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Former Bermuda company chairman Gupta invoked Fifth Amendment right

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) The former chairman of Bermuda-based Genpact Ltd, Rajat Gupta, invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself when the US Securities and Exchange Commission sought to question him, a prosecutor said.

Shortly before the start of proceedings on Wednesday in the insider-trading trial of Galleon Group LLC co-founder Raj Rajaratnam, Assistant US Attorney Reed Brodsky asked whether the defence intended to introduce into evidence a submission that Gupta made to the SEC. Defence attorney John Dowd said he didn't plan on telling jurors about the so-called Wells submission.

“In that Wells submission, Mr Gupta took the Fifth Amendment when he spoke to the SEC,” Brodsky told US District Judge Richard Holwell. Gupta “wasn't deposed when the SEC asked for his deposition”, Brodsky said.

Gupta, a fomer Goldman Sachs board member who stepped down as a chairman and as a director of Genpact earlier this month, has been mentioned almost daily at Rajaratnam's federal court trial in Manhattan. Yesterday, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein testified that he presented confidential information at board meetings attended by Gupta. Prosecutors claim Gupta leaked some of that information to Rajaratnam.

Rajaratnam, 53, is on trial in the largest crackdown on hedge-fund insider trading in US history. The Sri Lankan-born money manager is accused of making $45 million from tips leaked by corporate insiders including Gupta. He denies wrongdoing, saying he based trades on research.

Blankfein testified yesterday that Gupta had confidential information about Warren Buffett's $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs in October 2008, Goldman's earnings projections for that quarter and strategic discussions the firm had about acquiring a commercial bank or insurance company in late June 2008. Prosecutors allege that Gupta passed the tips to Rajaratnam, allowing him to make about $1 million for Galleon in September 2008 and avoid millions in losses the next month.

“We are a public company,” Blankfein said. “We don't want information about our company to get outside before the time is appropriate. There is a process and a protocol for speaking to the outside world.”

For a second time in the trial, which began March 8, jurors heard a July 29, 2008, telephone call, secretly recorded by the FBI, in which Gupta told Rajaratnam that the Goldman board had discussed acquiring a commercial bank or an insurance company.

“Have you heard anything along that line?” Rajaratnam asked Gupta during the call.

“Yeah,” Gupta replied, “This was a big discussion at the board meeting.”

On cross-examination that lasted about an hour, John Dowd, Rajaratnam's lawyer, questioned Blankfein about a Goldman Sachs press release announcing that Gupta wouldn't stand for re-election as a board member in March 2010. Dowd asked Blankfein to read the announcement aloud to the jury.

In the release, Blankfein praised Gupta's “important contributions to Goldman Sachs as a board member”.

Dowd asked whether, at the time he issued the statement, he was aware of the government's allegations against Gupta.

“I had an awareness of some I want to say I had an inkling, subsequently I had more awareness,” he testified. “I knew there were questions about Rajat's behaviour, that's how I would say it.”

At a sidebar conference in court, Dowd said that Blankfein “had a conversation with Gupta when this matter broke in the press” about a year ago “and asked him about it”.

“I wouldn't have had anything to do with that,” Gupta replied, according to Dowd.

There is no additional detail in court records about Gupta's decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights under the US Constitution, including when the SEC wanted to question him. Gupta's lawyer, Gary Naftalis, has said in court papers that he made a Wells submission last month urging the agency not to file a lawsuit against his client.

“We repeatedly advised the SEC that Mr Gupta was prepared to testify fully as soon as the Rajaratnam trial concluded,” Naftalis said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “Regrettably, the SEC was unwilling to wait this brief period of time in order to have a full and fair factual record.”

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Published March 25, 2011 at 9:54 am (Updated March 25, 2011 at 9:54 am)

Former Bermuda company chairman Gupta invoked Fifth Amendment right

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