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Just stock research, pleads Rajaratnam

india Updated: Mar 10, 2011 22:03 IST
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A corrupt man or a legitimate stock researcher?

Prosecution and defense lawyers painted starkly different portraits of hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam at the start of the biggest Wall Street insider trading case in a generation.

Sri Lankan-born Rajaratnam sat impassively and wrote occasional notes on a legal pad during more than two hours of opening statements in his high-stakes trial in Manhattan federal court.

"Greed and corruption. This is a case about that man right there, Raj Rajaratnam, using stolen business information to make tens of millions of dollars," prosecutor Jonathan Streeter said, pointing at Rajaratnam and then slowly telling the jury how the government will show he cheated and tried to cover up the trail.

Defense lawyer John Dowd, mostly reading for 90 minutes from a prepared statement, offered a host of alternative reasons for Rajaratnam's alleged illegal information gathering and trades. "The government has it wrong," he said, and insisted the Galleon Group founder engaged in legal stock research and analysis that made him successful.

Dowd attacked government allegations that former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta tipped Rajaratnam about a $5- billion confidence-boosting investment in Goldman by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

"Any information that Raj received from Gupta in October 2008 was immaterial as there was a month left in the quarter," a slide shown by Dowd read. Dowd was responding to the allegation that Rajaratnam was given a tip about Goldman's earnigns.

US has accused Rajaratnam of reaping $45 million in illegal profit between 2003 and March 2009. The US justice department has made insider trading probes into the secretive $1.9 trillion hedge fund industry a priority, with Rajaratnam's prosecution its signature case.