Tom Hayes: Trial By Fire

19 08 2015

As ever, the world of finance is abuzz with sizzling news. Most of it, like the judgment in Plevin [2014] UKSC 61, makes pretty grim reading for banks. Similarly, forex fixing claims worth billions are brewing in London – a colossal currency market – because of last week’s $2 billion payout in New York by household names such as Barclays, HSBC and RBS and numerous others: indeed, the settlement of class action litigation with investors, arising out of the rigging of WM/Reuters 4pm London Fix, has been tipped as opening the floodgates. This comes off the heels of May 2015’s foreign exchange (forex or FX) rigging penalties of $5.6 billion: watch excellent video on how the “Cartel” and Coiled Cobra” rigged the marketplace. Such events leave little room for doubt that the LIBOR scandal was just the tip of the iceberg because the rigging of the $5.3 trillion-a-day forex markets completely dwarfs the total $500-$800 trillion value of financial contracts underpinned by LIBOR. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Barclays and RBS all pleaded guilty in May in forex related criminal cases. In other news, things are looking dreadful for those charged by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). In the first LIBOR trial, Tom Hayes, an obscure yen derivatives trader in UBS and Citigroup became the world’s first individual to be tried and convicted for benchmark rigging. He got 14 years’ imprisonment for his crimes. Against this nightmare sentence, his trial has set a chilling precedent for the 12 others in his shoes who are awaiting trial.

Hayes contended that he was operating in a “grey area” where there were “no rules” and that he had no compliance training, but this did nothing to help him. His predicament gives promise to the maxim that “the age of irresponsibility is over.” In the case against him, Hayes was described as a “ringmaster” whose avarice knew no bounds. The archetypical Foucauldian fiend, he stood accused of using corruption and accepted making “concerted efforts to influence LIBOR” but argued he “was operating within a system”. Discussing the dilemma’s associated with punishment, in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison Foucault concludes that the offender is “worse than an enemy” and that transgressing the boundaries set by society makes him “nothing less than a traitor, a monster.” The outcome of this pivotal case will serve as a yardstick for future prosecutions against benchmark manipulators and fraudsters. The system had to make an example of Hayes to create a deterrent effect, others will think twice before following in his wretched footsteps. Read the rest of this entry »





Terminated: City Sheriff Shot Down

16 08 2015

The tough talking Martin Wheatley finally decided to resign last month. But it was for the wrong reason, i.e. vanity. He was unhappy about his boss George Osborne’s refusal to renew his contract as head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in March 2016. Whilst Wheatley does not accept the excesses of his four year stint as City Sheriff, many in financial circles are nonetheless breathing a sigh of relief that his reign of terror is over. A trigger-happy sort of chap, unlike his iconic predecessors (e.g. Howard Davies, Hector Sants etc) whose shoes he just couldn’t fill, Wheatley persistently failed to command the respect of the financial elite. The shot down sheriff will be temporarily replaced by his deputy Tracey McDermott (who will temporarily act as CEO from 12 September 2015) and Andy Haldane (the Bank of England’s Chief Economist) has been tipped as his permanent replacement. Wheatley, who became globally infamous for his fierce crackdown on the cheating that has historically infected financial services, reportedly said that he is disappointed to be leaving his job because he had some unfinished business to settle; apparently, the cure had not fully been delivered. The caped crusader’s legacy has been one of lumbering the banks with fines, authoring the Wheatley Review (which was germane to reforming LIBOR/benchmarks) and co-authoring the equally seminal Fair and Effective Markets Review with the Bank of England and HM Treasury.

Despite having resigned, Wheatley will apparently stay on at the FCA in an advisory role and he will be paid until July 2016 irrespective of his actual exit in January 2016. He received more than £700,000 in compensation last year. His work has been hailed as the blueprint for oversight of financial benchmarks and has come to form the bedrock of the conduct regime. Equally, his tenure had a lot to do with fear and loathing in the City and mischievous individuals in financial services must be hugely tickled that the terminator himself has been terminated. On the other hand, some were of the view, that his systemic efficiency was little more than a lot of huff and puff. For example, on the subject of third party rights the Court of Appeal – see the long read – thought that his FCA failed to follow proper legal channels and truncated procedures when wrongdoing was penalised and regulatory action was taken. As far as Gloster LJ (with whom Longmore and Patten LJJ agreed) could see, the wheels of justice had simply turned too fast and third party rights had suffered as a result: in other words, enforcement had become redolent of the law of the jungle, the judgment is being appealed to the Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry »





