McKinsey & Company

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McKinsey & Company
Type Incorporated partnership
Industry Management consulting
Founded 1926
Founder(s) James O. McKinsey
Marvin Bower
Headquarters 55 East 52nd Street
New York City, U.S.
Key people Dominic Barton (MD)
Services Management consulting services
Revenue $ 7 billion (2010 est.)[1]
AUM $5 billion (MIO Partners)
Employees 17,000 (9,000 consultants)

McKinsey & Company, Inc. is an American global management consulting firm that focuses on solving issues of concern to senior management. The firm serves as an adviser to businesses, governments, and institutions around the world. Between 2002 and 2014, McKinsey has been ranked in the number one position of the "The Best Consulting Firms: Prestige" list of the career intelligence website and was referred to as the "most prestigious consulting firm of all" in a 2011 New York Times article.[2][3][4][5] As of September 2013, over 100 McKinsey offices exist in 60 countries.[6]


1926 to 1939[edit]

James McKinsey, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business,[7] founded the James O. McKinsey & Company (JMC) in 1926.[8][9] Supporters of his economic concepts were among the company's first clients.[7][10] McKinsey hired Andrew Thomas Kearney and Marvin Bower in the early 1930s as partners.[8][11] In 1935, McKinsey left JMC and became the temporary Chairman and CEO of Marshall Fields.[10][12][13] JMC merged with the accounting firm Scovell, Wellington & Company, and created McKinsey, Wellington & Co.[12]

In 1937 McKinsey died, and in 1939 and C. Oliver Wellington returned to manage Scovell, Wellington & Company as an accounting firm. What remained of McKinsey, Wellington & Co. was split into two firms: McKinsey & Company, and McKinsey, Kearney & Company. Bower lead McKinsey, Kearney & Company for 30 years[14] and is credited with shaping the firm’s core values and principles[15][16] which he summarized in a 1937 memo.[12][17] According to Fortune Magazine these core values and principles specified that "a McKinsey consultant is supposed to put the interests of his client ahead of increasing The Firm's revenues; he should keep his mouth shut about his client's affairs; he should tell the truth and not be afraid to challenge a client's opinion; and he should only agree to perform work that he feels is both necessary and something McKinsey can do well."[10]

McKinsey & Company is credited[according to whom?] with creating modern management consulting as a professional service.[10][12][18]

1940 to 1959[edit]

In the early 1940s, Bower placed more emphasis on persuading clients to accept and act on its recommendations.[12] Bower served as the firm’s managing director until 1967. In 1953 McKinsey began hiring consultants straight out of business school. Bower decided to hire and train primarily young graduates at a time when most consultants were mature executives and experienced professionals.[17] The postwar period was a time of expansion for McKinsey and the economy in general. McKinsey's client base grew to include several bluechip, defense contractors, government, and military organizations.[15]

The “up or out” philosophy, which states that consultants should find a role outside of the firm if they are not advancing, was first implemented in 1954; the move was internally controversial.[citation needed] After seven years of deliberation, McKinsey became a private corporation with shares exclusive to McKinsey employees. McKinsey’s planning committee developed a plan for international expansion and established an office in London in 1959.[12] By 1952 McKinsey & Company formally parted ways with McKinsey, Kearney & Company, which was renamed A.T. Kearney & Company.

1960 to 1999[edit]

In 1964 McKinsey started publishing the McKinsey Quarterly, a business journal written primarily by McKinsey consultants.[19] In the 1970s, McKinsey was faced with a loss of market-share[15] and began investing in what it called "systematic knowledge-building".[10]

After stepping down as managing director in 1967, Marvin Bower sold his shares back to McKinsey believing this would give young partners a sense of ownership in the firm.[10] Future consultants followed his example.[15] In 1976, Ron Daniel was elected managing director and served until 1988.[20] Daniel worked for McKinsey for almost fifty years and had previously led the New York office.[20]

Fred Gluck served as McKinsey’s managing director from 1988 to 1994.[citation needed] Under Gluck’s tenure, McKinsey increased its international focus by opening 17 new offices outside the United States. He also created an internal network for sharing knowledge and experience among McKinsey consultants.[21] Over two decades McKinsey & Company grew eightfold.[16] In 1989 the firm acquired the Information Consulting Group (ICG), but a culture clash[clarification needed] caused many ICG employees to leave.[15]

