With Judge Richard Howell promising that opening statements would "for sure" start today in the insider-trading trial against Raj Rajaratnam, the process of selecting a jury is well on its way. What kind of person is deemed unfit to hear the prosecutors' tale of an alleged web of stock tippers who helped Rajaratnam net $45 million in illicit profits over six years? According to Howell, anyone who has an issue with "very wealthy individuals" and "evidence with a lot of dollar signs attached to it." Also: people who vacation with David Tepper but don't know the name of his hedge fund, and journalists who've been chummy with Al Sharpton for 30 years. But Rajaratnam's lawyers didn't have to worry about any Intel readers in the potential jury pool. Not a single juror had ever heard of Lloyd Blankfein. Even Howell himself mangled our favorite Photoshop subject's last name, pronouncing the last syllable so that it "rhymed it with 'bean.'"
Rajaratnam's defense team faces considerable odds, including wiretaps of 2,400 conversations with 1,300 friends and a "Madoffesque opulent lifestyle" that's liable to invoke disgust among jurors. According to Business Insider's Courtney Comstock, if Rajaratnam is found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to twenty years in jail. The billionaire Sri Lankan native, who is rumored to "basically own" the stock exchange back home, could also be fined the money he alleged earned off the trades. Not to mention legal fees upwards of $30 million.
But the biggest stake in this trial is what it will mean for regulating the industry. Hedge-fund managers and executives are watching the trial closely, in some cases planting their lawyers to keep an eye the proceedings. Andrew Stoltmann, a securities lawyer with experience in these types of cases, told CNBC:
“Prosecutors are a little like bullies. When they get punched in the mouth they tend to go away. If they win and they get the conviction in the Galleon case, watch out Wall Street because prosecutors will be on the war path.”
US Jury to Hear Gripping Opening of Rajaratnam Trial [CNBC]
The Jury Is Everything And There Are Definitely Jury Consultants Watching Their Every Move [Business Insider]
Rajaratnam Jury Candidates Ask `Lloyd Who?' on Trial's First Day [Bloomberg]
Six Reasons Why Raj Rajaratnam Could Be Going Down [NetNet/CNBC]