A relative small fry gets 5 1/2 years in prison for his role in the Galleon Group insider trading scheme. Looks like Raj will get the full 25 years the government’s asking for. That’s a sentence that, at 25, might, maybe, be bearable, but speaking as someone roughly Raj’s age, you’re looking at losing what’s left of the good part of life.
Several us were discussing this over the weekend – why would a billionaire risk all this just to maybe add a couple of million to his wealth? Conclusion: ego and the desire to win. Even dumber, as the feds drew close, why didn’t he flee to his native Sri Lanka, where they worship him and would never extradite him? We couldn’t figure that one out.
Tomorrow sees the start of the great circus, the insider-trading trial of Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Group. It should have everything the Justice Department and the media craves: wire taps,a hugely rich defendant and, with luck, maybe even some sex. But most important, it will deflect attention from the real scandal here, the refusal of the Justice Department to pursue the people behind the financial collapse of 2008.
Country Wide’s Mozillo, a friend of Dodd? No criminal charges. Dodd himself? Off to collect $1.5 million per year as a lobbyist in California. Dick Fuld? Jamie Diamon? Fannie Mae’s execs? Are you kidding me? It can be argued, and I do, that insider trading causes no harm to investors – the same can not be said for what establishment Wall Street and Washington’s pals in the mortgage business did. But the latter have political protection, Raj does not.
So enjoy the spectacle, but don’t lose sight of the fact that this is all intended to create the illusion that our government is policing Wall Street when in fact it is doing nothing of the sort.
Round Hill’s own, Raj Rajaratnam, appeared a bit distressed when arrested for insider trading but his co-conspirator Danielle Chiesi looked like day-old cat barf. Released on bond and a trip to her hair stylist later, she looks a bit better – at least, one could, with an effort, begin to believe that she traded sexual favors for information. Strategically, this is a bad move: had she retained her booking day look, no jury in the world would have believed the prosecution’s theory.
Would you give this woman the time of day?
"Oooh, Raj, you are soooo smart!
The WSJ’s out with the first of a two-part story on Greenwich and Round Hill resident Raj Rajaratnam’s rise and, maybe, fall. (Go to Google news and search for Raj for access to the Journal article, if you’re not a subscriber). His top trader, Chuck whatshisname – Rothman?) , is also mentioned. Between them, the two men own at least three Greenwich properties so keep you eye out for bargains. Not saying anything bad is going to happen, mind you, but between the SEC complaint, the indictment and, it seems, a continuing FBI investigation, ya never can tell.
Gary and Susan Rosenbach, tax cheats panachemag.com photo
Mr. Rosenbach, a founder of Galleon Group with Raj Rajaratnam, is seemingly implicated in the insider trading case brought against Raj. There had been speculation that Rosenbach had avoided Raj’s fate by becoming a cooperating witness but now wire taps seem to tell a different tale. All very interesting. The Rosenbach manor at 217 Taconic Road is for sale but it’s been so for years, long before the present scandal (but around the time he and Rajaratnam paid $33 million for engaging in tax fraud). It started around $23 million, is down to about $14, and Zillow says it’s worth $7. I think Zillow’s estimate is too low – this is a very nice house, on good land, but in this market, who knows? And, if Rosenbach wants to make the move to Round Hill to join Raj, Walt, Ric and all the other felons and accused felons on that street, he might take a low offer just to get there ahead of the FBI. As an aside, Rosenbach and his wife are big contributors to Hillary Cliton and Obama. Odd how often people like this who know how to take my money and spend it pay no income tax themselves. Some people get exactly what they deserve.
Galleon Group liquidating. That doesn’t mean Raj Raj will need to sell his house on Round Hill – he still has a billion dollars or so to tide him over during any upcoming down time, but if he’s going to be away for awhile, he may not need or want a weekend getaway. Perhaps he can assemble a real estate package with Walt, Ric Bourke and Dom DeVito and offer a three for one sale – it works for Jos. A. Banks.
