BUSINESS

Disgraced Ex-Goldman Director Defended At Friendsofrajat.com

02/02/2012 05:21 pm ET

Rajat Gupta went from a guest at President Obama's first state dinner and well-respected titan of finance to a disgraced figure facing criminal insider trading charges in just a few short years. But his friends say the fall from grace isn't deserved.

In response, they've launched a site called friendsofrajat.com featuring testimony from -- you guessed it -- some of Gupta's personal friends, ranging people with which he grew up in India to colleagues during various parts of his career. Federal prosecutors recently expanded their case against Gupta, the former head of McKinsey and Company and an ex-Goldman Sachs director, criminally charging him with giving four illegal tips to Raj Rajaratnam, a hedge fund founder now spending 11 years in prison on insider trading charges.

Atul Kanagat, a friend of Gupta's from his time at McKinsey, said the site came out of a gathering of about 30 of Gupta's friends in the fall of last year. Kanagat, who manages the site, said the people posting aren't commenting on the legalities of the case, instead they're countering portrayals of Gupta's character that they view as unfair.

"It's tough to be totally objective," Kanagat said. "Do good people sometimes do bad things? Is he one of those? It's impossible for me to know because he knows what he knows. On the other hand, the caricature they created of him was just completely false."

The posters on the site seem to think that regardless of the charges against Gupta, he's still a man of integrity. Federal prosecutors have portrayed Gupta as part of a culture of elite business men that traded secrets for friendship and prestige.

The site includes effusive claims about Gupta, calling him "a very warm and humane individual." Another poster claims "Had he been inclined to such dubious actions, he would have indulged in them much sooner and his career graph would not have reached the heights it has -- against all odds."

Kanagat said he receives about three to five communications per day about posting on the site. Though the site has been subject to some pranks, including people posting testimonials attached to the names of Simpson's characters, Kanagat said the response has been largely positive.

"The mud that's been poured on his character is painting a portrait of the man that is unrecognizable to the people that know him and admire him," he said.

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