Two Indian-Americans in Wall Street slug fest

New York: America`s biggest insider trading case that has rocked Wall Street has pitted one Indian- American against the other, in which New York`s top federal prosecutor Preet Bharara will use every legal weapon to nail corporate America`s poster boy Rajat Gupta and others.

Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, did not mince words when he said in the charges filed against Gupta, 62, that the top Wall Street executive was "entrusted" by some of the premier institutions of American business to sit inside their boardrooms, among their executives and directors, and receive their confidential information so that he could give advice and counsel for the benefit of their shareholders.

"As alleged, he broke that trust and instead became the illegal eyes and ears in the boardroom for his friend and business associate, Raj Rajaratnam, who reaped enormous profits from Gupta`s breach of duty," Bharara, 43, said.

Kolkata-born Gupta has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a trial has been set for April next year, setting the stage for a courtroom showdown between the two India-born and Harvard educated US citizens who are prominent figures in the South Asian community here.

For Gupta, it has been a stunning fall from grace as the securities fraud charges were announced against him on October 26, a day when the Indian festival of lights Diwali was being celebrated across the world. It comes as an irony that Diwali, the day Gupta was arraigned in court on charges brought by Bharara`s office, is celebrated to mark the triumph of good over evil.

Ferozepur-born Bharara, nominated to become US Attorney by President Barack Obama on May 15, 2009, has led a widespread crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street. As a prosecutor in the Southern District, he has prosecuted organised crime, narcotics and securities fraud.

"Two years ago, Raj Rajaratnam stood at the summit of Wall Street, commanding his own financial empire…Today, Rajaratnam stood once more and faced justice which was meted out to him. It is a sad conclusion to what once seemed to be a glittering story. We can only hope that this case will be the wake-up call we said it should be when Rajaratnam was arrested," Bharara had said.

Gupta`s lawyer Gary Naftalis has said his client is innocent and "did not trade in any securities, did not tip Rajaratnam so he could trade, and did not share in any profits as part of any quid pro quo."

Gupta had a meteoric rise in corporate America, being elected at age 45 to run consulting giant McKinsey. He was the first non-American-born executive to run McKinsey, a sea change for the hidebound organisation.

"I know consensus says McKinsey is white and traditional, but I am testimony to the fact that image isn`t true," Gupta had said in a 1994 profile in The Chicago Tribune. "If anything, it`s a meritocracy."

Gupta was orphaned at 18 and the Kolkata-native later received an engineering degree from the elite Indian Institute of Technology. He earned a scholarship to Harvard Business School, graduating at the top of his class and securing a coveted posting at McKinsey. He sat on the boards of some of the most prestigious Wall Street firms including Goldman Sachs, consumer giant Proctor and Gamble and AMR, the parent of American Airlines.

Former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan appointed Gupta as advisor to the international organization on management reform and the Rockefeller Foundation named him a trustee.