Yes of course I am prejudiced. Rajat and I are from the same school. I have known him for many years, and though I cannot say I was one of his closest, his profile being far too big for that, I still shared a warm relationship with him and his family.
The problem of being friends with Rajat was that you can not help but admire him. Admiration creates a thin wall between friends that never really allows you to be too intimate. You admire Rajat for his sheer breadth of vision and knowledge. But you also do so because every one else does. It did not matter that the person you spoke to was a Head of State, a CEO of a Forbes top 10 Company, an NGO that benefited from his tireless support, the name Rajat Gupta inspired awe and appreciation. I have heard Rajat constantly described as a Rock Star by young management students who aspired to emulate him.
So why did Rajat Gupta not make deal with the US justice department, accept guilt and pay a fine ? Yes , his reputation would have suffered. But a man with his capability would have soon put the past behind him and create new paths that were equally productive to himself and society ? Yes, there would be no more high profile Board positions, but any number of Institutions and Corporations would still beg for Rajat’s talents.
Why then go down the path and sue the SEC itself and risk being prosecuted in court? Why risk a jail sentence ?
Because this was not just about Rajat Gupta. Not just about him and his family. Rajat actually believed in all that he stood for. He believed in the institutions he helped build. He believed in the system that allowed him to express his hard work and talent. Rajat went to court and risked everything to try and uphold all that he believed in, so the world would not lose faith in the very institutions he believed in.
And he lost.
He lost to an environment of hostility. To a world rightfully angry at banks and Wall Street, ready to bring down the so called upper echelons of privilege. But also a world that failed to see the vast difference between the intent and modus operandi of Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Hedge Fund and Rajat Gupta.
Rajat believes he is not guilty. As do I and all his friends. But the courts found him guilty in face of ‘overwhelming evidence’ and we have to accept that, circumstantial as that evidence might be. I hope he wins his appeal, and if in the outside chance that he does not, his (unjustified) prison sentence is very short.
The world needs people with the talent, foresight and commitment like Rajat Gupta.