Those who knew Sanjay Valvani described him as super-smart, an adoring father, an enthusiastic philanthropist and a friendly neighbor. Federal prosecutors described him as an insider trader who deserved as much as 65 years in prison.
Valvani, 44, was charged last week with illegally profiting on secret information about drugs in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval pipeline. Prosecutors said two cooperating witnesses would implicate him, one of which is a former FDA official Valvani hired as a consultant at Visium Asset Management, where Valvani was a partner.
Monday evening, Valvani apparently used a knife to end his life, police said. He was found by his wife, Harjot Sandhu. He professed his innocence in a suicide note, according to the Associated Press.
“He wasn’t just some kind of hardened investment guy,” said David Pyott, former chief executive officer of Allergan Plc. “He was out-going, had charisma. That is why I was even more shocked by all of this.”
Shibani Malhotra, a former health-care industry analyst, said Valvani maintained his innocence in texts they shared last week. “He was an investor that had a high moral standard and moral code,” she said.
Prosecutors said Valvani personally made more than $32 million on the trades.
Valvani grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the son of immigrants from India. He attended the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. His first job on Wall Street was a summer internship at the now-defunct Bear Stearns Cos. in 2000. The following year he started covering specialty pharmacies as a sell-side associate at Salomon Smith Barney, according to his profile on Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business website.
In 2003, Valvani joined Balyasny Asset Management, where medical school graduate Jacob Gottlieb was a portfolio manager.
In 2005, Gottlieb took Valvani with him when he started Visium.