It been a catastrophic week for Galleon Group and its founder, Raj Rajaratnam, with the firm reportedly about to wind itself up in the wake of the epic insider trading allegations raised against Rajaratnam. But the trading indictment is not the only recent stunning legal development involving Rajaratnam and his firm.
Among other things, on October 22, 2009, a group of survivors of alleged "terrorist" bombings sued Rajaratnam and his father claiming they knowingly provided financial support to the Tamil Tigers.
On a more positive note, Galleon was recently affirmed as lead plaintiff in a securities class action lawsuit pending in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The terror victims filed their lawsuit on October 22, 2009 in the District of New Jersey. The seven-count complaint (copy here) was, according the plaintiffs’ lawyers press release (here), the result of "a year-long investigation." The complaint was filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, which gives U.S. district court jurisdiction "of any civil action by an alien for tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States."
The complaint alleges that Rajaratnam and the family foundation headed by his father provided millions of dollars in funds used for terrorist attacks by the group formerly known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). The complaint alleges that from 2004 to 2009 LTTE conducted hundreds of attacks and bombings, claiming over 4,000 victims. The complaint alleges that Rajaratnam and his family foundation provided millions in funding to a group that the Treasury Department has described as "a charitable organization that acts as a front to facilitate fundraising and procurement for the LTTE." The complaint alleges that Rajaratnam’s donations were given "with the intent of supporting specific LTTE attacks and operations."
The complaint alleges that the defendants aided and abetted terrorist acts "universally condemned as violations of the law of nations: aided and abetted, intentionally facilitated or recklessly disregarded "crimes against humanity in violation of international law," as well as, among other things, wrongful death, negligence and negligent or intentional infliction of emotion distress.
Things said about Rajaratnam and his firm in the September 30, 2009 ruling (here) by Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Juan R. Sanchez, in which Sanchez affirmed Galleon as lead plaintiff in the Herley Industries securities class action lawsuit, were decidedly more positive. The subsequent events (which the court obviously had no way of anticipating) do cast a very strange light on the opinion.
Even prior to events of the last week, Galleon’s selection as lead plaintiff in the case was notable. Investment advisors typically are regarded as lacking standing to pursue the claims of their clients’ funds, because they lack an "injury-in-fact" – that is, they suffered no direct injury. A long line of district court cases have declined to appoint investment advisers as lead plaintiffs for that very reason. In considering these issues, Judge Sanchez observed that Galleon, unlike the investment advisors in the other cases, was "closely connected" to the Galleon funds that held the company’s stock.
With respect to the connection between Galleon and the funds, Judge Sanchez noted that "the same people control both Galleon and the funds," adding that "Raj Rajaratnam serves as director of the two funds and as Galleon’s managing partner." There were, however, further standing issues involved because the funds had not assigned their claims to Galleon until after Galleon was initially appointed to serve as lead plaintiff.
Finding that Galleon now had standing in light of the assignment, and noting further that "Galleon has served as an adequate plaintiff for more than two years," and that it had a larger financial interest in the case than the competing pension fund, the court exercised its discretion to affirm Galleon as the lead plaintiff in the action.
In support of this conclusion, Judge Sanchez observed, among other things that "to appoint a new lead plaintiff at this late date would unduly disrupt the litigation process."
Certainly, no one wants the litigation process unduly disrupted, but I suspect that in light of events subsequent to Judge Sanchez’s September 30 order, the litigation process in the Herley Industries case is about to be duly disrupted.
Among other ironies is that in the court’s prior order initially appointing Galleon as lead plaintiff (here), the competing pension fund had argued that Galleon was an "unsuitable" lead plaintiff owing to the "unique defenses" to which Galleon was subject. Among other things, the competing pension fund had argued that Galleon was a hedge fund that had shorted Herley’s stock during the class period (and therefore allegedly profited from the fraud on the market), and further argued that the short sale activity violated the federal securities laws. Judge Sanchez found the securities law violation allegations to be speculative and selected Galleon as lead plaintiff in light of the PSLRA’s presumption in favor of the plaintiff that suffered the greatest financial.
The competitor pension fund presumably could be substituted in as lead plaintiff, but, as Judge Sanchez noted, the pension fund’s losses "pale by comparison" to Galleon’s.
As interesting as all of these things are, I suspect there will be more attention-grabbing legal developments about Galleon and Rajaratnam in the weeks and months ahead.
Special thanks to Adam Foulke of the Motley Rice firm for providing me with a copy of the plaintiffs’ complaint in the Tamil Tiger case. Special thanks to a loyal reader for providing copies of the opinions in the Herley Industries case.
In Case You Missed It: OakBridge Insurance Services announed yesterday that Mickey Estey and Lance Sunder, both previously of NASDAQ Carptenter Moore, have joined OakBridge and will be opening offices for the company in the metro regions of San Francisco, CA and Minneapolis, MN, respectively.