| NEW YORK, April 2
NEW YORK, April 2 Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet
Bharara has proven adept with the media, landing on the cover of
Time magazine and being named the latest "Sheriff of Wall
Street" by the financial press.
The chief federal prosecutor for the Southern District of
New York was back in the limelight on Tuesday, announcing
charges against state Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, and
five other politicians in a plot to buy his way onto the New
York City mayoral ballot as a Republican.
The latest headline-grabbing case from an office that has
won more than 70 insider trading convictions since Bharara
started in August 2009 has refueled speculation he might
leverage his post for higher office.
"If he does indeed have political ambitions, this kind of
case is almost a perfect case," said Douglas Muzzio, a political
science professor at Baruch College in New York. "Clearly,
having a couple of politicians' scalps on your prosecutorial
Bharara's predecessors include Rudolph Giuliani, the former
New York City mayor and presidential candidate; Mary Jo White,
the current nominee to chair the Securities and Exchange
Commission; and James Comey, a deputy U.S. attorney general
under President George W. Bush.
While Giuliani was particularly aggressive in promoting his
cases, Bharara also knows how to use the "power of the press
conference," said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor
who worked under Giuliani and is now a law professor at Columbia
Bharara, 44, born in India and raised in New Jersey, has
denied having higher ambitions, even as his name has been
floated as a possible successor to U.S. Attorney General Eric
As with his predecessors, Bharara receives much of the
credit for work performed by a team of more than 220
prosecutors, who in turn rely on their own investigators and law
enforcement officers from several U.S. agencies.
His office won the conviction of hedge fund manager Raj
Rajaratnam, the first insider trading probe to rely on FBI
wiretaps. An ongoing probe has targeted managers at Steven A.
Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors, one of the world's biggest hedge
funds, although Cohen has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Some staffers inside his office and at the FBI have grumbled
privately that he received too much praise for some insider
trading cases that stemmed from investigations predating his
Critics also say Bharara's insider trading success has
obscured his reluctance to hold bank executives accountable for
their actions during the financial crisis five years ago. He has
responded, in part, by saying such cases can take years to
Last October, Bharara filed a lawsuit against Bank of
America, accusing it of costing taxpayers more than $1 billion
by selling toxic mortgage loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,
the quasi-governmental bodies that guarantee mortgages. It was
the first Justice Department civil fraud case over loans sold to
the two mortgage giants.
The office has also overseen the conviction of Faisal
Shahzad, who admitted to attempting to detonate a bomb in Times
Square, and al Qaeda operative Ahmed Ghailani, who helped bomb
the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Tuesday's charges came in the midst of New York's first open
mayoral race since 2001. Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves office
at the year's end after three terms, providing Bharara with a
potential forum to advertise for his next job.
"It's a natural question about somebody who's been as
successful in such a high-profile position," said attorney Randy
Mastro, a friend who worked with Bharara at the law firm Gibson
Dunn & Crutcher years ago.
Previous corruption arrests include former City Councilman
Hiram Monserrate, charged with misusing funds, and former state
Senator Carl Kruger, convicted of taking bribes. Assemblyman
William Boyland was acquitted of bribery, but later charged in
Brooklyn in a separate bribery case.
Before becoming U.S. attorney, Bharara was counsel to New
York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and helped lead the
Senate Judiciary Committee's investigation into the 2006 firing
of several U.S. attorneys around the country. He graduated from
Harvard University and Columbia Law School and worked as an
assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan from 2000 to 2005,
prosecuting Mafia and securities fraud cases.
Bharara, married with three children, is an avid Bruce
He signaled early on that he recognized a good sound bite,
riffing on the Hollywood movie Wall Street character Gordon
Gekko while announcing the indictment of Rajaratnam.
"Greed," he said, "sometimes, is not good."