New York: A former director of McKinsey & Co told a court on Thursday that Galleon hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam paid him $1.75 million in exchange for tips on clients of the consulting firm, giving prosecutors potentially more ammunition in the insider-trading case.
Anil Kumar, the former McKinsey executive, pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy in Manhattan federal court. Prosecutors told how Kumar arranged to have an overseas entity receive payments from Rajaratnam through a Swiss bank account.
The money was then invested in Galleon under the name of a worker in Kumar’s household. Kumar made $2.6 million in illicit profits from this arrangement, including the $1.75 million paid by Rajaratnam, the prosecutors said.
Based on information from Kumar, the Galleon manager traded in Advanced Micro Devices Inc in 2006 and 2008 and eBay Inc in 2008, prosecutors said.
Rajaratnam’s lawyer, John Dowd, said in a statement that his client “did not make payments to Mr Kumar or anyone else in return for providing inside information.”
Rajaratnam and Kumar met in the 1980s when they both attended the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Later a star at McKinsey, whose ranks have produced some of the best-known executives in corporate America, Kumar had been advising technology clients on business strategies, including potential acquisitions, since 1997.
Kumar, who is free on $5 million bail posted when he was arrested on 16 October said in court on Thursday that he had conversations with Rajaratnam from 2003 to 2009. Some of those discussions were recorded in wiretaps by the FBI, tactics usually used in organized crime investigations.
“I understood Mr Rajaratnam was going to trade securities. I understood that my conduct was unlawful,” Kumar told US District Court Judge Denny Chin, pausing at times to compose himself.
He could face up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on 26 March.
Kumar said he was suffering from anxiety and depression and apologized to his colleagues at McKinsey, a company he worked from 1986 until he was let go in December.
“To all my colleagues whose trust I have betrayed, I am sorry,” said Kumar, of Saratoga, California.
When Kumar was arrested in October, the firm said it was “distressed.” On Thursday, a spokesman for McKinsey & Co said it had “no further comment at this time.”
Kumar’s cooperation with prosecutors comes on top of former traders who have struck plea deals that may spell trouble for Rajaratnam’s defence.
The Sri Lankan-born US citizen has pleaded not guilty and vowed to fight the charges and go to trial. He is free on $100 million bail.
Twenty-one people, including employees of some of America’s biggest companies including IBM Corp and Intel Corp, have been criminally or civilly charged in the complex case involving at least two insider trading networks.
According to US prosecutors and a civil complaint by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Kumar shared inside information in August 2008 about transactions involving Advanced Micro Devices and two Abu Dhabi entities with Rajaratnam, who then traded on the information.
On 7 October 2008, AMD said it would spin off manufacturing operations through a multibillion dollar venture with the Advanced Technology Investment Co of Abu Dhabi.
AMD stock opened 25% higher that day, resulting in millions of dollars of illegal profits for Rajaratnam, Kumar and others, prosecutors said.
Kumar also tipped the hedge fund manager over an acquisition of ATI Technologies Inc by AMD in 2006, prosecutors said in court on Thursday. In court papers, Rajaratnam’s lawyers have said information on that deal was public knowledge.
In October 2008, Kumar learned from an unidentified McKinsey client, a subsidiary of eBay Inc, that eBay planned layoffs and told Rajaratnam, the office of the Manhattan US Attorney said in a statement. Galleon shorted eBay stock and then made about $500,000 after the layoffs were announced.
Rajaratnam Bail Hearing
On Tuesday, prosecutors said they plan to file more charges against 52-year-old Rajaratnam, saying he made $36 million in illegal profits from insider trading, more than double the amount previously alleged.
A bail hearing is set for 12 January. The government wants to detain Rajaratnam, who has asked for his bail to be reduced to $20 million from $100 million.
In a court filing on Thursday, his lawyers called “far-fetched” and “preposterous” the government’s claim that he poses a serious risk of flight.
The cases are USA v Rajaratnam et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 09-01184; USA v Goffer et al in the same court, No. 09-mj-02438, and SEC v Galleon Management LP et al in the same court, No. 09-cv-08811.