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… ”

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One thought on “With Friends Like These…

  1. I did not know Rajat Gupta. However, I have to believe in the system that convicted him. True, there could have been a fundamental miscarriage of justice here. If so, I hope the conviction will be overturned. The basic thread however, that winds through all of the few and paltry convictions we have seen in this gargantuan ponzi scheme foisted on the unwitting is that the perpetrators did not believe in the rules of the market and had disdain for the both insider trading laws as well as for the enforcers. They got away with it so frequently that the laws seemed ethereal to them. From Michael Milkin to Bernie Madoff to Enron execs, Arthur Anderson (now KPMG) they all seemed invincible, they all had a disdain for the law and they had many friends among those they had benefitted financially. It is difficult not to think of a society in decline when I reflect on the scope and breadth of the disease. The educational establishments who trained and produced these men and the occasional women (lest we forget Martha Stewart) appear above reproach as students flock there to learn the tricks of these trades. This should tell us that the risks of convictions are slip and the punishment at conviction is less than a severe deter rant.

    I have often wondered what would happen if white collar crime were punishable by complete and total confiscation of assets, repayment of all losses by any income in excess of minimum wage, and a day in state prison for every dollar stolen or defrauded. Needless to say, I find it hard to be sympathetic to a former Goldman Sachs director convicted of insider trading. I wish more had been convicted. I find it difficult to believe that one can serve clients like Madoff and Rajaratnam and not become a part of the schemes they foisted. One would have to be very stupid or very much an abettor. From all I have read, GS does not hire the dumb. Perhaps we all feel this way about mob lawyers and drug lord lawyers. I thought so.

    Having said all this. If Rajat were my friend I would visit him and take him an occasional meal. Try to have his family and kids over. Attend their graduations. My friendship would have to stop short of condoning the crime. The problem with the friends we see jumping ship is that that condone and perhaps participate in the crime. Perhaps they blame you for getting caught because it jeopardizes the rest of them . We should all recognize this behavior. We have seen it in our school days when the stakes were smaller and we ourselves the victims.

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