With Friends Like These…

Real friendship is shown in times of trouble; prosperity is full of friends. – Euriides

For all that went wrong with Rajat Gupta over the last couple of years, there was one silver lining in his dark cloud. He seemed to have a group of friends who sang his praises and were determined to remind the world that a good man had been wronged. In a piece  I wrote slightly over a year ago about Rajat Gupta, I quoted Jagdish Bhagwati who said, “There will be cynicism among some people, but the vast majority will see him as a good man, who got caught on the wrong side of the street.” My next sentence in that piece was, “In fact, there is a website friendsofrajat.com, where a number of people have attested to his integrity, decency, and goodness.”

But a year later, with only an appeal to the federal courts standing between him and jail, and a book by Anita Raghavan (The Billionaire’s Apprentice…) which argues that Gupta’s need to keep up with the Joneses (or at least, the Gates, Kravii, and Paulsons…oh those billionaires) explains how his “story went awry,” his friends seemed to have abandoned him.

The friendsofrajat.com site no longer exists. Go to it and GoDaddy greets you and inquires as to whether you want to search for sites similar to friendsofrajat.com. A click here and a click there and you learn that the friends of rajatgupta.com site can be yours for $ 69.99 (what would a price be without the .99) and some commission. Kind of ironical that the friendsofrajatgupta is/are kind of cheap!  If you want to buy the site, click here.

I now feel bad that I didn’t download the contents of the site when I could. I would have if I thought the site would not exist in the future. On that site were glowing testimonies of more than 300 (I didn’t count, and am relying on Sandip Madan’s count – more on Sandip Madan below) friends who signed an open letter to tell the world who the real Gupta was, and how the charges against him were unfounded at worst, and the result of his decency at best. The public testimonies that he is incapable of being someone who indulged in an act “the functional equivalent of stabbing Goldman in the back”  no longer exists. What does this tell us?

Either that his ‘friends’ no longer believe what they said. If that is true, they must say so. Or that, those testimonies were simply a mechanism to influence in some small way the outcome of the charges against Rajat Gupta – a strategy more than testimonies. Or, …

There is at least one exception to Rajat Gupta’s friends those who seem to have publicly abandoned him – Sandip Madan. As recently as May 31, 2013 on his Things Blight and Beautiful, Madan blogs “Rajat continues to maintain he’s not guilty as he appeals his conviction and sentencing, and  I continue to root for him.” Madan’s faith and respect for Rajat Gupta seems unshaken given the unfavorable outcomes of the judicial process, and an image that is tarnished forever. I take Madan to be saying, “It doesn’t matter to me what you guys say, I know my friend.”

I hope that one of Gupta’s friends reads this piece, and revives the public support for Rajat Gupta that the site symbolized. I’ll be happy to put up the $69.99 + commission – though I am sure that that is not the binding constraint. If it is merely an oversight, I hope the site comes back. Not because I am a friend of Rajat Gupta (I do not know the man), but because, if what his ‘friends’ said is true, then it must be part of the public record.

I only remember one name from those who signed on to the open letter and wrote testimonies on behalf of Rajat Gupta. That person was Mukesh Ambani. I remember saying then, “With friends like these… ”