Saturday, June 16, 2012

An extraordinary event: what does it mean?

John Gapper posts in FT Business Life blog ("How many other Rajat Guptas are out there?") that Gupta trial is an "extraordinary event", because of "his status at the apex of the business establishment". Remenber: Gupta ran McKinsey (at the age 45), was member of the board at Goldman and Sachs, and also Procter and Gamble. Few people can show such unusual and distinctive affiliations. Gupta has been a very top and influential man in american business, at the elite of the elite level.
His conviction is indeed important: he is someone whose wrong doings happened to have been accidentally tapped in dubious conversations when prosecutors were looking for wrong doing of a third party (his friend, and may be more than that, Raj Rajaratnam). A perfect case of american way of success in Wall Street and corporate environment happens to be found guilty of inside trading. The Economist Schumpeter blog titles a post "American dream turned nightmare" and "considers that the verdict provides a stunning denouement to Mr Gupta's career".
WSJ article on the case makes the point about motive:
  • Mr. Gupta, 63 years old, once one of America's most-respected corporate directors, was motivated not by quick profits but rather a lifestyle where inside tips are the currency of friendships and elite business relationships.
This conviction is extraordinary because it goes straight to the heart of a business lifestyle where insider tips, special favours to business friends and networking for profit are the current currency of power and mutual profits. WSJ article makes a good comparaison with previous cases:
  • (this) is perhaps the most prominent defendant ever convicted of insider trading. While arbitrager Ivan Boesky was well-known at the time of his guilty plea in the 1980s, he wasn't as deeply embedded in American corporations as Mr. Gupta, who advised many high-profile chief executives. Junk-bond trader Michael Milken was indicted in an insider-trading investigation but pleaded guilty to other charges. Martha Stewart was also probed for insider trading but convicted of obstructing justice.
Back to FT post:
  • So how many other board members of S&P 500 companies are out there, talking as openly about confidential information as Gupta? It seems improbable that he was the only one
  • The case will send a shudder through the upper echelons of the business and financial world. The risk of being caught on tape in the US leaking information improperly is now significant – loose lips endanger board directors.
It happens this "extraordinary event" may also have indirect implications in the portuguese political landscape. McKinsey and / or  KPMG? Goldman Sachs? Boards of large private corporations? Government assumes that Chinese walls may well exist. Reality seems to be very different.

(Italics my responsibility; network diagram from WSJ (here) )

(Update, 18th june: FT comments here about the impact of the case on McKinsey)

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