Jury finds Raj Rajaratnam guilty in case that earlier rocked IBM and ensnared its former STC executive Robert W. Moffat Jr.
Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund billionaire at the center of the biggest insider-trading scandal in U.S. history, was sentenced Thursday to 11 years behind bars—the stiffest sentence ever handed down for such a crime, according to the Associated Press.
"His crimes and the scope of his crimes reflect a virus in our business culture that needs to be eradicated," U.S. District Judge Richard J. Holwell said at sentencing, the AP reported. "Simple justice requires a lengthy sentence," the judge said.
Rajaratnam, 54, founder of the $7 billion Galleon Group hedge fund will also have to pay a $10 million fine imposed by the court, which ordered him to forfeit $53.8 million in what it deemed were illicit profits, according to the AP.
Rajaratnam was found guilty by a jury earlier this week where he stood trial in a Manhattan federal court on 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy. The jury announced its unanimous verdict after deliberating for 12 days in the case where prosecutors presented evidence of FBI wiretapping and testimony from three of Rajaratnam's former friends and associates. The jury convicted Rajaratnam on nine counts of securities fraud and five counts of conspiracy.
Prosecutors argued Rajaratnam made as much as $75 million through his carefully selected network of friends, former classmates, and other informants from different companies and investment firms. Prosecutors said these friends supplied him with advance information on company earnings and merger announcements. In exchange, they received cash kickbacks or the opportunity to profit from insider trades.
Among the companies Rajaratnam had inside information on, and from which he profited, were IBM, Intel, Google, AMD, Hilton Hotels, and Goldman Sachs.
His sentencing was the last significant event in a series of prosecutions that followed Rajaratnam's 2009 arrest. More than two dozen people in all were arrested in the investigation, which has since been called: "Perfect Hedge." All those arrested were convicted, including former IBM executive Robert W. Moffat Jr., sentenced to serve six months behind bars for his role in the insider-trading scandal that rocked IBM's corporate world.
Moffat, 54, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, former senior vice president and general manager of IBM's Systems and Technology Group, was sentenced last September to six months in jail as part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, who felt he should do at least some jail time and recommended as much to the judge. Moffat has since served his time and has been released.
The federal judge hearing Moffat's case also was unsympathetic to his appeals for freedom and gave him the maximum under his plea agreement. The judge lectured him that, "White collar crime is just as destructive to our social fabric" as other types of crimes, according to reports in the New York Daily News.
Moffat's motivation for sharing insider information about IBM and other technology firms with co-defendant Danielle Chiesi, 43, a New York consultant at New Castle Funds, and one of those charged, apparently was not financial, according to published reports. Moffat is reported to have had an "intimate, personal relationship" with Chiesi, whom he later turned on and accused of "playing" him. The charge elicited a series of provocative headlines in New York's media, including the New York Post's "IBMer says hedge hottie 'played him' " and the New York Times' "Moffat: His Mistress Made Him Do It."
"Your honor, I made terrible mistakes in judgment, which will haunt me for the rest of my life," the Daily News quoted Moffat as telling the judge at sentencing. His voice cracking with emotion and his face wet with tears, Moffat anguished that, "What makes this so painful to me is the knowledge that my actions hurt my wife, my children, my brothers and sister, friends, colleagues at IBM—all of whom put their trust and confidence in me," the Daily News quoted him as saying. According to the AP, Moffat lamented he has been ostracized by former friends and colleagues at IBM and lost out on $65 million in benefits he probably would have received had he been able to remain with the company. Moffat at one time was seen as a possible candidate to lead the global firm.
Moffat told the judge that if the humiliation and the loss of dignity and his reputation, as well as significant financial loss, weren't bad enough, the stress from the prosecution had exacerbated his wife's multiple sclerosis, a degenerative nerve disease. Apparently his wife, Amor, stayed by his side throughout the ordeal, and Moffat publicly expressed gratitude in court for her loyalty.
In a letter submitted to the court unsuccessfully pleading with the judge to grant her husband probation rather than prison time, Amor Moffat said that she did "not regret the choices I've made in staying with Bob, both in support of him as a person, and as a wife who still firmly believes in and loves her husband" reported Bloomberg news. Mrs. Moffat said that she was "able to look beyond the pain of betrayal and stand firmly by his side in support."
Moffat escaped the full force of the prosecution's wrath and could have spent 25 years behind bars if convicted at trial. He was accused of passing insider information to Chiesi in an attempt to help a woman from whom he was receiving sexual favors. He was the 11th person to plead guilty in the insider-trading scandal that involved the Galleon Group and New Castle, an equity hedge fund group of Bear Stearns Asset Management, Inc., now part of JPMorgan Chase. Not all of those charged, pleaded guilty. Rajaratnam and Chiesi initially decided to fight the charges, but Chiesi, a former beauty queen turned stock trader, was sentenced to 30 months in prison by Judge Holwell last July after she changed her plea to guilty of three counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
Besides Moffat, Chiesi and Rajaratnam, among the others charged in the investigation were Rajiv Goel, 51, Los Altos, California, former director of strategic investments at Intel Capital (the investment arm of Intel Corp.); Anil Kumar, 51, Santa Clara, California, former director at McKinsey & Co., Inc., a global management and consulting firm; and Mark Kurland, 60, of New York City, a top executive of New Castle.
At the time of his arrest, Rajaratnam was reported to be one of the richest men on earth, ranked by Forbes as No. 559 on its 2009 list of billionaires and worth an estimated $1.3 billion. His bail was set at $100 million, and he had to stay within 110 miles of New York City.
The Sri Lanka-born Rajaratnam was ordered on Thursday to report to a yet-to-be-announced prison on Nov. 28. His lawyers asked that he be sent to the medical facility at the federal prison in North Carolina where Bernard Madoff is serving his 150-year sentence. Rajaratnam apparently has advanced diabetes and needs a kidney transplant.