PROSECUTORS yesterday claimed two high-profile scalps in their crackdown on financial services crime, as two former bankers were sent to jail and issued with substantial fines.
Rajat Gupta, the former Goldman Sachs director and ex- McKinsey boss whose fall from grace has captivated Wall Street, was sentenced to two years in prison and a $5m (£3.1m) fine after being found guilty of leaking boardroom secrets.
Meanwhile in France, ex-Societe Generale employee Jerome Kerviel lost his appeal against fraud charges as the court upheld his sentence of three years in jail and ordered to pay his former employer €4.9bn (£4bn).
Neither man profited personally from their crimes, both of which involved high stakes miscalculations at the height of the financial crisis. But they adopted very different defences.
Gupta, 61, was a star of the US corporate world before a series of events culminated in a Manhattan federal jury finding him guilty of feeding tips about Goldman Sachs to hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, former head of the Galleon Group fund, at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.
Gupta did not personally benefit from providing the information to Rajaratnam, a long-standing friend and business associate, who is now serving an 11-year jail term for related offences.
Yesterday’s sentence was handed down by Judge Jed Rakoff, who described the crime as “the functional equivalent of stabbing Goldman in the back” and asked “why did Gupta do it?”
His defence focused on his otherwise spotless track record that saw him rise from a middle-class Indian family to become chief executive of consultancy firm McKinsey, before joining the boards of Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble.
His philanthropic efforts led to Bill Gates and ex-UN secretary general Kofi Annan writing to the judge as character witnesses but Gupta’s plea to be punished with community service rather than jail fell on deaf ears.
By contrast Jerome Kerviel, 35, adopted a far more aggressive stance against French prosecutors, claiming he was the victim of a culture that prioritised profit above all other considerations.
This stance earned him anti-hero status in the left-wing French media, who nicknamed the rogue trader “Robin Hood” and became fascinated with the story of a small-town man who almost brought down one of the country’s biggest banks.
He always admitted making €50bn of unauthorised bets that unravelled in early 2008 but claims it was with the full knowledge of his bosses, who turned a blind eye while the trades were profitable.
But the Parisian judge refused to accept this version of events and yesterday declared: “Jerome Kerviel was the sole creator, inventor and user of a fraudulent system that caused these damages to Societe Generale.”
The bank said it would be “realistic” about claiming the record-high damages. Last night Kerviel said he would launch one final appeal to the French Supreme Court.