Thursday, May 12, 2011

Convicting the "Other" on Wall Street

Raj Rajaratnam
In all the discussions of the recent conviction of Raj Rajaratnam in the Galleon Trial in New York City, I'm wondering why the press hasn't identified the possibility that racism played a part in this prosecution.  He certainly doesn't fit the profile for a big-time inside trader.  The typical high-level employee on Wall Street is a white man.  That's  not to say that Rajaratnam isn't guilty of his crimes, I'm just curious how much of this prosecution was driven by his "otherness," an Indian man.

This would certainly not be the first time that race played a part in the prosecution of a criminal.  Death Penalty cases are rife with examples of differential value of human life (black on white murder nets the harshest penalties while white on black crime the most lenient).  Are we seeing a similar pattern in the conviction of financial criminals for crimes stemming from the 2008/2009 financial collapse?  I hope not.

But in the time since the financial collapse, the SEC and US Attorney's Office have managed to convict only two perpetrators: Bernie Madoff who embezzled money from other rich people; and Rajaratnam, a hedge fund manager.  In an industry that is 90% white, the odds are strongly against convicting a non-white of financial crimes, yet Rajaratnam was tried and convicted.  Indians barely register on the financial industry demographics (presumably as Asian).

90% of the financila industry is white, 60% is white men, how is it we managed to go after an Indian?

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