U.S. Asks for Maximum Sentence for Rajaratnam

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Government lawyers asked a federal judge to sentence Raj Rajaratnam to up to 24-1/2 years in prison, the maximum allowable time, for his leading role in the vast insider trading probe that led to his being found guilty of 13 counts of insider trading in May, Reuters reports.

The memo filed Tuesday night calls Rajaratnam “the worst insider trading offender (who has been caught to date) in history.” The former head of Galleon Group, one of the world’s largest hedge funds which managed $7 billion at its peak, was found guilty of reaping $63.8 million in illicit profit from 2003 to 2009.

Rajaratnam, prosecutors attest, was a “billion-dollar force of deception and corruption on Wall Street,” who was “motivated by greed and the desire to conquer others.” Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence for what they called his “brazen, arrogant, harmful and pervasive” criminal conduct.Rajaratnam, 54, was the most prominent defendant among 21 people charged in the government crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street, which involved companies such as as IBP Corp and McKinsey & Co. The government sting involved a 9-month wiretap of his phone conversations, which they say showed Rajaratnam cooly and blatently trading on insider information.

“Violating the law was of no moment to him. What mattered was not getting caught,” the filing reads.

Lawyers for Rajaratnam asked for a sentencing “substantially below” the government guidlines, saying it would constitute a death sentence in light of “his failing health and the unique constellation of ailments ravaging his body.”

The memo filed on his behalf Tuesday night cited letters from family, business colleagues and a childhood friend from his native Sri Lanka, all attesting to his philanthropic character. One letter describes Rajaratnam as a boy, helping families with chores in exchange for their donations to charitable causes.

“He has been not only a law-abiding, tax-paying, productive member of society, but an extraordinary force for good, donating over $45 million of his personal wealth to charitable causes here and abroad. Whereas the crimes of his conviction had not a single identifiable victim, his charitable acts enriched countless lives – and surely saved more than a few.”

While his lawyers acknowledged the seriousness of the convictions, they claimed government and media “unfairly and inaccurately portray” Rajaratnam, making him into the “poster child for every wrongful act that has ever been associated with Wall Street.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell will sentence Rajaratnam on Sept. 27 and is not obligated to follow the federal recommendation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zoë Schlanger is Frontpage Editor at TPM. Zoë was a TPM intern in 2011, and prior to returning here she was editor in chief of NYU Local, the alternative independent student news site at NYU. Zoë has interned at places like the Nation, InsideClimate News, The Rachel Maddow Show and Gothamist. She can be reached at zoe@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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