Rajaratnam Prosecutors Get Plea Deals as Jury Weighs His Case

Thursday, 28 Apr 2011 09:50 AM

 

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Prosecutors waiting for a jury verdict in the trial of Galleon Group LLC’s Raj Rajaratnam may take comfort that four defendants tied to the insider-trading probe that began with him are pursuing plea deals.

Don Ching Trang Chu, a former hedge-fund consultant for Primary Global Research LLC, will probably plead guilty, a judge said at a hearing in his case yesterday, after the government noted “extensive” talks with his lawyer. Prosecutors in the same Manhattan courthouse said that Donald Longueuil, a former hedge fund manager at SAC Capital Advisors LP, will plead guilty today to related insider-trading charges.

On April 26, Craig Drimal, a trader who worked at Galleon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and securities fraud. He faces a maximum sentence of more than seven years in prison, far more than the average sentence of about 18 months handed down in similar cases since 2003, according to an analysis of court data by Bloomberg News.

The three men are among about three dozen people charged in what prosecutors said was a series of insider-trading rings. Jason Goldfarb, a Brooklyn, New York, lawyer, pleaded guilty April 21 to passing inside tips as part of Drimal’s ring. He faces a maximum of almost four years in prison when he’s sentenced.

Largest Crackdown

Rajaratnam, 53, was arrested in October 2009 in the largest crackdown on hedge-fund insider trading in U.S. history. Prosecutors said he gained $63.8 million from tips leaked by corporate insiders and hedge-fund traders about stocks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Intel Corp. and Clearwire Corp. Rajaratnam, who said he based the trades on research, faces as long as 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious counts.

As the jury weighed the evidence, Rajaratnam sat on a bench outside the courtroom chatting with his lawyers. The panel of nine women and three men began deliberating at about noon on April 25. Yesterday afternoon, they asked to hear wiretap recordings presented during the trial.

Prosecutors yesterday failed to persuade U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell to let jurors view transcripts of the recordings in the jury room.

“It seems a little bit unbalanced and a little bit unfair, your honor, that some of the government’s best evidence doesn’t go back in the jury room,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Reed Brodsky told Holwell.

40 Recordings

Prosecutors played more than 40 recordings of wiretapped phone conversations in the trial, which began March 8, material that Brodsky called “devastating evidence of the defendant committing crimes in real time” in his closing argument last week.

Rajaratnam’s lawyer John Dowd said he “vehemently” objected to providing the transcripts. Holwell, who had previously ruled against the same request, said yesterday that he didn’t see a reason to provide the transcripts now. He also declined Brodsky’s request to give jurors access to the audio recordings themselves.

Brodsky’s request came after jurors spent about 20 minutes in the courtroom yesterday listening to six recorded conversations between Rajaratnam and Rajiv Goel, a former friend and executive at Intel who pleaded guilty and testified as a prosecution witness.

The recordings jurors asked for yesterday contained discussions between Rajaratnam and Goel about Intel’s investment in a new wireless network venture to be formed by Sprint Nextel Corp. and Clearwire. During the trial, Goel testified that he leaked inside information about the transaction to Rajaratnam. The jury asked to hear nine recordings on April 26.

Jurors haven’t reached a verdict. Deliberations are set to resume today.

The Betting Line

There’s one thing both the prosecutors and defense agree upon: Raj Rajaratnam is a gambling man. Legitimate or not, his fortune was earned speculating on future events.

So it may come as no surprise to the hedge-fund manager that there’s a market in the outcome of his trial. On Intrade, a Dublin-based online prediction market, bettors say there’s a 90 percent chance he will be convicted of at least one count of insider trading.

Rajaratnam’s Media Man

Keeping watch over the 20 or so journalists reporting on Rajaratnam’s trial is Jim McCarthy, who handles the defendant’s media relations. McCarthy, the founder of New York-based CounterPoint Strategies LLC, isn’t shy about his views of the coverage.

“Some of the coverage has been” -- he paused for five seconds as he considered his words -- “distorted and irresponsible,” McCarthy said in an interview on April 26. He’s particularly critical of some reporters and news organizations who he claims “have been slanting their coverage” in hopes of “gaining favor with the government,” he said.

McCarthy, 43, calls out such reporting on a website he created for Rajaratnam, assailing the journalists for failing to focus on the larger issues of the case. One such issue is, he said, the abuse by prosecutors of wiretap laws. At the same time, he extols the blog postings of several law professors and the reporting of some online media outlets.

After representing Augusta National Golf Club when it came under criticism for its all-male status in 2003, McCarthy told an interviewer that he likes “to get in the arena, take off the gloves and throw down.” He added, “To survive, you have to go on the attack -- investigate the activists.” He said he stands by those comments.

Public Information Office

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, whose office is prosecuting the Rajaratnam case, employs staffers in its Office of Public Information, which updates the public on developments in court proceedings and fields queries from the press. Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman, declined to comment on McCarthy’s claims.

In Rajaratnam’s case, where McCarthy has employed online ads critical of news outlets, he said his goal is to ensure “balance, accuracy and objectivity” in news accounts. He said his lack of a journalism background is no hindrance to his work.

“Don’t need one,” said McCarthy, who was present in court throughout the trial. “Everyone from ordinary readers to PR guys are capable of telling when a story is slanted or straight. You don’t need a degree for that.”

The case is U.S. v. Rajaratnam, 1:09-cr-01184, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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