Ex-Goldman Board Member Faces Criminal Charges

Rajat Gupta, a former board member of Goldman Sachs, is expected to surrender to federal authorities Wednesday. He faces criminal charges tied to a high-profile insider trading case. For more on the story, Renee Montagne talks with New York Times reporter Azam Ahmed.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with more insider trading charges.

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MONTAGNE: A former member board member of Goldman Sachs has been indicted on insider trading charges. Rajat Gupta surrendered to the FBI this morning, perhaps the most high-profile figure in the government's ongoing probes into insider trading. The charges accuse Gupta of taking part in a scheme with a billionaire hedge fund manager who was sentenced earlier this month. New York Times reporter Azam Ahmed has been following this story closely, and we reached him in New York after the six-count indictment was unsealed.

And tell us about the charges.

AZAM AHMED: Essentially, they are details that came up during the trial of Raj Rajaratnam. And, again, Mr. Rajaratnam was the billionaire hedge fund manager who just sentenced to 11 years for insider trading. During the trial, there were - several details were outlined about Mr. Gupta tipping Mr. Rajaratnam to things that were happening at Goldman Sachs. Among them, Warren Buffett was making a $5 billion investment in the bank in the depths of the financial crises - information that would ultimately help the bank's share price.

So in the federal complaint, they note that that tip helped Mr. Rajaratnam gain $840,000. Now, again, that was information we knew before. But they're just detailing it again in the criminal complaint.

So, largely, the six counts all relate to Goldman Sachs, and are tips that had previously been aired publicly.

MONTAGNE: And what can you tell us about Rajat Gupta and why he is such an influential figure?

AHMED: Rajat Gupta's such an influential figure because, unlike many of the people who have been ensnared by this insider trading investigation, he actually breathed the rarified air of corporate boardrooms at some of America's most iconic companies. You know, he was at Goldman Sachs. He was at Procter & Gamble - I mean, veritable institutions.

And, as a result, I think it just showed that the government is, in some ways, showing the breadth and extent of some of the insider trading. And he was also a hugely important figure in his world. He - for 30-odd years, he worked at MacKenzie and Company, and ran the firm for nine. MacKenzie and Company is a consulting firm who major corporations hire to help them with their business processes and to advise them on strategic decision-making. MacKenzie is among the most prestigious firms in that respect. So being at the helm of that, you really do get insight into how the U.S. economy and businesses work.

MONTAGNE: And he would have been advising some pretty high-profile people himself.

AHMED: Absolutely. Absolutely. He was - I mean, he was an advisor to Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, among a number of other companies. And he also served on the board of AMR, which is the parent company of American Airlines.

MONTAGNE: How are Rajat Gupta's lawyers responding to this indictment?

AHMED: We have not heard from them today. But they have consistently said that Mr. Gupta did no wrong. He did not do anything illegal, and earned no money off of this. So they're fighting these charges and these allegations.

MONTAGNE: And, just to say the least, they're very serious charges. What is the potential penalty, should he be found guilty?

AHMED: It looks like each of the securities fraud counts can have a 20-year sentence, and there are five of those. And there's a five-year sentence for the conspiracy count. So he could potentially be facing a very long time in prison. Now, again, Mr. Rajaratnam was sentenced to 11 years for more than 60 million in illegal gains. So it's unclear how that would relate to Mr. Gupta. But the charges are very serious.

MONTAGNE: New York Times reporter Azam Ahmed. Thank you for joining us.

AHMED: Thanks very much.

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