I Firm revenues more than doubled from 1993 to 2004 with 20 new offices and twice as many employees.[15] In 1994 Rajat Gupta became the first non-American-born partner to be elected as managing director.[22] He served until 2003, growing the firm from 2,900 to 7,000 consultants across 82 offices and over 40 countries.[23][24]

In the 1990s, Anil Kumar set up “accelerators” for smaller internet startups to get started, accepting stock-based reimbursement for its services.[24][25] The Business Technology Office was started in 1997 to focus on IT consulting and was growing at an annualized rate of 30% by 2003.[15]

2000 to the present[edit]

Recently McKinsey has focused more on expansion in Asia and developing practices focused on the public and social sectors. In 2001, McKinsey launched several practices that focused on the public and social sector, which included taking on hundreds of nonprofit or public sector clients on a pro bono basis.[15] By 2002 McKinsey invested a $35.8 million budget on knowledge management.[15]

In 2003, Ian Davis, the head of the London office, was elected as managing director.[26] Davis promised a return to the company’s core values, after a period in which some felt the firm had expanded too quickly and strayed from its heritage.[27] Davis was the first managing director to run the firm outside the US from the London office. By 2004, more than 60 percent of revenues came from outside the US. By 2009 the firm had 400 directors (senior partners), up from 151 in 1993.[10][28]

Dominic Barton was elected as managing director in 2009 and re-elected in 2012.[28] He had previously led McKinsey’s offices in Asia.[26][29] Barton has suggested companies take a longer-term view and avoid the “quarterly capitalism” he says had taken root before the financial crisis.[30] The firm also conducted research and advocated for a greater role for women in business during this time period.[31][32]

In September 2013, Simon & Schuster published a book on McKinsey by financial journalist Duff McDonald.[33] Entitled The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business, the book examines the influence of McKinsey over nearly a century: "the history of McKinsey, given its role as consigliere to the most powerful people in business, can be seen as a history of modern business itself." In an interview following the release of his book, McDonald explained the significance of the company's corporate culture in relation to its high level of success:

McKinsey’s particular brand of professionalism has been crafted over decades. And it’s one of the main reasons that they’re still going strong. While the firm is famous for its cold-blooded approach to efficiency and rationality, one of the secrets to their own success is the attention they’ve paid to the softer stuff like their own corporate culture.[6]

In the Epilogue to his book McDonald notes that McKinsey may now have grown too large to continue to enjoy its past performance:

“..the greatest challenge … is managing the complications that have resulted from its own stupendous success”.

He questions the ability of McKinsey to continue to recruit and retain the best talent in the face of new competitors.

Organization and administration[edit]

The firm, while formally organized as a corporation, functions as a partnership in all important respects. Its managing director is elected for a three-year term by the firm's other senior partners. Each managing director can serve a maximum of three terms, a policy instituted by Gupta. At a strategic level, a number of committees are charged with the development of policies and making critical decisions. Committee memberships, senior roles, and the managing director position all rotate regularly among the firm's senior partners and directors.[34]

Former managing director Rajat Gupta explains McKinsey's structure as follows:

It is very much, in many dimensions, like an academic organization. We have senior partners who are very much like tenured faculty: they are leaders in their own right. [...] We have about 80 to 100 performance cells -- a geographic office or industry practice or functional practice. They are very much autonomous and they are not organized in any hierarchy beyond that. We don't have any regional structures or sectoral structures. So all these performance units, in a theoretical sense, report to me, which means they don't report to anybody, because nobody can have 80 or 100 people reporting to them.[34]

The firm operates under a practice of "up or out", meaning that consultants must either advance in their consulting careers within a pre-defined timeframe or leave the firm. "25% of the firm is new every year," Gupta says, "so half the people have less than two to three years' tenure in the firm, and their values need to be reinforced." All senior roles rotate among the directors (senior partners).[34][35]

