Monday, January 23, 2012

Reuters criticizes leniency for insider trading informant

David Slaine, a participant in the Galleon hedge fund insider trading scandal, was sentenced to probation and community service on Friday in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors. He was facing up to 25 years in prison. This column from Thomson Reuters argues that Slaine got too good of a deal:
NEW YORK, Jan 23 (Reuters Breakingviews) - A financial snitch has gotten off too lightly. David Slaine, a former Galleon Group employee, pleaded guilty to insider trading and conspiracy but became an informant to help nab others, including the hedge fund and trading scandal kingpin, Raj Rajaratnam. At the urging of prosecutors, a federal judge has rewarded Slaine with probation and community service instead of up to 25 years in prison. Such leniency risks overreliance on criminals. . . .The justice system probably can't crack big cases without the cooperation of unsavory characters, and giving Slaine favorable treatment is justified up to a point. But even for the best information, letting confessed felons like him essentially off the hook is too high a price to pay.
In a similar vein, this New York Times piece points out that, under recently proposed amendments to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, heavier sentences for insider trading will make cooperation--and the vastly lower sentences that accompany it--an increasingly prominent feature of white collar prosecutions.
The potential for higher sentences means the incentive to cooperate with the government in an investigation will be that much greater. There is already a significant disparity between the sentences of a cooperating defendant and one who goes to trial, and the best way to avoid the recommended sentence under the guidelines is to help prosecutors convict others.... 
The benefits of cooperation are likely to be on display in the near future when crucial cooperating witnesses in the prosecution of Mr. Rajaratnam are sentenced. Anil Kumar and Rajiv Goel testified at his trial, and prosecutors are likely to recommend substantially lower sentences than those received by other defendants who pleaded guilty but did not cooperate, like the 30-month sentence given to Danielle Chiesi.