The courtroom was awash with emotion as the jury delivered its verdict in the insider trading trial of Rajat Gupta, retired head of consulting giant McKinsey & Co. Surprisingly, the jury had taken less than 10 hours to arrive at its decision after a complex 42-day trial based almost entirely on circumstantial evidence. Reading the first count listed on his verdict sheet, jury foreman Richard Lepkowski announced “Not Guilty.” He heard exultant screams from Gupta’s four daughters. But as “Guilty” verdicts followed on counts three, four and five for securities fraud and a “Guilty” verdict for conspiracy, the screams turned to sobs.
“Gupta was very ashen-faced as the verdict came down,” said Wall Street Journal reporter Reed Albergotti on television. “The jury seemed very shaken as they exited the courthouse. It was a tough decision for them.” Indeed, two jurors cried openly. For those who believe Americans are quick to attribute to South Asians a greater propensity to crime, this case highlighted just the opposite. The emotion in the jury reflected their reluctance to find Rajat Gupta guilty and open him up to years in jail and millions in fines. All the jurors who spoke to the press said they had hoped Gupta would go free.
In an exclusive interview with Outlook, Lepkowski, an executive with the Children’s Tumor Foundation, says: “Here’s a man who came from India, who was orphaned in his teenage years, put himself through college in India, went to Harvard Business School, became the top person in the world’s most respected consulting company and served in that position for nine years. It’s an incredible story, an incredible journey.”
Lepkowski also expressed admiration for the support Gupta received from his family, who were in court every day. “Seeing the way he interacted with his wife and his daughters, the impression was that theirs is a strong family bond based on love and respect,” he says. “That sent a message not only to me, but to the rest of the jury. We wanted to believe that the allegations were false but, particularly on the counts where we found Mr Gupta guilty, the evidence was overwhelming and we felt confident of the decisions that we made. I felt, and the jury felt, that if we had erred at all in our decision, we’d erred on the side of giving Mr Gupta the benefit of the doubt. We were very comfortable with that and very proud of that.”
But arriving at the decision also caused much anguish. “This man, who has accomplished so much throughout his lifetime was going to spend his twilight years in jail as opposed to spending time with his family, his children and grandchildren,” Lepkowski says. “That was a powerful weight on jurors, both in our discussions and after delivering the verdict.” Swaying the jury against such a defendant took some doing. India-born Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, has reason to be proud of his prosecution team. “The prosecutors did a great job,” says John Moscow, former deputy chief of the Investigations Division, which prosecutes white-collar crime for the Manhattan District Attorney. “They didn’t overtry the case. They laid it out clearly and simply, knowing New York jurors are smart enough to connect the dots.”
So why did Rajat Gupta throw away his carefully built reputation? Most of the jurors think it was greed—the opportunity to make tens or hundreds of millions and, just as important, his belief that he would get away with it. “Raj Rajaratnam was a very manipulative man,” says Lepkowski. “I’m not saying greed wasn’t involved in this, but Rajaratnam made it so easy for Gupta to share this information and that is what he did.” John Moscow was a tad more charitable: “I think he may have believed he was just helping a friend. That’s self-delusion of course, but it allowed him to think he’d done nothing wrong.”
Mukesh Ambani wrote (on www.friendsofrajat.com) that Gupta often quoted a shloka from the Gita: “You are only entitled to do your duty, not to the fruits of that duty.” Perhaps, after toiling for decades for others, very profitably, Rajat Gupta felt he was entitled to a larger share of the fruits. Only he knows.