NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former McKinsey & Co director told a court on Thursday that Galleon hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam paid him $1.75 million in exchange for confidential information on clients to make illegal stock trades.
Anil Kumar, the former management consultant executive, made the statement in pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud in Manhattan federal court.
He was the seventh person to plead guilty in what U.S. prosecutors have called the biggest hedge fund insider trading case ever in the country.
Prosecutor Jonathan Streeter told the judge that Kumar made $2.6 million in illicit funds from his dealings with Rajaratnam. Prosecutors said the Galleon manager traded in Advanced Micro Devices Inc in 2006 and 2008 and eBay Inc in 2008 based on information from Kumar.
Kumar had been advising McKinsey clients in the technology industry on business strategies, including potential acquisitions, since 1997.
“I understood Mr. Rajaratnam was going to trade securities. I understood that my conduct was unlawful,” Kumar told U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin, pausing at times to compose himself.
He could face up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 26.
Kumar said he was suffering from anxiety and depression and apologized to his colleagues at McKinsey, a company he worked from 1986 until he was let go in December.
“To all my colleagues whose trust I have betrayed, I am sorry,” said Kumar, of Saratoga, California.
Kumar, who is free on $5 million bail posted when he was arrested on October 16, said in court that he had conversations with Rajaratnam from 2003 to 2009. Some of those discussions were recorded in wiretaps by the FBI, tactics usually used in organized crime investigations.
Rajaratnam and Kumar met in the 1980s when they were at the same business school.
Kumar is cooperating with the government’s investigation, prosecutors said, adding to former traders who have struck plea deals that may spell trouble for Rajaratnam’s defense.
The Sri Lankan-born U.S. citizen has pleaded not guilty and vowed to fight the charges and go to trial. He is free on $100 million bail.
Twenty-one people, including employees of some of America’s biggest companies including IBM Corp and Intel Corp, have been criminally or civilly charged in the complex case involving at least two insider trading networks.
Kumar agreed and arranged to have an overseas entity receive payments from Rajaratnam through a Swiss bank account and to have the money invested in Galleon under the name of a worker in Kumar’s household, prosecutors said.
According to U.S. prosecutors and a civil complaint by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Kumar shared inside information in August 2008 about transactions involving Advanced Micro Devices and two Abu Dhabi entities with Rajaratnam, who then traded on the information.
On October 7, 2008, AMD said it would spin off manufacturing operations through a multibillion dollar venture with the Advanced Technology Investment Co of Abu Dhabi.
AMD stock opened 25 percent higher that day, resulting in millions of dollars of illegal profits for Rajaratnam, Kumar and others, prosecutors said.
Kumar also tipped the hedge fund manager over an acquisition of ATI Technologies Inc by AMD in 2006, prosecutors said in court on Thursday. In court papers, Rajaratnam’s lawyers have said information on that deal was public knowledge.
In October 2008, Kumar learned from an unidentified McKinsey client, a subsidiary of eBay Inc, that eBay planned layoffs and told Rajaratnam, the office of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney said in a statement. Galleon shorted eBay stock and then made about $500,000 after the layoffs were announced.
On Tuesday, prosecutors said they plan to file more charges against 52-year-old Rajaratnam, saying he made $36 million in illegal profits from insider trading, more than double the amount previously alleged.
A bail hearing is set for January 12. The government wants to detain Rajaratnam, who has asked for his bail to be reduced to $20 million from $100 million.
In a court filing on Thursday, his lawyers called “far-fetched” and “preposterous” the government’s claim that he poses a serious risk of flight.
The cases are USA v Rajaratnam et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 09-01184; USA v Goffer et al in the same court, No. 09-mj-02438, and SEC v Galleon Management LP et al in the same court, No. 09-cv-08811.
Reporting by Grant McCool, additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Tim Dobbyn