McKinsey has about 9,000 consultants in 97 locations in 55 countries,[36] working with more than 90% of the 100 leading global corporations and two-thirds of the Fortune 1000 list. Forbes estimated the firm's 2009 revenues at $6.6 billion.[37] The notion of company growth has been controversial from the 1970s as the firm began its global expansion; McKinsey opened many new offices under Rajat Gupta's tenure in the late 1990s. The election of British-born Ian Davis as Gupta's successor was seen as "a return to McKinsey's heritage".[38]

This philosophy has come under increased scrutiny with the Galleon case, with some questioning whether the firm is a discreet broker of confidential or even inside information marketed as "best practices".[39]

Office locations[edit]

As of September 2013, McKinsey & Company operates more than 104 offices in 60 countries.[6][40] Offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco were established in the 1940s.[41][42] The first international office was opened in London in 1959.[1][43] Other offices in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland were opened in the 1960s.[41] The firm also has offices across Asia, Australia, Africa, Canada (Toronto, Montreal and Calgary) South America and the Middle East.[40]


McKinsey serves as an adviser to many businesses, governments, and institutions. Recent McKinsey clients include AT&T, BBC, NBA, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, Home Depot, Bank of England, Oxford University, Mitsubishi, Royal Dutch Shell, City of Chicago, Government of the United Kingdom, Government of Mexico, and Government of Taiwan, according to a latest publication by Wetfeet on the company.[44]


Bower broke with then-common industry practice by hiring recent graduates from the best business schools rather than among experienced managers.[45] Today the firm is among the top recruiters of graduates of the top-ranked business programs in the US and overseas, in addition to hiring a significant number of people with other advanced degrees in science, medicine, engineering and law. The firm is notable for the number of Rhodes Scholars, Marshall Scholars and Truman Scholars it is able to attract.[46][47] McKinsey also hires undergraduates into business analyst positions.

McKinsey is the top employer for recent graduates from MIT,[48] Harvard Business School,[49] Oxford University's Saïd Business School,[50][51] Stanford Graduate School of Business,[52] Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania,[53] The London School of Economics,[54] and INSEAD.[55][56] McKinsey's recruiting process is notoriously demanding, typically taking candidates through problem solving tests followed by multiple rounds of case- and experience- based interviews. In August 2013, career review website Glassdoor ranked McKinsey number 1 in its "Top 25 Most Difficult Companies To Interview (2013)" list.[57]

The firm is organizationally divided into partners and non-partners. It is generally not possible to join the firm as a partner; instead, partners are promoted internally from the existing ranks of principals and associates. According to the Firm's career website, "successful consultants who join McKinsey early in their career can expect election to principal (equivalent to partner) within five to seven years. ... There is no limit to the size of our partnership."[58] Successful partners are sometimes elected director (senior partner) after at least seven years as partner, though there are fast-rising exceptions: Daniel, Gupta, and Kumar became directors approximately 10 years after joining the firm as associates.

Officially, "director" is the highest position (other than the rotating managing director) at McKinsey, though top directors are distinguished by reputation and influence. The firm's mandatory retirement age is 60, after which directors become "director emeritus."[59]

As of September 2013, the firm receives 225,000 employment applications annually and about one percent—or 2,200—of these are successful. McKinsey has explained that it specifically targets the “insecure overachiever” when it recruits new talent. McDonald explained following the publication of his book on the company:

There are very few stars at McKinsey—those who need a personal limelight generally end up leaving. What remains is a group of highly talented people who choose to give up the possibility of mainstream renown that a CEO enjoys in exchange for the benefits that come from having McKinsey on their business card.[6]


As a private firm, McKinsey is not required to disclose compensation figures. Unlike the financial services sector, consultants are not paid proportional to the business they bring in; top senior partners and the managing director have similar compensation. This was estimated to be $2–4 million in 1994 dollars ($3–5 million in 2009 dollars).[60] However, there are indications these numbers have increased ~40% in the subsequent 20 years.[61] For example, according to public tax records, the senior partner leading McKinsey's Norwegian office in 2011 earned 67 million NOK ($11.5 million USD).[62] In 2003 this figure was 33 million NOK ($5.5 million USD) after-tax,[63] implying pre-tax income of at least 51 million NOK ($8.5 million USD) at a Norwegian tax rate of at least 35%.