Hunter into Prey: City Watchdog Exposes its Achilles’ Heel – Part 2

6 07 2015

HeelThe issues in the last post must be examined in light of the scandal which erupted in late 2014 when the FCA came under heavy fire from the Davis Report because of the highly irresponsible way in which it had leaked sensitive data to the media earlier in March that year. Simon Davis, a partner in the Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance, stressed that there had been nothing less than systemic failure. Davis was adamant that the FCA failed to address the issue of whether the information given out might be price sensitive. The conclusion was unsurprising because the leak culminated in an article in the Telegraph headlined Savers locked into ‘rip-off’ pensions and investments may be free to exit, regulators will say which claimed that the regulator was planning an investigation of 30 million pension policies, some sold as far back as the 1970s. Consequently, big insurance companies had billions wiped off their share prices. The misapprehension that selected annuity products would be picked out meant that major UK insurers saw their share prices plummet. The insurers called for Wheatley’s resignation. Even the Chancellor George Osborne bemoaned he was “profoundly concerned” by the episode. In his inquiry, Davis unearthed multiple failures symbolic of a dysfunctional organisation, and he emphasised that the regulator was “high-risk, poorly supervised and inadequately controlled.”

Davis – who was unsparing in his criticism – held the FCA’s Board responsible for the flaws in the regulator’s controls on the identification, control and release of price sensitive information. The buck ultimately stopped with the board because it “failed in its oversight of the FCA’s executive and … failed to identify the risks inherent in the FCA’s communications strategy.” The episode required urgent action and an external organisation needed to review the board’s practices and effectiveness. So serious were the mechanical failures of corporate governance of the City watchdog. To scotch the confusion, in light of public hearings that ensued, on 17 March 2015 the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee (the Treasury Committee) published Thirteenth Report (2014-2015): Press briefing of information in the Financial Conduct Authority’s 2014/15 Business Plan (HC881). Read the rest of this entry »





Hunter into Prey: City Watchdog Exposes its Achilles’ Heel – Part 1

6 07 2015

Achilles “When the pendulum swung back it did so in dramatic fashion,” claims the iconic Howard Davies in his admirable sketch of the 2008 global meltdown entitled Can Financial Markets Be Controlled? “Bankers have vanished from the Honours lists in London. They are barely respectable in New York,” continues the first ever chairman of the abolished Financial Services Authority (FSA, 2001-2013). Yet in May 2015 the tide turned against the FSA’s successor. In The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) v Achilles Macris [2015] EWCA Civ 490, the legal pendulum swung back in favour of the banks because an unhesitant Court of Appeal safeguarded the reputation of the global financial elite by unanimously dismissing the FCA’s appeal against the decision of the Upper Tribunal: reported as [2014] UKUT B7 (TCC). At first blush, the decision looks like a small step. But properly understood it significantly derails clichés about the bugbear of evil bankers. It equally exposes the FCA’s Achilles’ heel. The issue before Longmore, Patten and Gloster LJJ was whether the FCA’s notices identified Mr Achilles Macris for the purposes of section 393 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA) in which case the watchdog ought to have given him third party rights. The third party procedure secures the fair treatment of the reputation of third parties so that they are not presumed guilty in the enforcement process.

Oddly, despite the recent 800th anniversary of the fight for freedom incorporated in Magna Carta, present day executive procedures are not being properly followed. These two posts argue that the tough talking FCA’s Achilles’ heel is becoming increasingly exposed not only because of the important issues in the landmark case of Macris but also because of its unpardonable misconduct in relation to the Telegraph article headlined Savers locked into ‘rip-off’ pensions. Mishaps such as these seem to be turning the hunter into easy prey and questions loom large over its prowess to hold mischief to account. Similarly, these two posts also examine the new Senior Managers and Certification Regimes and question the conventional wisdom in relation to whether a heftier rulebook will bring us closer to a better formula for conduct. Light is also shed on the Supreme Court’s existing jurisprudence involving the FSA/FCA because Macris is in the process of being appealed Read the rest of this entry »





On-site ESMA Inspections: Chancery Division Gives Procedural Guidance

3 05 2015

European Securities & Markets Authority (ESMA) v DTCC Derivatives Repository Ltd [2015] EWHC 1085 (Ch) (25 April 2015)

This is a first of a kind judgment given by Mrs Justice Rose. It involved the application of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) for authorisation to conduct an inspection at the premises of a trade repository, the DTCC Derivatives Repository Limited (DTCC), in England. Rose J began her judgment by clarifying that DTCC was not suspected of engaging in misconduct and that the intended inspection was simply part of ESMA’s general supervisory functions. DTCC, which was notified, agreed to cooperate fully with the visiting ESMA officials but the agency nevertheless required the High Court’s authority to proceed with the inspection. In light of the novelty of the situation, the court handed down a short judgment to set out the principles that apply to the exercise of ESMA’s power. The court reiterated the Chancellor’s guidance that future applications for authorisation by either ESMA or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) under regulation 17 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Over the Counter Derivatives, Central Counterparties and Trade Repositories) Regulations 2013 (the Domestic Regulations) can be submitted for consideration on the papers in certain cases.

