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How Preet Bharara Became The Southern District's Million Dollar Man

How do you become fearless and financially secure enough to make enemies of New York’s wealthy and politically powerful? A seven-figure check from Amazon certainly helps.

Getty Images Spencer Platt

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has jailed a hedge fund billionaire, taken one of the most successful hedge fund traders of all time out of the money management business, extracted multibillion settlements and guilty pleas out of global megabanks, and is now in the midst of an investigation of New York state powerbrokers that's already garnered an indictment and arrest of Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver.

He's a man who, many believe, gives few fucks. But while a righteous, fearless, take-many-prisoners philosophy of law enforcement may be the central motivation for his lonely crusade, there's another factor worth taking into account. It's easier to make enemies of the rich and powerful when you are already financially secure, and in 2011 Preet Bharara became a dotcom millionaire.

But only just. Bharara was an early investor in Quidsi, the parent company of Diapers.com, which was co-founded by his brother, Vinit. When Amazon acquired the company for $545 million in 2011, Bharara earned his cut. The number has not been previously reported, but was "a little over one million" in cash, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office told BuzzFeed News.

Bharara has typically demurred when asked by reporters to disclose just how much he made, saying at a conference hosted by The New York Times' finance site DealBook that he is not independently wealthy "compared to the people in this room." He also said that when he goes out to eat with Vinit, his younger brother picks up the tab, since he "came into a little bit of cash."

For a financial disclosure covering 2010, Bharara listed his shares as being worth between $1,000,000 and $5,000,000. His total profit from the investment can't be determined because it's not known how much he put in initially. On a 2009 questionnaire he filled out in connection to his appointment, he said his net worth was $1.65 million. That same questionnaire put the value of his 42,949 shares at $206,000. Bharara has three children and has earned a government salary for most of his professional life. In 2000 he started as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District, and in 2005 he became Democratic senator Charles Schumer's chief counsel.

In a 2013 financial disclosure, in which Bharara was not required to list his net worth, he listed a number of assets, none of which were individually valued at more than $500,000.

Bharara has shown no sign of slowing down his high-profile public corruption investigations, saying in a press conference following the Silver arrest to "stay tuned." Bharara has repeatedly said that he doesn't have ambitions beyond his U.S. Attorney job, despite frequent speculation that he has his sights set on higher office. One avenue for advancement was blocked when his neighboring U.S. Attorney, Loretta Lynch of New York's Eastern District, was nominated to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General.

Bharara told the Times in August that he has no interest in elected office. "My concern is I'm not sure I have a taste for anything but this."

Luckily, It's a taste he can afford, for now.

Bharara's confirmation questionnaire from July, 2009 (via Main Justice)

Bharara's financial disclosure covering 2010


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