Last year, Rajat K. Gupta delivered a commencement speech at the Indian School of Business, a graduate school in Hyderabad that he helped start.
"Try to make other people successful," said Gupta, one of the world's most prominent Indian-born business executives. "If you work on making other people successful, they will in turn make you successful beyond your dreams."
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors said Gupta had tried to make other people successful, illegally.
Gupta, 62, a former director of Goldman Sachs, is accused of leaking corporate secrets about the bank to his friend Raj Rajaratnam, the head of the Galleon Group hedge fund. Rajaratnam was sentenced to 11 years in prison this month for orchestrating a huge insider trading conspiracy.
Gary P. Naftalis, a lawyer for Gupta, has denied the government's accusations. "Mr. Gupta is innocent of any of these charges," he said. "He has always acted with honesty and integrity." Regardless of the case's outcome, the charges punctuate a stunning fall from grace for Gupta, whose personal story reads like a caricature of a Horatio Alger tale.
Orphaned at 18, Gupta, a native of Kolkata, received an engineering degree from the elite Indian Institute of Technology. He earned a scholarship to Harvard Business School, graduating at the top of his class and securing a prized posting at McKinsey & Co, the dispenser of corporate wisdom to many of the Fortune 500.
He rose rapidly at the consulting firm, making his mark running its Scandinavian office, once considered a backwater at the firm. He expanded McKinsey's presence in that region and became known for his low-key, dignified manner.
Most young consultants use McKinsey as a breeding ground for careers in corporate America. The firm counts among its alumni Louis V. Gerstner Jr, the former chief executive of IBM, and Harvey Golub, the former head of American Express.
But Gupta became a McKinsey lifer, taking on more and more responsibility until 1994, when, at the age of 45, his partners elected him to run the firm. His election, he was the first non-US-born executive to run McKinsey, was seen as a sea change for the hidebound organization.
"I know consensus says McKinsey is white and traditional, but I am testimony to the fact that image isn't true," Gupta said in a 1994 profile in The Chicago Tribune. "If anything, it's a meritocracy."
Under his tenure, McKinsey expanded its global reach, aggressively moving into emerging markets like India and China. While he oversaw an era of growth at the consulting firm, his reign was not without controversy.
Gupta and some of his partners got caught up in the euphoria of the dot-com boom. One former executive, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss his former firm, said that during that time, McKinsey strayed from its core big-company consulting work and began helping dot-coms cut deals and develop their businesses. "It was pigging out," said this executive. "The work was there, and the young people wanted to do it."