Financial Fraud's Finest Moments: The Galleon Group Case

Since 2002 and the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley, the financial industry has become heavily regulated in hopes of deterring fraud and other forms of corruption. What has happened so far?

Posted by Joe Gerard in on February 24th, 2011

Since 2002 and the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley, the financial industry has become heavily regulated in hopes of deterring fraud and other forms of corruption. What has happened so far? A whole lotta lawsuits. The Galleon Group came under fire in 2009, when co-founder Raj Rajaratnam was charged by the SEC with fraud and conspiracy. The SEC was conducting a broad probe into insider trading, which, to date, has seen 26 people charged and 19 guilty pleas to criminal charges. Rajaratnam is the key figure in the probe, which uncovered a series of trading rings throughout the investigation. Here’s a look at the details of the crime and the lessons we can take away from the corrupt acts of Raj Rajaratnam.

The Crime:

On March 8th (originially scheduled for February 28th), Rajaratnam will get his chance in the hot seat as his trial begins. According to a press release from the SEC, Rajaratnam used his network of friends and business associates to give him tips and other confidential information about corporate earnings or takeover activity at companies, such as Google, Hilton and Sun Microsystems.  Rajaratnam took this non-public information to make illegal trades on behalf of the Galleon Group. The Bloomberg article “Rajaratnam Wants Jury Told His Job Was to ‘Ferret Out’ Data,” states that Rajaratnam’s trial is what:

“Prosecutors said is the biggest U.S. crackdown on insider trading by hedge funds. The Sri Lanka native is accused of making more than $40 million in illegal trades dating back to 2003 at his New York-based fund and faces as many as 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges. He denies wrongdoing. At least a half-dozen traders are cooperating with the government, and more than 30 people have been accused in alleged conspiracies tied to the case, the first to make extensive use of phone taps to detect Wall Street insider- trading.”

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Lessons Learned:

There’s a lot of alleged wrongdoing in this case, even though Rajaratnam will tell you he was just doing his job. Here are some of the lessons learned from the Galleon case:

1. Be Careful Who you Talk To

What are your intentions with the information you gather? Many report that Rajaratnam’s defense plans to argue that he was just doing his job and that the information he obtained was already public knowledge – not a secret tip. Some of the people charged in connection with the Galleon case have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the authorities. Reports claim that some of these people have come forward and explicitly said that they gave Rajaratnam secret information. The real question is whether or not he was aware that the information he was told was confidential. However, based on the evidence in the case, his odds aren’t so great.

2. Greed Isn’t Good

Contrary to Gordon Geko’s belief, greed makes people do dangerous things. Since the case isn’t over, we don’t know if Rajaratnam will be found guilty or not, but the odds are stacking up against him. These actions impact the public, as it is their money at risk. Millions of dollars were made off of the information Rajaratnam received. He surrounded himself by people who had access to information that could help him. Unfortunately, these types of activities are all too common and people don’t always take the ethical path to the top.

3. New Ways to Get Caught

This was the first case to extensively use wiretapping to uncover insider trading. There have been a few people that have pleaded guilty in the case and state that they gave illegal stock tips to Rajaratnam. In the Bloomberg article “Galleon’s Rajaratnam Charged in Biggest Hedge Scheme,” the authors discuss the use of wiretapping as part of the investigation into Rajaratnam’s deals:

“‘There are numerous conversations that are recorded that very clearly depict the fact that this defendant engaged in a veritable smorgasbord of insider trading activities,” Klein said in court. He added that Rajaratnam instructed colleagues to create e-mails designed to hide his source of information and ‘would make trades intended to mask his illegal activity.'”

You can’t go back on your words when the authorities have a recording. Insider trading is illegal and with the increased level of enforcement over the financial industry, it’s getting harder for wrongdoers to hide.


Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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