First, where the company subject to the inspection has been informed of the inspection and has indicated its intention to submit to the inspection. Second, where the application is made by ESMA, that the FCA has been informed and does not wish to be heard at a hearing of the application. Third, the application does not seek a power to seal business premises or books and records, does not include a request for records of telephone and data traffic and does not request the issue of a warrant. Her Ladyship also said that the judge or master, on considering the application, may indeed decline to deal with the matter on the papers and direct that a hearing should take place. Read the rest of this entry »





Supreme Court: The Meaning of “Criminal Property” in POCA 2002

2 05 2015

R v GH (Respondent) [2015] UKSC 24, 22 April 2015

The Supreme Court (Lord Neuberger PSC and Lord Kerr, Lord Reed, Lord Hughes and Lord Toulson JJSC) heard this case on appeal from a judgment of the Court of Appeal (Lloyd Jones LJ, Irwin and Green JJ) reported at [2013] EWCA Crim 2237. Unanimously allowing the appeal of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), giving the only judgment Lord Toulson held at para 47 that the “character of the money did change on being paid into the respondent’s accounts.” This case involved fraud which had been perpetrated through the Internet via four “ghost” websites falsely pretending to offer cut-price motor insurance. To execute his plans, B used associates who opened bank accounts for transmitting the proceeds generated by the scam and H was an associate of this nature. A ghost website in the name of AM Insurance was operated from 1 September 2011 to January 2012. Before the site became live online, two bank accounts, in Lloyds Bank and Barclays Bank, were opened by H and B subsequently took control of these accounts and bank cards linked to them. The Supreme Court held that section 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) does not require property to constitute criminal property before an arrangement came into operation because such a construction is likely have serious potential consequences in relation to banks and other financial institutions.

The public was swindled into paying £417,709 into the Lloyds’ account and £176,434 into the Barclays’ account for insurance cover that did not exist. Charged under section 328(1) – i.e. entering into or becoming concerned in an arrangement which he knew or suspected would facilitate the retention, use or control of criminal property, namely the money received into the accounts, by or on behalf of B – H was tried in the Central Criminal Court. To the jury, the DPP articulated its case on the premise that whilst H may not have known the details of B’s fraud, the circumstances in which the accounts were opened pointed to H’s knowledge (or at least suspicion) that B had some criminal purpose. Yet Recorder Greenberg QC held that no criminal property existed at the point in time H entered into the arrangement and that H therefore had no case to answer. Read the rest of this entry »





Navinder Singh Sarao: Criminal Mastermind or Sacrificial Lamb?

28 04 2015

This article examines the charges against Navinder Singh Sarao and it argues that he is put in an invidious position in comparison to traders protected by predatory global banks. The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (PCBS) had dubbed bankers “the masters of the universe” because of their repetitious recklessness and disregard for customers and shareholders. Yet, the banks are routinely able to pay their way out of trouble. From that perspective, Sarao becomes a sacrificial lamb and a scapegoat in America’s quest for bringing abusers of the market to justice. Indeed, Nick Leeson – the historic “rogue trader” from two decades ago, who wrecked Barings Bank by losing £832 million and subsequently went to ground – was of the view that Sarao is a likely scapegoat and he may not have foreseen the consequences of his actions. But can we trust the words of Leeson, who in his professional career, seems to have been nothing short of a congenital liar? On the other hand, the information available in the public domain points to the existence of a double standard that puts Sarao in a relatively prejudiced position in comparison with other bent individuals who remain above the law and are treated leniently.

Applying the hierarchy devised by Roger McCormick in Seven Deadly Sins: ‘Retrospectivity, Culpability and Responsibility’ – save that Sarao was not a bank operative – it is apparent that Case 1: “Clustered Criminality” has controversially been put behind Case 5: “Individual Criminality”. Clustered Criminality, of which benchmark manipulation is a classic case, occurs “where there is at least strong suspicion that a crime has been committed and although the culprits may not be immediately clear it seems likely that more than one person was involved.” Individual Criminality, which the “rogue trader” classically exemplifies, is “where there is clear evidence that a crime has been committed by a bank employee and the culprit (usually acting alone) is identified.” Thus, recent events may be read as turning the hierarchy on its head by putting Case 5: “Individual Criminality” at the apex of culpability. The approach is questionable because Read the rest of this entry »








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