Just to start with a disclaimer, Sandeep Aggarwal has not yet been convicted and Rajat Gupta is out on appeal – so this article is taking a broader perspective on why two Indians have figured in the US federal authorities’ fight against insider trading.
Both gentlemen have been charged under various counts of insider trading. And these are not some low level businessmen who needed to make a quick buck to survive. These are/were well respected professionals who had truly arrived on the scene. Rajat Gupta especially had achieved the wildest dreams of most IITians – Managing Director at McKinsey and board member at Goldman Sachs among others. Sandeep himself had enough of a name to assure that his venture ShopClues raised 3 rounds of funding (latest $10M in March). Story so far, Rajat Gupta was convicted and Sandeep Aggarwal is in a tough spot since the person he allegedly supplied information to (Richard Lee – SAC Capital Advisors) has pleaded guilty.
I would hazard a guess that both these incidents are quite closely related to the culture we have been brought up in. Rich & powerful are rarely (if ever) caught, let alone punished. Scams after scams are followed by a cooling off period where the alleged perpetrators spend some time away from the media glare and are then released back into the playing field. For us, so used to crimes, a ‘supposedly’ victimless crime of insider trading doesn’t even register on the moral compass. Nobody will be as naive as to believe that insider trading is not rampant in India, but I can’t remember when a big name was last implicated in this charge. Unfortunately for the two gentlemen in question, after the hammering that the US financial industry took for its role in the economic meltdown, the US authorities had woken up. Examples will be set and battles will be fought in the legal playground.
Of Course, it is all too easy to point fingers – and while we can say that with millions in the bank what was the need to do something illegal, we ourselves do the same everyday in our respective range. Escaping traffic tickets, getting our permissions passed, admissions: from petty to prominent, we devise ways to get in front. Perhaps, it is is the competition ingrained in our blood or perhaps it is the apathy that we have developed. For us ethics come into play only when one is caught, not before. It is time to change this way of thinking, and not just feel happy that it was not us whom the media took apart.