Finally, One Banker Gets Sizable Jail Term. But Will Others Follow?

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Finally, One Banker Gets Sizable Jail Term. But Will Others Follow?

Sentence in LIBOR manipulation case is 'one of the harshest penalties meted out against a banker since the financial crisis'

Tom Hayes was called the "ringmaster" of the LIBOR-manipulation scheme. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

"A message needs to be sent to the world of banking," said UK Judge Jeremy Cooke on Monday as he handed down a 14-year sentence to former Citibank and UBS trader Tom Hayes, convicted in a London court on eight counts of conspiring to manipulate a global benchmark interest rate known as LIBOR.

While many of the world's leading banks have paid heavy financial penalties for tampering with the key benchmark, 35-year-old Hayes is the first individual to face a jury trial for manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, which is used by the world's biggest banks for trillions of dollars of global borrowing and lending.

The Guardian reports:

Hayes, from Fleet, Hampshire, was accused of being the ringleader in a vast conspiracy to fix the London interbank offered rate (Libor), a benchmark for $450tn (£290tn) of financial contracts and loans worldwide, between 2006 and 2010.

Motivated by greed and a desire for higher pay, the court heard that Hayes set up a network of brokers and traders that spanned 10 of the world’s most powerful financial institutions, cajoling and at times bribing them to help rig rates – designed to reflect the cost of interbank borrowing – for profit. Hayes would then place large bets on financial markets that were sensitive to Libor moves.

Justice Cooke said Hayes was the "center and hub" of the manipulation, according to the BBC's Mark Broad, reporting from the Southwark Crown Court.

"You succumbed to temptation because you gain status, seniority and remuneration," Cooke reportedly said, adding that Hayes' actions were "dishonest and wrong."

But Hayes claimed he was taking part in an "industry-wide" practice, the Guardian reports. "He described the broking market he worked in as the wild west, a place with no rules and where relationships relied on lavish entertainment. He said it was this high-pressure environment which took its toll on him, prompting him to threaten brokers and pick fights with colleagues to move interest rates to aid his trading."

The UK jury's unanimous verdict, followed about an hour later by Cooke's 14-year prison sentence, is said to be "one of the harshest penalties meted out against a banker since the financial crisis." The Wall Street Journal has a run-down of how Hayes' sentence stacks up against others who have been convicted of white-collar crimes.

The New York Times notes that Hayes' case "was seen as a bellwether for British authorities, who have been criticized in the United States for not being as aggressive as the Justice Department when it comes to pursuing financial crime."

Six other traders from three other financial institutions will go to trial in London in September on charges related to the manipulation of LIBOR. 

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