A lawyer representing the UK’s fraud squad in the latest Libor trial today urged a courtroom not to mystify Libor and instead focus on the defendants’ dishonesty.
In his opening argument for the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), James Hines QC told those at the trial of five former Barclays bankers that “the most important element of conspiracy to defraud is dishonesty”.
Hines added that, although the calculations related to Libor are extremely complex, “you don't have to be bankers or financial experts to understand what this case is about”.
Former Barclays employees Jonathan Mathew, Stylianos Contogoulas, Jay Merchant, Alex Pabon and Ryan Reich have been charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud on allegations of working together and with other co-conspirators between June 2005 and September 2007 to rig US-dollar linked Libor.
To demonstrate how straightforward the case could be, Hines likened hedging to a bookie at Ladbrokes popping next door to Coral to make an identical bet to one a high-stakes customer had already placed with them.
Likewise, Libor rigging was akin to the Ladbrokes worker conspiring with the jockey not to try too hard. “That’s not fair on the punters,” Hines said.
The prosecution barrister also commented that the reason why Libor must be set independently of those using it as a measure for their deals was “obvious”, adding that, otherwise, it would be like asking a casino croupier to place money on a roulette wheel wherever it suited him.
The prosecution alleges that the defendants conspired among themselves and with other colleagues to rig “for their own advantage what is in fact a global benchmark”.
The trial is the third case the SFO has brought to trial in relation to its Libor investigation.