June 15, 2012 | last updated June 15, 2012 1:04 pm

Gupta convicted of insider trading

Rajat Gupta, the consummate corporate insider and former director at Goldman Sachs, was found guilty of insider trading on Friday -- the highest-profile conviction yet in a wave of federal cases focused on Wall Street misconduct.

A federal jury in New York, after just more than one day of deliberations, found Gupta guilty of four of six criminal counts. The trial started on May 21, and Gupta did not testify in his own defense.

The case was part of a wave of insider trading probes over the past two-and-a-half years that have yielded 66 indictments and 60 convictions. None of these defendants have been acquitted so far, though several cases are still pending.

Dubbed "Operation Perfect Hedge," the effort has utilized investigative tools like wiretaps and informants that are more commonly associated with other kinds of crime.

Wiretaps were first used to target insider trading in the case of Raj Rajaratnam, a friend of Gupta and the manager of hedge fund Galleon who received a record 11 years in prison last year after earning $64 million in a long-running insider trading scheme.

"Almost two years ago, we said that insider trading is rampant, and today's conviction puts that claim into stark relief," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "We will continue to pursue those who violate the securities laws, regardless of status, wealth, or influence."

A call to Gupta's attorney seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Gupta, who also served as head of consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and a director at Procter & Gamble, was accused of passing inside information to Rajaratnam about Goldman and P&G.

Each of the three securities fraud charges he was convicted of carry maximum sentences of 20 years each. He was also found guilty of one count of conspiracy, which carries a five-year maximum.

Judge Jed Rakoff, who will sentence Gupta, is well known for his harsh views of Wall Street misconduct.

In November Rakoff rejected a proposed $285 million mortgage securities fraud settlement between Citigroup and the Securities and Exchange Commission, saying the penalties and the fact that Citi did not admit to wrongdoing in the case made it too lenient. The SEC is appealing his rejection of that deal.

Earlier this week former financier Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison on Thursday for orchestrating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. That's a bit less than the 150-year sentence given to Bernie Madoff three years ago for his even larger Ponzi scheme.

Prosecutors in the Gupta case argued that in one instance in fall 2008, Gupta called Rajaratnam just 16 seconds after disconnecting from a conference call in which Goldman's board approved a crucial $5 billion investment from Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

Minutes later, Galleon purchased $27 million worth of Goldman stock. In a conversation the next morning that was recorded secretly by the FBI, Rajaratnam told an associate that he had received a phone call ahead of the share purchase saying "something good might happen to Goldman."

When Goldman's shares jumped later that day on news of Buffett's investment, Galleon sold them at a profit of $840,000. Goldman Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein was one of the witnesses called by prosecutors in the case.

-- CNN Staff reporters Charles Riley and James O'Toole contributed to this report.

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