Two British bankers will on Tuesday become the first people to stand trial in the US over allegations of Libor interest rate rigging.
Anthony Allen and Anthony Conti, who worked in London for Dutch bank Rabobank, are charged with wire and banking fraud in connection with an alleged global scheme to rig Libor, which underpins $450tn of financial products globally from mortgages to credit card loans.
Their trial will begin in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday with jury selection. Both men have pleaded not guilty, and claim that the UK authorities in charge of Libor setting knew that the rate was often set in banks’ self-interests.
The trial comes shortly after British banker Tom Hayes became the first person to be convicted of Libor rate rigging and was sentenced to 14 years in jail.
Joint UK, US and European investigations into alleged Libor rate rigging have led to charges against 22 people and global banks have made fines totally $9bn (£5.9bn).
Last month US attorney general Loretta Lynch set out new guidelines designed to ensure that more executives, bankers and other businesspeople are held personally accountable for their actions.
It comes after intense criticism that under Obama’s administration very few individuals have been prosecuted for their roles in the 2008 financial crisis or other big corporate scandals.
“Effective immediately, we have revised our policy guidance to require that if a company wants any credit for cooperation, any credit at all, it must identify all individuals involved in the wrongdoing, regardless of their position, status or seniority in the company, and provide all relevant facts about their misconduct,’’ deputy attorney general Sally Yates said last month. “It’s all or nothing. No more picking and choosing what gets disclosed. No more partial credit for cooperation that doesn’t include information about individuals.”
Allen, 44, Rabobank’s former global head of liquidity and finance, and Conti, 46, a senior trader, were indicted in the US in October 2014.
Allen, who supervised Rabobank’s Libor submission process, is accused of directing the bank’s traders to advise those who made its Libor submissions about any financial interest they had in the rate.
Conti is accused of frequently asking the banks’ traders at what rate they would like Libor set. Chatroom and email conversations are included in the prosecution’s case.
In one message a New York based Rabobank trader asked Conti where he expected the six-month Libor rate to be set the next day. According to the indictment, Conti replied: “Where do you like to see it, is more the question?”
In another, a trader asked Conti: “Gonna need a frickin high 6 mth fix tomorrow if OK with U . . . 5.42?”. He replied: “Send me an email matey for tomorrow.”
Allen and Conti lawyers have indicated that they plan to argue that the British Bankers Association, which oversees Libor, was aware that Libor submissions sometimes reflected the banks’ financial interests.
Their lawyers have also complained that the decision to charge the British citizens in the US is unfair, given that their alleged misconduct took place in the UK.
“The great injustice, your honour, is that everything in this case has to do with the United Kingdom,” Michael Schachter, Allen’s lawyer, said in court in August. “This case has nothing to do with the United States whatsoever.”
This article was written by Rupert Neate in New York, for theguardian.com on Monday 12th October 2015 17.09 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010