A former bank trader described by a judge as “the hub” of a scheme to rig the benchmark Libor interest rate was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison.
While several large banks have pleaded guilty to manipulating Libor, Tom Hayes, 35, is the first individual to be convicted of rigging the widely used benchmark. A London jury found him guilty on all eight charges of conspiracy to defraud, the BBC reports.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Hayes’s lawyers had figured that, if convicted, he would probably be sentenced to four or five years in jail. But the judge, Jeremy Cooke, said he was imposing a stiffer sentence “to send a signal” to the banking industry.
Hayes must serve half of his sentence before any possibility of release.
“Probity and honesty are essential, as is trust,” Cooke told him. “The Libor activities in which you took part put all that in jeopardy.”
Hayes became an elite trader after moving to Tokyo with UBS in 2006, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue by trading interest-rate swaps. He joined Citigroup in late 2009, but was fired in September 2010 for Libor manipulation.
In his defense, Hayes’s lawyer Neil Hawes asked Justice Cooke to take into account the prevalence of Libor manipulation at the time and also that Hayes had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum. Colleagues nicknamed him “Rain Man.”
But Cooke told the defendant he had “succumbed to temptation … to gain status, seniority and remuneration,” calling him “the hub of the conspiracy.”
“Hayes’s conviction and long sentence represent a landmark victory for British financial authorities, which have long battled a reputation for being weak on white-collar crime,” the WSJ said.
Several former brokers who allegedly conspired with Hayes are scheduled to stand trial in London starting in September. During Hayes’s trial, the BBC said, “the court heard that manipulating the Libor rate was so commonplace that an offer of a Mars bar could get it changed.”