Other estimates similarly place the managing director's compensation between $5 and 10 million.[64] McKinsey paid former managing director Rajat Gupta a retirement income of $6 million in the first year of retirement and $2.5 million a year for at least the next three years.[65]

Junior directors were said to earn at least $1 million a year in 1994 dollars ($2 million in 2009 dollars).[60] There were over 400 directors at the Firm in 2009, up from 150 in 1994.[66][67]

In 2013, newly recruited McKinsey hires from undergraduates and business schools (or advanced degree holders such as PhD, JD, and M.D.) earn a total compensation up to $106,300 and $192,000, respectively.[68][69]

A 1993 Fortune profile says, "The Firm places itself above discussing money as a motivation, yet senior partners often earn as much, or more, than the CEOs they advise",[67] though over the last 15 years CEO compensation has increased disproportionately.[70]


McKinsey is one of the market-leading "Big Three" in management consulting services to the Fortune 500 set, along with The Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company, and consistently recruits top talent globally from elite colleges, professional schools, and graduate schools.[71] Other leading competitors include A.T. Kearney, Oliver Wyman, and Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.[citation needed] These firms compete directly across all major sectors (financial services, operations, and IT).


McKinsey publishes several journals, most notably McKinsey Quarterly.[72] It also publishes McKinsey on Business Technology, McKinsey on Payments, McKinsey on Corporate and Investment Banking, and McKinsey on Finance. Several business books have been authored by McKinsey consultants, including Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies, The Alchemy of Growth, Creative Destruction, and The War for Talent. Former consultant Tom Peters co-authored, with Bob Waterman, the well-known book In Search of Excellence based on a project initiated by Ron Daniel in 1977.

Knowledge management system[edit]

McKinsey invests significantly in its knowledge management system to support field consultants. The system includes generalist researchers, industry- and function-specific experts and librarians, and access to journals and databases. McKinsey maintains an organisation called the McKinsey Knowledge Centre (McKC) that provide rapid access to specialized expertise and business information.[73] In addition, consultant-authored internal "practice development" documents capture generalizable insights from client engagements. There are also methods to access individual consultants with expertise from previous client studies or previous employment, for background assistance (competitive information is not shared).

This system was created and chaired by former senior partner Anil Kumar as an early example of knowledge process outsourcing.[74]

Asset management[edit]

McKinsey maintains a family of hedge funds and private equity firms collectively known as the McKinsey Investment Office (MIO Partners) for its own exclusive use. MIO is a wholly owned subsidiary of McKinsey and Company and reports to its finance and investments committee, which is chaired by a top senior partner (formerly William Meehan).[75][76]

These funds have had over $5 billion in assets under management (AUM).[75]

From the firm's website:

This firm manages a wide array of investment vehicles for the Firm’s Partners and pension plans, with significant expertise in alternative strategies including hedge funds and private equity. A principle objective of the Investment Counseling Function is to help our investing partners create long term wealth by constructing appropriate investment portfolios and avoiding expensive and/or inefficient products. At the same time, the products and services offered must save Partners time relative to those which are available externally. This firm’s role is to provide investment education, counseling and select products to Partners.[77][78]

MIO is "responsible for pension and discretionary partner investments, with a particular focus on alternative investments."[79]

Notable alumni[edit]

McKinsey has produced more CEOs than any other company and is referred to by Fortune magazine as "the best CEO launch pad".[80] More than 70 past and present CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are former McKinsey employees. Among McKinsey’s most notable alumni are:


Failures of McKinsey—according to Adam Sternbergh writing in Bloomberg Businessweek[81]—include its massive reorganization of General Motors in the early 1980[82] "that's widely judged as disastrous," its close relationship with Enron,[83] and its vigorous support for the Time Warner merger with AOL.[81]

According to firm policies, firm members may not discuss specific client situations. The firm also maintains a deliberate and low-profile external image. Maintaining client confidentiality protects client interests; this policy is maintained even among former employees.[84]

Despite such a policy of confidentiality, there has been criticism of incidents that have been made public. These include:

