The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has banned Christian Bittar from performing any function in relation to any regulated financial activity.
Mr Bittar formerly worked at Deutsche Bank where he traded interest rate derivative products referenced to benchmarks including EURIBOR. The FCA has found that Mr Bittar lacks integrity and therefore fitness and propriety to carry out such a role. Mr Bittar made requests to EURIBOR submitters to make high or low EURIBOR submissions, both internally to Deutsche Bank submitters and externally to traders at other EURIBOR panel banks. He did so to benefit the profitability of the trading positions for which he was responsible and, on occasion, the profitability of the trading positions of other traders.
Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA said:
“The FCA’s Decision Notice against Mr Bittar, which was issued in April 2017, can now be published. It is a detailed account of how Mr Bittar sought to manipulate EURIBOR. It is a tale of gross misconduct and betrayal of the public interest in financial benchmarks.
“If he had not been convicted and imprisoned for the same matters, the FCA would have sought a financial penalty of £6.5 million. As it is, we have prohibited him from performing any regulated function, reinforcing the message of the criminal court.”
Between March 2005 and June 2009, Mr Bittar made at least 81 requests to Deutsche Bank submitters for high or low EURIBOR submissions to benefit trading positions. Mr Bittar was involved in at least 79 communications with traders at other EURIBOR panel banks whereby he either made requests or received requests for high or low EURIBOR submissions. Mr Bittar knew that it was improper for him to make such requests to the Deutsche Bank submitters and improper to collude with traders at other banks with a view to EURIBOR submissions being made which would benefit trading positions.
Approach to financial penalty
On 13 April 2017, the FCA issued Mr Bittar with a Decision Notice which imposed a financial penalty on Mr Bittar of £6.5 million. Mr Bittar referred the Decision Notice to the Upper Tribunal on 10 May 2017. The Upper Tribunal proceedings were stayed on 1 August 2017 pending the final determination of the criminal proceedings against Mr Bittar for conspiracy to defraud which were based on substantially the same matters as in the FCA proceedings.
Mr Bittar pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud in the criminal action on 2 March 2018 and on 20 July 2018 he was sentenced to 5 years and 4 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay £2.5 million by way of confiscation order.
In light of the orders made in the criminal proceedings, and with the consent of the parties, on 14 September 2018, the Upper Tribunal directed the FCA not to impose a financial penalty on Mr Bittar, and otherwise ordered that the reference be dismissed. This means the FCA’s initial decision to prohibit Mr Bittar is now a final decision.