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October 24, 2011

Interesting comments from two very high-profile, white-collar offenders

I have been meaning to blog about this recent story, headlined "'Like a Mafia Don': Bernie Madoff's Boastful Letter to Angry Daughter-in-Law," which resulted from a new 20/20 interview of Madoff's daughter-in-law, Stephanie Madoff Mack."  But even before I had the chance to consume that new chapter in an older high-profile white-collar story, along comes this new piece from Newsweek reporting on an exclusive interview with Raj Rajaratnam as he prepares to start his 11-year federal prison term.  Because Raj's conviction and sentence is newer news, I will excerpt an interesting section from the Newsweek piece here:

“There are two types of plea bargains. One is, you cooperate with the government. You finger 10 other people.  The other is a plea bargain without cooperation.” The white defendants all pleaded without cooperating; they did not wear a wire. “The South Asians all did the plea bargain with fingering,” [Rajaratnam] notes sourly. “The Americans stood their ground. Every bloody Indian cooperated — Goel, Khan, Kumar.” He puts it down to “the insecurity of being an immigrant, lawyers bullying them into that position.”

As late as two weeks before the sentencing, Rajaratnam was still being asked by the government to turn on Gupta. But he wouldn’t wear a wire, he says, so he could sleep at night. “Anil Kumar’s son worked at Galleon one su mmer. I used to vacation with Rajiv Goel’s family. Their families knew my family. You don’t think this is going to haunt these guys? They wanted me to plea-bargain. They want to get Rajat. I am not going to do what people did to me. Rajat has four daughters.”

The Rajaratnam case can be seen as a metaphor of the difference between immigrants from South Asia, who have a more elastic view of rules and a more keenly developed art of networking, and their children, the first generation, schooled to play by American rules. Preet Bharara came to the U.S. when he was an infant. Yet for all his complaints about unfairness, Rajaratnam, surprisingly, still believes in American justice. “In Sri Lanka I would have given the judge 50,000 rupees and he’d be sitting having dinner at my house. Here, I got my shot. The American justice system is by and large fair.”

“In your case too?” I ask. “I said by and large.”

October 24, 2011 at 05:02 PM | Permalink


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"The American justice system is by and large fair.”

"By and large" is as good as you're going to get from any system, so it's time to quit relentlessly grousing and show a little gratitude.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 24, 2011 9:53:51 PM

India and China, under-lawyered countries, have consistent growths in GDP of 9%. The US, an over-lawyered country, has growths of 1 or 2%. Lawyer regulation written to oppress and plunder the productive male explain 90% of the variance. When the public is ready to end their internal treason, we too can have yearly growths of 9%, and an immediate end to just about all social problems. Name any. There is a lawyer causing it for rent seeking purposes.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 25, 2011 7:33:01 AM

I don't see any strong relation of legal system with GDP growth figures. In India and China legal system is corrupt to the limit where people have no good hope of gaining any justice which makes them to accept what comes before them. The thumb rule of supreme power rules applies in the case. While in America and Europe their is too much litigation and steep penalty issue. Cost of goods and services matter most with developed countries.

Posted by: Ask A Criminal Solicitor | Oct 25, 2011 8:32:58 AM

"Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts." ~~ Nikki Giovanni, author.

Posted by: C | Oct 25, 2011 9:03:40 AM

I'd argue that at least some substantial level of "grousing" is actually part of what keeps it by-and-large fair... price of liberty is eternal vigilance, free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence, etc., etc.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 25, 2011 10:43:33 AM

"Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts."

The response children display is having a tantrum. The response adults display is accepting the fact that -- how should I say this? -- mistakes are a fact of life. And the response exceptionally intelligent adults display is understanding that the acceptance of error saves the impossibly costly, not to mention just plain impossible, quest for perfection.

Professor Richard Epstein explains it in a passage I have quoted in an entry on Crime and Consequences, http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2011/09/q-why-is-criminal-procedure-su.html#more

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 25, 2011 12:57:26 PM

Anon --

Grousing is one thing. Non-stop grousing about every last thing is something else. And non-stop grousing without ever taking time out to recognize the value of what we have in this country, and what it took to build it, is something else again.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 25, 2011 1:01:48 PM


Accepting that there will always be errors is one thing, refusing to see systemic failures is something else entirely. And I do think that plenty of folks on the left side of the v as it were refuse to see where they could do better, even if it would increase overall confidence in their product.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 25, 2011 2:01:54 PM

Soronel --

I think I'll be OK then, since I've never been on the left side of anything.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 25, 2011 3:10:58 PM


I agree with your response as far as it goes. Where we part ways, perhaps, is that I generally am willing to accept that the vast majority of those grousers to whom I take you to be referring (liberals, ACLU types, etc.) do, in fact, recognize the enormous value in their country, its way of life, its institutions, and its people.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 26, 2011 1:42:51 PM

Bill Otis wrote: "And the response exceptionally intelligent adults display is understanding that the acceptance of error saves the impossibly costly, not to mention just plain impossible, quest for perfection."

I respond: When the exceptionally intelligent adults in the DOJ realized a mistake had been made due to a practice or procedure or lack of training in place, did those exceptionally intelligent adults display "understanding that the acceptance of error saves ..." the "just plain impossible quest for perfection," or did they have the policy or procedure reviewed for improvement?

My money is on the latter.

Posted by: C | Oct 26, 2011 2:40:41 PM

Anon --

I agree that the majority of the grousers recognize that the USA is a good and decent country. I would add only two observations: It wouldn't hurt them to say so enthusiastically and more frequently, and they ought to take aside those of their number who do NOT value the USA and give them a history lesson.

There is a particular personality type for whom complaining about what you have just seems to be ingrained. When you have a teenager like that, you know you've got a problem (in addition to an annoyance). This mindset does not get more appealling with age; indeed it gets less appealling, and less excusable, but I see it all over this board.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 27, 2011 9:25:18 AM

C --

Three observations:

1. You don't deny the sentence of mine that you quote, nor could you.

2. Nobody, of course, is against improvement. But that truism fails to answer the hard questions, e.g., what defines "improvement," and whether the costs of seeking improvement are worth what you hope to get. There's an old wisdom: The perfect is the enemy of the good.

3. I take no responsibility for what goes on in Eric Holder's DOJ.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 27, 2011 9:32:14 AM

Bill - I put "realized" in the past-tense intentionally.

Posted by: C | Oct 27, 2011 9:54:05 AM

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