By Ana Pararajasingham –
Uneven Justice: The Plot to Sink Galleon by Raj Rajaratnam is a powerful account by a man who was let down by the American Justice System. Convicted of ‘insider trading’, Sri Lankan-born Rajaratnam, the founder of Galleon, the phenomenally successful hedge fund was forced to serve seven and a half years of an eleven-year sentence. He was released in July 2019.
Rajaratnam could have avoided the ordeal had he agreed to become a cooperating witness, helping the government with testimony—regardless of the truth—to convict another defendant. Had he chosen this path he might have at worst received a much-reduced sentence and at best given a suspended sentence and be let out on parole.
Instead, Rajaratnam, not unaware that those charged with ‘insider trading’ had a ninety-seven percent conviction rate decided to go to trial. It was a decision not taken lightly. In Rajaratnam’s own words: “I went through a period of soul-searching. Why was this happening to me? Ultimately, I realized that I had to fight for my innocence and resolved to fight the battle to the finish”. After all the allegation of ‘insider trading’ was based on just .01 percent of Galleon’s trade between 2005 and 2009. It was a microscopic proportion of Galleon’s trade. Even these were backed by evidence supporting Rajaratnam’s claim that all decisions made by the hedge fund were based on well-researched written reports by its analysts. Not only that the so called ‘insider trading’ that he was charged with had netted the hedge fund not a profit but a loss of “over $30 million”.
Yet, the decision to fight was a courageous one and could not have been an easy one. Again in Rajaratnam’ s own words “I went to trial because I was not prepared to plead guilty for something that I did not do, no matter what the ultimate cost”
Where did Rajaratnam find this courage. Perhaps, it is to be found in stories that he had learnt as a child reflecting the values of his his heritage . As Rajaratnam relates:
Night after night, my mother always told us stories; tales and legends that inspired us to find courage, be brave and stand upright. One of my favorites is called “Veerathai” (“Brave Mother”) in Tamil. The mother in the story learns that her only son has been killed in battle. Refusing to wait until the body is returned to her, she rushes instead to the battle site to confirm just one thing: whether the arrow had penetrated his chest or his back. Finding that the arrow had pierced his heart, the mother is filled with tremendous pride: her son had not run away from battle.
As a young boy, I thought it odd that a mother could possibly be happy about the death of her only son. My mother would lovingly and patiently explain the moral until I finally understood that courage comes in many forms, including standing up and facing adversity with dignity.
Rajaratnam firmly believed in the American Justice system. Unfortunately, it was a system lacking in checks and balances. Consequently, it had allowed unscrupulous-men to advance their own careers at the cost of delivering justice.
Amongst those singled out by Rajaratnam for abusing the U.S justice system is the publicity-hungry and ambitious U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara who had cleverly exploited the ambiguities of the law around ‘insider trading’ to advance his own career. Bharara ran roughshod over the truth, standard DOJ protocols, and the office’s own dignity in his extraordinary zeal and in the process had earned a place in the cover of the Time Magazine. Rajaratnam exposes Bharara’s hypocrisy by pointing out how Bharara who now works for the private sector makes a living out of questioning the validity of the very same laws upon which he had managed to convict the likes of Rajaratnam and others.
Rajaratnam’s experience with FBI’s Kang was particularly traumatic. Kang having cuffed Rajaratnam in the presence of his children had cruelly told him “Take a good look at your son because you’re not going to see him for twenty years”. Kang did not stop at that. He menaced and threatened Rajaratnam’s family and employees with prosecution, frightened away crucial defence witnesses, and routinely leaked false information to the media, churning up an unabated feeding frenzy that convicted Rajaratnam in the court of public opinion.
Then there was the SEC Commissioner Mary Shapiro who gloatingly stated in May 2011, shortly after Rajaratnam’s trial, that “the beauty of insider trading laws is the flexibility in interpreting them.”
Two chapters of the book are devoted to Anil Kumar, a former colleague and key witness for the prosecution. These chapters clearly show how the entire trial had been based on a web of lies concocted by Anil Kumar.
The book is a painstaking effort by Rajaratnam who wrote the entire book by hand while in prison.
Strangely, the ordeal having pushed Rajaratnam to the very end of despair had helped him gain a sense of peace and awareness once he finally broke through it. It had helped him realize how incredibly strong the human mind is and that nothing can beat a person who refuses to be beaten.