October 18, 2012

Prosecutors are demanding that disgraced former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta go to jail for 10 years for insider trading.

His lawyers want him to go to Rwanda instead.

“The Rwandan government has expressed support for a program of service in which Mr. Gupta would work with rural districts to ensure that the needs to end H.I.V., malaria, extreme poverty and food security are implemented,” Gary P. Naftalis, a lawyer for Gupta, wrote in a statement to sentencing judge Jed Rakoff according to the New York Times.

Gupta certainly has a lot of people rooting for him. According to the Times, more than 400 letters of support have been submitted on his behalf, including one from Bill Gates and one from Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general.

Rwanda seems like a bit of a stretch for the former financial executive. Gupta does have a history of philanthropy, although it is apparently not quite field work.

After running McKinsey for a decade and being a board member, corporate chairman or strategic advisor to several companies including Procter and Gamble, American Airlines and The Gates Foundation, he became a trustee at the Rockefeller Foundation and an adviser to President Bill Clinton’s philanthropy, the Times reports.

He will be sentenced on October 24 in Federal District Court in Manhattan. In June, a jury found him guilty of divulging confidential information about Goldman Sachs to Galleon's Raj Rajaratnam, including Warren Buffett’s planned $5 billion investment in Goldman during the financial crisis.

[Read: Does Insider Trading Warrant A 24-Year Prison Sentence? .]

Gupta’s lawyers hope the letters of support for their client will help sway the judge to give him a lenient sentence, and allow him to do ‘community service’ in Rwanda.

The letters depict a man who, but for his insider-trading conviction, has led an exemplary life, the Times says.

But hang on, isn’t that the whole point? Didn’t Lance Armstrong also lead an exemplary career - apart from all the performance-enhancing drugs he took, and the fact that he forced his teammates to take them too?

Gupta’s lawyers argue that a lengthy prison term is not necessary because their client has already paid the terrible price of having his reputation in tatters.

It would be more shocking if he had been charged or convicted with insider trading and his reputation had remained intact.

Perhaps Gupta could do much good in Rwanda. Then again, there are many others who would be in an equally good if not better position to help the people of Rwanda.

And humanitarian work is also something Gupta can still do when he finishes his jail sentence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in ...