For those who missed it, yesterday was day one of the trial of Rajat Gupta the former managing director of McKinsey & Company and former board member of Goldman Sachs. He is charged with passing on secret tips to convicted hedge funder Raj Rajaratnam who is now serving a lengthy sentence for insider dealing. Gupta is accused of leaking price sensitive information to Rajaratnam about Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble.
Not everyone agrees. Gupta’s attorneys describe him as a man of “great integrity,” a philanthropist and a victim of prosecutorial overreach. As part of his PR campaign Gupta’s friends have rallied a high flying list of supporters who point to his social, civic and business record. Author Deepak Chopra and one of India’s richest men are among those who have signed an open letter defending Gupta’s record at a website simply called www.friendsofrajat.com,
“He’s like a dolphin caught up in a tuna net,” says a high powered friend who manages the website. “The government refuses to admit it’s a dolphin and not a big fat tuna, and they’re not going to give up. That’s what my website is trying to do, tell the story about the other Rajat.” Friends have turned out in force but are they the right ones?
The PR Verdict: “B” for Rajat Gupta and his friends. They have made their case well, arguing they want to counterbalance negative prejudicial coverage by presenting a fuller version of Gupta’s business pedigree. Next time why not find a move diverse group of supporters?
The PR Takeaway: Diversity broadens reach and lowers risk. For a man steeped in the business affairs of corporate America it is surprising how few non-south Asian names have signed the letter. The insider-dealing network of convicted Raj Rajaratnam was partly based on a series of close ties with people who shared the same cultural background. A few more non-Indian names from big-shot corporate America might have improved the chances of providing Gupta the air cover and distance from the Rajaratnam case that his well meaning friends have stepped in to provide.