This illustration is supposed to show secrets being shared
Two cases at the extreme ends of the spectrum of crime throw a rather lurid light on the Indian American community, frequently hailed as a “model minority” for its generally impeccable conduct.
One involves Dharun Ravi, a barely 20-year-old Rutgers University student who webcammed his roommate’s gay encounter, and the other Rajat Gupta, a 63-year-old hugely successful businessman and banker accused of leaking insider information to a predatory trader.
The purpose of bringing together these two completely unconnected cases, other than the fact that their protagonists share their ethnicity as Indians, is to simply point out that they are both about a certain kind of sneakiness. Gupta’s trial has just begun in New York and until a verdict is delivered he is nothing more than an accused in an insider trading case. Ravi, of course, has been convicted and is facing a 30-day sentence and 300 hours of community service as well as a lifelong blot on his record.
Insider trading tends to be furtive and sneaky because it involves leaking privileged information with the purposes of making pecuniary gains using knowledge that others do not have.Gupta is accused of informing the trader Raj Rajaratnam about Warren Buffet’s decision to invest $5 billion in Goldman Sachs within 60 seconds of the former having learned about it during an emergency call. The banker faces 14 counts of insider trading. Rajaratnam has already been sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined $92.8 million in the same case.
In both cases, the protagonists had no prior record and, in fact, were very much the kind of people who would be held up as examples of the “model minority”. Gupta’s attorneys are strenuously pointing out in court how stellar their client’s reputation has always been. Their basic contention seems to be that a man who led a life of great probity and worked for larger public good had no incentive to act in the manner he has been accused of by federal prosecutors. In short, they are denying that anything sneaky ever happened.
In Ravi’s case, there has been no denial that the sneaky did happen except that its motive was not hate or bias intimidation.
Purely objectively, irrespective of the verdicts the two cases do represent a wide variety of wrongdoing any “model minority” can fall prey to. From bias intimidation that Ravi was accused of to insider trading that Gupta faces, it is quite a range.
It is instructive that while the Gupta trial is going on, news comes of federal regulators wanting to investigate whether analysts at Morgan Stanley and elsewhere advised some of their preferred clients to go easy on the upcoming Facebook initial public offering (IPO) because they knew the company might not have strong second-quarter revenue. This falls within the realm of privileged information that cannot be shared selectively, something which may have happened. Morgan Stanley has denied this happened.
If privileged information was indeed shared, it is extraordinary that this continues to happen in the world of high finance even as a major trial for something similar is going on in that very city.