  • In February 2011, McKinsey surveyed 1,300 US private-sector employers on their expected response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).[8][85] 30 percent of respondents said they anticipated they would probably or definitely stop offering employer sponsored health coverage after the ACA went into effect in 2014.[86][87] These results, published in June 2011 in the McKinsey e-Quarterly,[8] became "a useful tool for critics of the ACA and a deep annoyance for defenders of the law" according to an article in TIME Magazine.[88] Supporters of healthcare reform argued the survey far surpassed estimates by the Congressional Budget Office and insisted that McKinsey disclose the survey's methodology.[89][90][91][92] Two weeks after publishing the survey results,[88] McKinsey released the contents of the survey including the questionnaire and 206-pages of survey data.[93] In its accompanying statement,[94] McKinsey said the survey should not be compared with other estimates that use different methodologies[89][95] and that it was intended to capture the attitude of employers at a certain point in time rather than make a prediction.[96][97] A subsequent article in TIME Magazine called McKinsey’s disclaimer that the survey was not predictive "rather absurd," but said the survey methodology was sound.[88] Some supporters of the Affordable Care Act criticized the survey's methodology, arguing it used slanted questions, cherry-picked information and had uninformed recipients.[89][98]
  • In 2010 Rainforest Foundation UK released a report claiming recommendations McKinsey had given to developing countries on how to reduce deforestation were of poor quality. The NGO argued the company’s work has serious methodological flaws and as a result systematically underestimates the destructive impacts of industrial agriculture while exaggerating those of subsistence farming.[99] Adding to this, a Greenpeace study claimed McKinsey’s advice failed to address some of the main drivers of deforestation such as logging and mining, and that the company’s proposals would actually reward those industries. Greenpeace argued that if McKinsey’s recommendations were followed, large-scale monoculture plantations would expand into ecologically important areas.[100] Discussing McKinsey’s decision not to publish the data and assumptions underlying their recommendations, senior personnel at the World Bank criticized the company’s lack of transparency, noting ‘that the blackbox is a problem for everybody’.[101] Potential conflicts of interests could arise from the fact that if McKinsey’s policy recommendations were implemented, they would heavily benefit industries like logging, mining and paper with whom McKinsey maintains close business relations.[102] McKinsey’s refusal to disclose its business clients has added to those concerns.[citation needed] The firm’s work was subsequently criticized by think tanks and in academic reviews.[citation needed] Researchers from the University College London called attention to the fact that by not considering highly relevant implementation barriers such as forest governance and the costs of enforcement and the installation of sufficient institutional frameworks, McKinsey promotes an overly simplistic view of environmental policy-making.[103] A study by the Stockholm Environment Institute which was granted access to McKinsey’s data set found considerable discrepancies between the company’s estimates of the costs for reducing deforestation rates and those assumed by most renowned scientific models.[104] While the quality of the company’s advice has become a widely discussed question at the World Bank and in United Nations meetings on climate change, McKinsey is reported to continue its work in rainforest nations such as Papua New Guinea (PNG), where the company has ‘refused to comply with PNG laws and register with the Investment Promotion Authority and Internal Revenue Commission’.,[105][106][107]
  • Enron was headed by McKinsey alumni and was one of the firm's biggest clients before its collapse.[108] In particular, McKinsey's "deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you outperform your competitors", a HR program implemented at Enron with McKinsey's knowledge, resulted, in the opinion of one author, a workplace culture of prima donnas that "took more credit for success than was legitimate, that did not acknowledge responsibility for its failures, that shrewdly sold the rest of us on its genius, and that substituted self-nomination for disciplined management."[109] Jeff Skilling, sentenced to 24 years in federal prison as the CEO of Enron, was formerly a partner at McKinsey and "loyal alum."
  • Another notably troubled company associated with McKinsey is Swissair, which entered bankruptcy twelve years after McKinsey recommended the Hunter Strategy.[110]
  • Several civil suits have been filed against home insurance and vehicle insurance companies after the insurers were advised by McKinsey, and allegedly paid the insured parties significantly less than the actual value of the damage.[112] McKinsey was cited in a February 2007 CNN article with developing controversial car insurance practices used by State Farm and Allstate in the mid-1990s to avoid paying claims involving soft tissue injury.[113]
  • General Electric's CEO Jeff Immelt in defending GE Capital's poor performance, maintained that no one had foreseen the crisis. He maintained that he had sought external opinions from McKinsey in 2007 before the global financial crisis which suggested that that "money from nations with a trade surplus, like China, and sovereign wealth funds, among other investors, would provide enough liquidity in the financial system to fuel lending and leverage for the foreseeable future."[114]
  • Concerns from teachers and parents regarding their consultation for public school districts. Recently, McKinsey worked for the Minneapolis Public Schools, where the firm recommended that the district cut "high costs" such as teacher health care, and recommended converting the 25 percent of schools that scored the lowest on standardized tests to privatized charter-school status. Teachers in Seattle passed a resolution of non-compliance with McKinsey's study of the Seattle Public Schools in protest.[115]

