You might have been following the insider trading scandal involving Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the hedge fund Galleon Group, and Rajat Gupta, former Goldman Sachs director, former McKinsey head, former friend of many powerful people. Ooops, that last seems to still be true.

Mr Rajaratnam is currently serving an 11 year prison sentence for illicit trading on tips from Mr Gupta, among other nefarious deeds. Mr Gupta is currently waiting to hear what his sentence will be after being convicted of sharing the secrets in spite of the strong legal prohibition against such sharing, and of personally gaining through joint business activities with Mr Rajaratnam. Sentencing guidlines suggest a sentence in excess of ten years.

The ooops comes about because the judge in the case is currently receiving hundreds of letters explaining how Mr Gupta is really a wonderful person who could in no way have done such dastardly things. After all, he has given lots of money to various good causes. For some reason many of the world’s rich and powerful seem to think this means he should not suffer the consequences the rest of us do when found to be in major violation of the law.

I am fascinated by this outpouring of sympathy by such well known people as Bill Gates and Kofi Annan. While they are so worried about poor Mr Gupta there does not seem to be any particular sympathy for the thousands of investors who were on the wrong side of the transactions that made millions for the convicted due to this insider trading. I also wonder at their thinking in being willing to publicly lobby for a lessor sentence for their friend in spite of his being convicted after an extensive trial.

I wonder because it causes me to ponder how they actually conduct their business. Do they consider this normal behavior for the elite? “We do our deals in the stratosphere without regard of the law because we deserve even more wealth.” It seems such odd behavior for people such as Gates and Annan who have dedicated so much of their lives to ensuring the least among us are given equal advantage.

Most curious is the message they are sending. The message that if you are rich enough and know enough powerful people perhaps you aren’t going to be held to the same legal requirements as everyone else. They message that things are different for them.

For those in public view are always sending a message by their behavior. And the message here is not good.

It reminds me of what I sometimes see with new clients. The words are wonderful. The values excellent. The vision spectacular. The actions at variance with words, values, and vision.

They never seem to understand that their problems are caused by the message that comes from their actions. At the risk of sounding trite, it really is true that actions speak louder than words. Actually it’s even worse than that. Actions shout so loudly they drown out the words.

You are the message.

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  1. Well said, Steve. It reminds me of the mild uproar a few years ago when a bunch of celebrities objected to the extradition of Roman Polanski back to the US on grounds that his crime wasn’t that bad, it was many years ago, he’s such a great artist, etc. They all seemed to forget that there was no controversy over whether or not he committed statutory rape – he plead guilty to it. He fled the country in order to avoid receiving and serving his sentence. I wonder how his supporters would have felt about his artistic merits if his 13-year-old ‘partner’ had been their daughter.

    The good news about Gupta, though. . .whatever institution he winds up in for the next few years of his life, if he’s any good at his craft it should quickly become the best run, fastest growing, most profitable prison in the system.

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