Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund manager accused of using insider tips to make more than $60 million in illegal profits, was found guilty Wednesday of 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy. The 53-year-old billionaire founder of the Galleon Group faces nearly 20 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, though his lawyer indicated he would appeal. The verdict is "a significant victory for federal prosecutors," who have sought to crack down on insider-trading cases, says Ben Rooney at CNNMoney. But will one of the government's "biggest-ever" insider trading cases have larger consequences? Here, three possible repercussions:
1. "Wall Street is on notice"
The verdict sends a message, says Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney who brought the case: "There are rules and there are laws, and they apply to everyone, no matter who you are or how much money you have.” Yes, this is bound to shake up some people on Wall Street, says Greg Little, a former SEC lawyer, as quoted by CNNMoney. Anyone trading on inside information "better start worrying about whether prosecutors are listening." That applies to "the most junior employee as well as the most senior officer."
2. Expect more wiretapping
This "goes far beyond the fate of one hedge fund manager," says Richard Blackden in The Telegraph. Wiretaps played a key role in securing this conviction. Prosecutors played dozens of recordings in which Rajaratnam discussed insider information he received, and it's likely that the use of such recordings "in exposing white-collar financial crime will now increase." Still, the feds used "dodgy tactics" to get the wiretaps approved, says Reynolds Holding at Reuters. Rajaratnam's lawyers are likely to try to get the recordings thrown out in their appeal, which "will at least give a U.S. court a welcome chance to clarify the limits on wiretapping investors."
3. Companies may release less information
Big firms are now "paying much more attention" to an SEC rule enacted in 2000 that requires publicly traded businesses to share any "material information" with all investors at the same time, says Bob Pisani at CNBC. Because companies fear that any casual conversations with individual analysts might make them run afoul of those rules, many on Wall Street are already dialing back unofficial, non-mandatory disclosures. If companies choose to get even more tight-lipped, "the public in general will have less information" about these companies and stocks.