Raj Rajaratnam, the billionaire investor who once ran one of the world’s largest hedge funds, was found guilty on Wednesday of fraud and conspiracy by a federal jury in Manhattan. He is the most prominent figure convicted in the government’s crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street.
A brown man persecuted?I highlighted what I perceive to be the relevant part. Billionaire. If Raj Rajaratnam were being convicted of child abuse for having a son wear a dhoti or lungi I could see a “brown angle” on this. But Raj Rajaratnam is a billionaire who made his money playing the game of global capital. His brief was to create “efficiencies” by “allocating capital” more “rationally.” I won’t elaborate anymore because of my profound skepticism of the aggregate value of this sort of activity on the margin.
Rajaratnam played a high stakes game. He played it as a financial professional, not a brown man. The ‘brown mafia’ angle may have some legs in a narrow sense, but there’s a Harvard mafia too. But at the end of the day iBankers who can keep the H-bomb in their back pocket are a world away from Harvard grads working at non-profits. Similarly, management consultants, bankers, and hedge fund managers who find commonality or comfort in being South Asian are a world away from the Indian Culture Association. Let’s not confuse apples with diamonds.
As I have noted before the media representative who wanted me to address this from a South Asian perspective admitted he was having a hard time getting a brown on the show who wanted to talk about the impact of the case on ‘the community,’ as opposed to those who wanted to get the word out on the finance or management consulting perspective. Apparently financial folk and management consultants were worried about their reputation being further sullied. They need to consult the most recent social science. In the general social survey in 2008 20% of the sample had “hardly any” trust in banks and financial institutions. In 2010 that figure was 41%.The public long ago soured on the “masters of the universe.” We’re at a new equilibrium. They can have their dollars, or they can have their respect. But there’s no way they’re going to have both (want to take bets on what they’ll pick?).
If there is a South Asian angle on this, I would have to say that I did begin to wonder if my family had left one sort of corruption in Bangladesh for another sort in the United States in 2008 and 2009. Corruption destroyed the career advancement of many of my relatives in Bangladesh, and was one of the primary reasons that my father gave for wanting to start anew in the United States. The presumption in Bangladesh, and in much of the world, is that the high attain their positions through low means. The behavior of “the Street”" simply seems to have been a grander instantiation of that phenomenon.
As for Raj Rajaratnam I assume he’ll be taken care of. I don’t get the impression that his actions were qualitatively different from what is common in the construction of a “constellation” of information for the purposes of investment in high finance. So even if I shed tears for him as a brown man I would rest easy. Capital and politics may pretend to throw one to the peasants, but at the end of the day they take care of their own for committing crimes which they all partake in.