No Good Guys in Richistan

Book: The Billionaire's Apprentice

Author: Anita Raghavan

Publisher: Hachette

Price: Rs 499

Pages: 512

Anita Raghavan's engaging book tells the story of three South Asian men whose lust for money derailed their reputations. Galleon's Raj Rajaratnam and McKinsey's Rajat Gupta and Anil Kumar plunged head-first into the world of Wall Street, trading corporate secrets for vast fortunes. They lived in Richistan, the country that provided them with a false sense of immunity from basic human values. Gupta provided privileged information from his perch as a board member of Goldman Sachs to Rajaratnam, who traded it for millions, and Kumar trafficked just about any information that came before him for whatever scraps of money and power it afforded. Raghavan's story is that of a fall from grace, notably that of Rajat Gupta who was once seen as the Indian equivalent of Warren Buffet. But this was always a seamy story. Gupta's reputation did not come from new inventions or from public service — it came from his role at McKinsey, where he oversaw policies that led to the jobless world that we now have, and then at Goldman, whose financial policies ensured that the world's 1 per cent luxuriate at the expense of the rest.

For Raghavan the distinction between Rajaratnam and Gupta is important, and they become a central part of the narrative drive in her fast-paced book. Raghavan portrays Gupta as a man who lived a blameless life only to stumble into a web laid by Rajaratnam, whom Gupta calls "a bad man". To build this narrative, Raghavan draws a sympathetic portrait of Gupta's life using interviews with his family members and the letters written by them to apply to the judge for a lesser sentence. Nothing similar is allowed for Rajaratnam, whose "gorilla moods" and crude parties suggest that Gupta might be correct. After all, thanks to Kumar's testimony, Rajaratnam was sentenced to 11 years and went to jail, while Gupta was sentenced to two years and remains free on appeal.

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