profits of more than $13.6 million for the Galleon funds.
The Division of Enforcement further alleges that Gupta tipped Rajaratnam with confidential information that he learned during a board posting call about Goldman’s impending negative financial results for the fourth quarter of 2008. The call ended after the close of the market on October 23, with senior executives informing the board of the company’s financial situation. Mere seconds after the board call, Gupta called 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 120,000 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 Sachs to earn $2.50 per share, he had heard the prior day from a Goldman Sachs board member that the company was actually going to lose $2 per share. As a result of Rajaratnam’s trades based on the inside information that Gupta provided, the Galleon funds avoided losses of more than $3 million.
Gupta served as a Goldman board member from November 2006 to May 2010, and has been serving on Procter & Gamble’s board since 2007.
As it pertains to insider trades by the Galleon funds in the securities of Procter & Gamble, the Division of Enforcement alleges that Gupta illegally disclosed to Rajaratnam inside information about the company financial results for the quarter ending December 2008. Gupta participated in a telephonic meeting of P&G’s Audit Committee at 9 a.m. on Jan. 29, 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 afterward advised another participant in the insider trading conspiracy 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 $570,000.
The Division of Enforcement alleges that by engaging in the misconduct described in the SEC’s order, Gupta willfully violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act and Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The administrative proceedings will determine what relief, if any, is in the public interest against Gupta, including disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, prejudgment interest, financial penalties, an officer or director bar, and other remedial relief.
Sanjay Wadhwa, Jason Friedman and John Henderson – members of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit in New York – together with Diego Brucculeri and James D’Avino of the New York Regional Office conducted the agency’s investigation, which is continuing. The SEC’s litigation effort will be led by Kevin McGrath and Valerie Szczepanik of the New York Regional Office.
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UPDATE X1 – From Taibbi’s recent article –Rajat Gupta and Goldman Sachs: SEC After Big Fish?
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls about the recent decision by the SEC to pursue insider trading charges against Rajat Gupta, a Goldman Sachs board member who was also the former head of McKinsey, one of the most important corporate consulting firms in the world.
It’s been very interesting to watch the media reaction to this case. The spin, overwhelmingly, has been that this is proof that the SEC is more serious than ever. Business Week came out with an article whose headline blared, “The SEC Goes After Big Game.” CNBC’s take was “Rajat Gupta: Bigger than Madoff?” I’m sure by the time this news cycle ends, Rajat Gupta will be the single most important figure in the history of Wall Street.
There’s no doubt that Gupta is a big fish and this is a good case. The evidence is remarkable and is eerily similar to the non-case that was non-made against Morgan Stanley chairman John Mack years ago. In that case, a hedgie named Art Samberg bought the hell out of a company called Heller Capital shortly after a call from Mack, who had just had a meeting with CSFB, Heller’s investment banker, which was in a position to know that Heller was about the bought by GE.”
From Business Insider – Lloyd Blankfein Might Testify in the [upcoming] Galleon Trial
Lloyd Blankfein might testify as a government witness at Raj Rajaratnam’s criminal trial, the Wall Street Journal reported.Rajaratnam’s long-awaited criminal trial begins next week. The former Galleon chief faces a series of insider trading charges including 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy.