Navinder Sarao: ‘Flash Crash’ Trader’s Extradition Request Upheld

28 03 2016

The Government of the United States of America v Navinder Singh Sarao (23 March 2016)

The case of Nav Sarao, the “hound of Hounslow” who faces a potential sentence of 380 years’ imprisonment on 22 counts in the US, has inflamed emotions and commentators have expressed extreme sympathy with the rogue trader who is considered to be the main culprit behind the “flash crash” of 6 May 2010. The disproportionate nature of his predicament is clearly illustrated by the fact that if extradited and punished in America, Sarao may well receive a harsher sentence than Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadic who got 40 years for crimes against humanity and genocide but will enjoy the right to a lengthy appeals process. It has been argued that Sarao had to be caged because he discovered a way to beat the HFTs at their own game. At the time of his arrest, senior traders even made public statements about footing his legal bill. Seldom has a corporate crime case aroused such a passionate response. Fellow traders dubbed Sarao “our spoofing hero” and the case against him was labelled “ridiculous”. Yet in the Westminster magistrates’ court judge Quentin Purdy disagreed and found that Sarao was extraditable to the US on the charges levelled against him. On the other hand, in making factual findings in the case, judge Purdy found that the downturn in the market was not attributable to a single event and the cause of the flash crash “cannot on any view be laid wholly or mostly at Navinder Sarao’s door” because even though he was active on 6 May 2010 the date “is only a single trading day in over 400 relied upon by the prosecution.”

Against this, the Commodities Trading Futures Commission accuses the Brit of exacerbating the flash crash and claims he “was at least significantly responsible for the order imbalances” in the derivatives market which affected stock markets to make matters worse on the day. The judge found that if found guilty of market abuse under UK law, Sarao’s activity would result in a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment being imposed on him and so the dual criminality test in section 137 of the Extradition Act 2003 was satisfied. He also stressed the importance of the public interest in upholding the controversial UK-US Extradition Treaty. Sarao is accused of engaging in a ferocious campaign to manipulate the price of the E-mini S&P 500 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange by relying on a variety of exceptionally large, aggressive and persistent spoofing tactics. Read the rest of this entry »





Case Preview: FCA v Macris: FSMA and Third Party Rights

17 12 2015

On 3 November 2015, a panel of Supreme Court justices consisting of Lord Neuberger (President), Lord Clarke, Lord Hodge granted permission to appeal in the case of Financial Conduct Authority (Appellant) v Macris (Respondent) Case No: UKSC 2015/0143. In proceedings reported as [2015] EWCA Civ 490, the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the FCA’s appeal against the decision of the Upper Tribunal, reported as [2014] UKUT B7 (TCC). Longmore, Patten and Gloster LJJ held that Mr Achilles Macris, a Greek and US citizen, was identified and should have been given the right to make representations on certain matters set out in the final notice. The issue thrown up by the case is whether the FCA’s notices identified 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. Developments in these proceedings are keenly monitored by those who contend that they have not been given a right of reply despite being identified in FCA notices.

As regards identification, on 18 September 2013 the FCA gave a Warning Notice, a Decision Notice, and a Final Notice to JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (the firm). All the notices were in identical terms and on 19 September 2013 the Final Notice (the notice) was published. It informed the firm about the imposition of a financial penalty, or conduct costs, of £137.61 million which was settled under the FCA’s executive settlement procedures. The firm was penalised as a result of losses incurred in the “synthetic credit portfolio” (the portfolio) it managed for its owner JP Morgan Chase & Co (the group), a corporate entity branded – by Michael Lewis’ controversial bestseller Flashboys – as mostly “passive-aggressive” but occasionally “simply aggressive”. The portfolio’s trading related to credit instruments, especially credit default swap indices. The firm is a wholly owned subsidiary of the group. Read the rest of this entry »





Narratives of Misconduct: Emerging Trends in the Finance Sector

26 11 2015

As seen on this blog, the spectre of misconduct hangs over the finance sector. Even after seven painful years of conduct related revelations, the fall out from the global financial crisis (GFC) continues to haunt consumers and banking institutions alike. To conceal the low-point in public confidence, empty rhetoric and hollow buzzwords such as “social licence” and “real markets” reign supreme while regulatory spin seeks to reconstruct the common person’s trust in the system. Equally, to make themselves palatable to the public, market pundits can be heard trumpeting the mantra of “inclusive capitalism”. Yet an overall lack of ethics permeates corporate culture and a continuing tendency to act in a twisted way can still be gleaned from events. If anything, the deficit in trust is increasing because resort to outright cheating can still be evinced in numerous instances. For example, along with Deutsche Bank, Barclays is in the spotlight yet again after paying £320 million in forex manipulation fines to the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) earlier this May; today, it has been fined £72 million by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for poor handling of financial crime risks. Equally, The Review into the failure of HBOS Group highlights the legacy of negligence in holding the finance sector to account. In addition to everyday outrage arising out of economic inequality, public anger in the finance sector has risen to a crescendo because the nadir of people’s sufferings has been reached. As the National Audit Office finds, state funds totalling £1,162 billion have been injected into the UK banking system to save it from collapse.

The paradox, of course, is that unlimited funds have been made available to rescue recklessly managed and overexposed banks – concerned less with integrity and more with ways to exploit token regulation – whereas the neediest in society are being shunned from basic necessities such as healthcare, care services, welfare and all the savage cuts that accompany the long-term goal of shrinking the state to 36% of GDP. Even to those who earnestly believe in the free market, official viewpoints and narratives often directly contradict reality. Most of all, officials fail to acknowledge wholesale abdication of duties owed to citizens and their attitude exposes a continuing tendency to overlook capitalism’s corruption. In the roundup below, among other things, further light is shed on developments trending in the bullring of financial misconduct and the theoretical jargon used by regulators is paired up with a cogent critique – by O’Brien, Gilligan, Roberts and McCormick – of the trickle down reforms enacted to positively anchor the finance sector to society’s needs. 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 »





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 »





Conduct of Persons in Financial Services: Causing a Financial Institution to Fail

25 04 2014

imagesThe Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 (the Act) is yet another Leviathan statute. The Act is spread out over eight parts encompassing one hundred and forty-eight sections and contains ten schedules. First of all, this wide-ranging legislation implements the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Banking (or ICB, chaired by Sir John Vickers). Equally, it also implements the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (or PCBS, in relation to the LIBOR scandal) which aim to improve culture and standards in the banking sector. Moreover, under section 17, the Act also provides the Bank of England with the new stabilisation “bail-in option” under the Banking Act 2009. See updates here and here.

Independent Commission on Banking

In its final report, the ICB remarked that:

Banks are at the heart of the financial system and hence of the market economy. The opportunity must be seized to establish a much more secure foundation for the UK banking system of the future.

Recommending structural reform of the banking industry, coupled with measures designed to increase the capacity of banks to absorb losses, the ICB’s work focused on cost effective solutions as regards rescuing failing banks. Read the rest of this entry »