Turns out that Raj Raj lost more money on the insider trades than he made. The Times points out that insider trading is insider trading regardless of profitability, but the lack of gain undercuts the prosecution case that the information being passed along was “material” – an essential element of the crime. At the least, the article suggests, this could cut down any potential prison term, which are usually calculated in part on the gain the defendant made. Interesting.
Pulled Up in OG points out that Raj Rajarantam, Greenwich’s soon-to-be-former Round Hill Road property owner, had a ticket for a flight to London the morning he was arrested and, perhaps more interesting, given that country’s refusal to extradite suspects for actions that aren’t illegal in the land of cheese and chocolate, a ticket from London to Switzerland. His arrest thwarted that flight but, as his lawyer points out, Raj had a return ticket back to New York for this Thursday. Uh huh.
WSJ: investors flee Galleon Group. It’s too bad – some excellent, honest people worked at the firm, several of them from Greenwich, but institutional investors don’t want to deal with a firm whose principal is the latest poster boy for ankle monitors and, after Madoff, can you imagine anyone sticking around and then trying to explain losses to clients with the explanation that Raj is presumed innocent until proved guilty? Nor can I.
UPDATE from Bloomberg 10/20/09:
Redemption requests totaled $1.3 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The firm has assets of $3.7 billion, including about $1 billion from Rajaratnam and employees, according to two people familiar with Galleon. Retaining clients and top managers may prove challenging as Rajaratnam fights the charges. At least two executive recruiters said they have already started talking to Galleon employees about moving to other hedge- fund shops.
“I suspect the super majority of assets will be redeemed,” said Ron Geffner, a lawyer at New York-based Sadis & Goldberg LLP, whose clients include hedge funds. “Certain portfolio managers and traders who have strong relationships with investors will find this an opportunity to start their own firms, or join other firms with assets in tow.”
To the extent that the taint is restricted to Raj, I’d think the rest of the Galleon people should be able to move on. I hope so.
According to the WSJ, Raj Rajaratnam’s former colleagues, including Choo Beng Lee, are ratting him out. The man’s going down and his Galleon Fund will be dead by the end of the month, which is a fitting end for a man who once paid Kenny Rogers $4 million to come up to the Round Hill place for a birthday bash and play “The Gambler’ eleven times, non-stop. “Somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even”. And all that.
So let’s assume that 557 Round Hill will soon be on the block. Who else might be selling soon? Well, the presence of Choo Beng Lee as a cooperating witness in the broader FBI probe of insider trading is interesting because Mr. Lee once worked for SAC, Steven Cohen’s fund. Jealous competitors have long alleged that Cohen’s success could only come from trading on inside information, an allegation never substantiated. Does Lee have anything that might help prove their case? I have absolutely no idea, but it will be interesting to watch. Cohen’s got something like $45 million tied up in that house of his on Crown Lane which he’ll never get back, but it is certainly worth something. Maybe Jerry Dumas, across the street, will want to expand his land holdings.
And of course, there are always the rumors of another ongoing FBI investigation into mortgage fraud here in Greenwich committed by a certain bank, some of its officers and various developer/builders. These stories make the rounds periodically and nothing has come of them so far, but the latest word on the status of the investigation offers hope to real estate gossip columnists everywhere (or in Greenwich, anyway) that there will soon be grist for the mill. Not that I wish anything bad to happen to these people mind you ….
So we’ll just have to wait and see. My guess is that some large houses will be hitting the market this year, under less than optimum conditions, but that could be for any number of reasons, not just the presence of U.S. Marshals on the front stoop.
So says BusinessInsider, reporting that news of Raj Rajaratnam’s arrest being accomplished by -gulp – FBI wire taps has many of them casting their minds back to various phone conversations they had with other traders over the years and wondering ….
Raj, by the way, is another Greenwich resident and maybe (I’m going to check) another Round Hill Road owner. That street is acquiring a reputation quite different from what it once had.
UPDATE: Round Hill Road it is, number 577. Raj was a neighbor of Dom Devito and may be once again, only this time over at Otis Correctional facility.