Trials & Litigation

The Second Guessing Begins: Was Combative Strategy a Mistake in Rajaratnam Trial?

The combative style of the lawyer for convicted Galleon group co-founder Raj Rajaratnam has some arm-chair quarterbacks wondering if such tactics backfired.

Rajaratnam was convicted of all counts on Wednesday in the largest insider trading case to date involving hedge funds. Rajaratnam’s lawyer, John Dowd of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, had argued his client was trading on information that was public knowledge and witnesses who testified against his client were liars.

A story in the Wall Street Journal (sub. req). on defense tactics says both Dowd and Rajaratnam are known for their willingness to fight. Dowd rejected possible plea negotiations and was aggressive in questioning government witnesses.

“Many moves by the defense team and Mr. Rajaratnam are now likely to be evaluated,” the Wall Street Journal says, “including the selection of a largely working-class jury in a case involving a billionaire, his choice not to take the stand, Mr. Dowd’s often-combative style, and the overarching attempt to convince jurors that the hedge-fund titan only relied on publicly available information in the face of recordings to the contrary.”

Lawyers interviewed by the newspaper had mixed reviews. One said it’s important for lawyers to avoid offending jurors by being overly aggressive with witnesses. Others questioned the public information strategy and the decision not to testify.

On the other side was Steve Tyrrell, a white-collar-crime lawyer at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. “It was a very difficult case for the defense, and I think they did a fine job,” he told the newspaper. “They went after the government witnesses hard. … They did a good job of calling the credibility of the witnesses into question.”

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