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by Vault Consulting Editors | March 14, 2011


The tarnished reputation of McKinsey & Company will endure yet more scrutiny this week when the defense in the insider trading case of Raj Rajaratnam gets its shot at the prosecution's star witness. That man, Anil Kumar, is a former McKinsey senior partner who last week gave detailed testimony regarding his illegal cooperation with the defendant. Now, Rajaratnam's legal team seeks to discredit Kumar's testimony by portraying the ex-McKinsey partner as a convicted felon whose "monstrous" accusations represent little more than an attempt to have time shaved off his imminent prison sentence.

Kumar, 52, plead guilty to charges related to insider trading last year and faces up to 25 years in federal prison for his offenses. In last week's testimony, Kumar detailed the nature of his relationship with Rajaratnam: in exchange for cash (totaling almost $3 million), which was routed to offshore banks in other people's names, Kumar gave Rajaratnam secrets about the confidential business dealings of McKinsey clients. Raj Raj, the top man at under-fire hedge fund Galleon Group, used that information to amass roughly $20 million in profit, the evidence suggests. Telephone conversations recorded via secret government wiretaps appeared to corroborate Kumar's testimony.

Longtime friends do battle in federal court.

But Rajaratnam's legal defense team, headed by Akin Gump rainmaker John Dowd, plans to paint a very different picture when it takes aim at Kumar this week. "Kumar was paid consulting fees for his advice and guidance in the Indian and South Asian investment markets," Dowd said in opening statements to the jury, suggesting that any payments between the pair were legitimate. Any contrary notion would amount to a "monstrous lie", Dowd said, bracing jurors for Kumar's testimony, which last week fulfilled Dowd's expectations. But why would Kumar, a soft-spoken McKinsey exec who has appeared to show genuine remorse for his transgressions, lie about the involvement of Rajaratnam, a longtime friend since business school and fellow India native? Dowd says that Kumar is simply trying to suggest that "Raj made him do it" in order to deflect blame and curry favor among government prosecutors ahead of his fast-approaching sentencing for securities fraud. "He is now facing 25 years in prison and the only way out is for him to testify to the prosecutor’s satisfaction against Raj," the defense attorney said.

This week's developments could represent something of a double-edged sword for McKinsey, still reeling from the effects of a scandal that has implicated at least three of its own higher-ups.

If the defense succeeds in discrediting the already-disgraced Kumar, his testimony will likely be considered far less damaging to Rajat Gupta, the former McKinsey managing director whose ties to Rajaratnam and Goldman Sachs attracted the attention of SEC investigators earlier this month. Kumar faces the prospect of being depicted as a lone agent of corruption in the McKinsey organization, freeing the prestigious firm from implication as a haven of less-than-legal business practices.

Conversely, a courtroom smear campaign against Kumar could reveal further misdeeds on behalf of McKinsey consultants or the organization at large. The defense has no ties—and consequently, no allegiance—to McKinsey, leaving the firm vulnerable to Dowd's attempts to discredit Kumar (and maybe even Gupta, down the line).

And, of course, if Dowd fails to convince jurors that Kumar is anything other than a disgraced, remorseful businessman coming clean before the law, Gupta will be justifiably worried. With a credible, (relatively) sympathetic witness on their side, government prosecutors will be licking their lips at the chance to portray McKinsey's star man as anything but.

Click here to see a transcript of a recorded conversation between Kumar and Rajaratnam, in which they clearly refer to Gupta's involvement in their scheme due to his position on the board at Goldman Sachs.

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