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Saturday , November 3 , 2012
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The Boss salutes Indian-origin boss-buster

Nov. 2: Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan, had already had a pretty good week as he and his family travelled to Hartford last Thursday for a Bruce Springsteen show.

The day before, he sued Bank of America, seeking $1 billion in a mortgage-related case. And Rajat K. Gupta, the most prominent defendant in his sweeping crackdown on insider trading, received a two-year prison sentence.

But at the concert, things got even better for Bharara, who has made no secret of his fierce devotion to Bruce.

Before ripping into Death to My Hometown, a rollicking Celtic-inspired anthem, Springsteen, who is known as The Boss, shouted, “This is for Preet Bharara!”

The song's lyrics, which are about the effect of the economic crisis, apply to Bharara’s line of work. As much as anyone else, the prosecutor, who was featured on the cover of Time magazine this year with the headline “This Man Is Busting Wall Street”, has become the public face of the government’s efforts to prosecute white-collar crime.

“Sounding angry, Springsteen sings:

Send the robber barons straight to hell.

The greedy thieves who came around

And ate the flesh of everything they found.”

The rest of the stanza, though, hits on a criticism of Bharara and his Justice Department colleagues:

Whose crimes have gone unpunished now,

Who walk the streets as free men now.

Critics have faulted the Obama administration for not prosecuting the banking and mortgage-industry executives. Bharara and others have countered that much of the behaviour was unethical and irresponsible, but not necessarily criminal. And they also point out that they have brought thousands of mortgage-fraud cases, including civil actions against some of the country’s biggest banks.

So, was Springsteen’s dedication meant as praise or criticism? It is unclear, but presuming that Springsteen knew that Bharara was at the show, it is unlikely he would have criticised him. (Springsteen's has a famously fraught relationship with Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey and a well-known Springsteen fanatic. At concerts, Springsteen has refused to acknowledge the governor, according to an article in The Atlantic.)

A spokeswoman for Springsteen declined to comment on whether the singer knew that Bharara was at the show.

The prosecutor did give a brief interview to a reporter at The Daily News who attended the Hartford concert. He said that when Bruce gave him a shout-out, “All I could think was, my son for the first time thought his dad was really cool.”

Bharara, 44, grew up in Springsteen country. Born in India, Bharara came to the US with his parents as an infant. He was raised in Eatontown, New Jersey, in Monmouth County, just a short drive from Springsteen’s hometown, Freehold, New Jersey. Earlier this year in an appearance on The Charlie Rose Show, Bharara was asked about his passion for Springsteen.

“If I could cite to Jon Stewart who I think expressed it best what is great about Bruce Springsteen — I’ll never forget what he said somewhere after coming back from the Springsteen concert he said to his studio audience, ‘Do you like joy? If you like joy, you should go see a Springsteen concert,’” Bharara said.

“And I think separate and apart from all those other things you are talking about and the way he talks about America and the way he talks about people and the way he talks about justice, there is a lot of joy.” There has been little joy this week in Monmouth County, among the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Sandy. At a concert in Rochester on Wednesday, Springsteen expressed deep sadness over the damage wrought by the storm.