Among other books and articles, The Witch Doctors (1996), written by The Economist editor-in-chief John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, presents a series of blunders and disasters alleged to have been McKinsey's consultants' fault. Similarly, Dangerous Company: The Consulting Powerhouses and the Businesses They Save and Ruin (1997), by James O'Shea and Charles Madigan, critically examines McKinsey's work within the context of the consulting industry and Vijay Prashad argues that McKinsey has worked to promote private interests against the public good.[116] The popular 2013 book The Firm discusses some of the nonsense forced on the BBC by McKinsey's London office. "They had the employees cutting out paper frogs and pretending to sell them to each other." Meanwhile, the cost of running the BBC skyrocketed as the size of the staff plummeted.[117]

Galleon insider trading scandal[edit]

FBI wiretap from July 28, 2008 of McKinsey senior partner emeritus Rajat Gupta speaking to Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam about Goldman Sachs, senior partner Anil Kumar, Galleon International and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts

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McKinsey senior executives Rajat Gupta and Anil Kumar were among others convicted in an ongoing government investigation into insider trading for sharing inside information with Galleon Group hedge fund owner Raj Rajaratnam. Gupta and Kumar were close friends of each other and of Rajaratnam, as well as the co-founders of the Indian School of Business and (with Rajaratnam) of New Silk Route.[118][119] Though McKinsey was not accused of any wrongdoing, the convictions were embarrassing for the firm, for which integrity and client confidentiality are a major premise of its business.[120][121][122] Following the initial allegations McKinsey no longer maintains a relationship with either senior partner,[123][124] though the manner in which it severed ties attracted controversy.[125]

Senior partner Anil Kumar, described as Gupta's protégé,[126] left the firm after the allegations in 2009 and pleaded guilty in January 2010.[127][128] While he and other partners had been pitching McKinsey's consulting services to the Galleon Group, Kumar and Rajaratnam reached a private consulting agreement violating McKinsey's policies on confidentiality.[129] He testified in criminal trials against both Gupta and Rajaratnam.

During Raj Rajaratnam's trial, a wiretap recording showed Rajaratnam and his brother had also contacted McKinsey junior partner and Kumar protégé David Palecek, saying he was "a little dirty."[23][130] Palecek's widow claimed he had been approached but refused to be a part of the incident.[23]

Former managing director (CEO) Rajat Gupta was convicted in June 2012 of four counts of conspiracy and securities fraud, and acquitted on two counts, resulting from his board memberships at Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble while a senior partner emeritus of McKinsey.[131] In October 2011, he was arrested by the FBI on criminal charges of sharing insider information from these confidential board meetings with Rajaratnam.[132][133] Among other crimes, Gupta was convicted of passing information to Rajaratnam within 4 minutes of the completion of a special Goldman Sachs board meeting to approve a capital injection by Warren Buffett during the height of the financial crisis in 2008. He stood to profit as the chairman of Galleon International and as the chairman of New Silk Route.[134] At least twice, Gupta used a McKinsey phone to call Rajaratnam and retained other perks — an office, assistant, and $6 million retirement salary that year[65] — as a senior partner emeritus.[135]

After the scandal McKinsey performed an independent review of its policies and procedures, including investigating other partners' ties to Gupta.[136][137] There is no evidence of any damage to McKinsey's brand, though some controversy has been leveled at the firm for having former leading senior partners (Gupta and Kumar) as well as a junior partner (Palecek) all implicated with the Galleon Group and insider trading.[138] The firm's revenues grew 10% during the same period, though its long term impact remains unknown.[130][132]


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