The conviction of Wall Street billionaire Raj Rajartnam on insider trading charges has sparked calls for better education regarding compliance, writes Ben Nice
Raj Rajaratnam was once labeled by Forbes as the 236th richest man in America. But his billon dollar fortune came to the attention of traders worldwide when, in late 2009, he was arrested on insider trading allegations.
Last week, Rajaratnam was found guilty on 14 counts of conspiracy and securities fraud after scamming $US63.8 million ($60 million) in illicit earnings. He faces a minimum of 15-and-a-half years in jail following a government crackdown on the illegal practice of insider trading.
Now, lawyers and industry experts across the work hope that last week's conviction of Rajaratnam, following the largest hedge fund insider trading case in history, will deter the practice of inside trading.
As only the first person to go on trial from the total of 26 people charged in the case, the verdict for Rajaratnum sent a strong warning to other would-be fraudsters in Wall Street, with Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara using the outcome to deter the practice of inside trading.
"Let greed and corruption cause his undoing," he said in a statement. "We will continue to pursue and prosecute those who believe that are both above the law and too smart to get caught."
Simon Franklin, partner at Australian corporate advisory firm, Dequity Partners, said that while he didn't believe that the case would dramatically affect the businesses locally, he expected the high-profile nature of the case to raise awareness.
"These stories, and the newsworthiness of them, will certainly raise awareness, especially in terms of the big penalties involved," Franklin said. "From a compliance or risk point of view, in order to prevent it from happening in the first place, there must be education. I think that's where the industry is heading."
"From a compliance or risk point of view, in order to prevent it from happening in the first place, there must be education. I think that's where the industry is heading.
According to Frankling, the approach of most boards, directors or governance people would be to educate the management team as to what they could say in public, to prevent getting tangled up in such practices.
He also highlighted the difficulty in defining what constituted 'insider trading', saying that it was hard to stop the practice, given the loose and sometimes contradictory nature of the crime, and expected to see more cases like it in the future.
"It's quite severe and it might put you off, but there'll always be someone who wants to profit from information," he said.
Columbia Law School Professor, John Coffee, said that the use of government wire-taps was crucial to the verdict, and also emphasised the significance of Rajaratnum's co-conspirators in the case.
"Everyone co-operated against Rajaratnam," he told Fox Business News. "Why should he be the only standup guy? Quite frankly, professionals learn what is legal and illegal not by the law that is on the books, but by who goes to prison and for what," he said.
"And I think a generation of traders, expert networks, securities analysts and others now recognize that participating in an insider trading network is dangerous, because, if one of the participants gets caught, our plea-bargaining system makes it likely he'll turn in his co-conspirators and all the financial dominoes will fall," he explained.
After the verdict was announced, Rajaratnam was released on a $US100 million bail package, which includes an electronic tag and house arrest in his Manhattan apartment until sentencing begins on July 29.
John Dowd, Rajaratnam's lawyer, said that his client would keep fighting, and would be lodging an appeal.