Ex-Barclays Trader Says He Was Told to Lie About Libor Requests

  • Mathew says his boss pressured him to lie to bank lawyers
  • Mathew denies he rigged rate in exchange for sushi, lattes

Jonathan Mathew, one of five former Barclays Plc employees accused of manipulating Libor, says he was pressured by his boss to lie about complying with requests from other traders to manipulate the benchmark rate.

QuickTake QuickTake: The Libor Scandal

Mathew, 35, said on his second day of testimony in London that Peter Johnson, his boss, pushed him to deceive bank lawyers investigating Libor manipulation in 2009. Before that, the partially deaf trader believed that he wasn’t doing anything wrong.

"I felt absolutely awful," Mathew said Friday. "I was worried I would lose my job if I didn’t" lie. 

Prosecutors say that Mathew and four of his colleagues conspired to rig the London interbank offered rate, a benchmark tied to trillions of dollars in securities and loans. Jurors were told earlier this week that Johnson pleaded guilty to rigging Libor in 2012.

2009 Conversation

Mathew said that it wasn’t until Sept. 30, 2009, after interviews with Barclays’ lawyers, that Mathew thought accepting trader requests was wrong. Immediately after the interview Mathew approached Johnson, who suggested they talk outside the building.

"He wanted me to lie about us accepting the requests," Mathew said recalling the conversation. Johnson told him that they had always ignored the requests to fix Libor, he said.

"Before that day, did you believe what you had been doing was wrong?" asked Bill Clegg, Mathew’s lawyer. 

"No," Mathew said. "He was asking me to lie. I felt under pressure from PJ."

Stylianos Contogoulas, 44, Jay Merchant, 45, Alex Pabon, 37, Ryan Reich, 34, and Mathew all deny conspiracy to defraud charges dating from June 1, 2005 to Aug. 31, 2007.

He also lied to U.S. government and law enforcement agencies in a succession of interviews. It wasn’t until he was offered a non-prosecution agreement from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2011 that he decided to tell the truth, Mathew said.

‘Married to the Lie’

"I really wished I hadn’t," lied, Mathew said. "I just felt married to the lie. I could not see a way out and I didn’t know what to do."

Earlier today, Clegg showed the jury e-mails of traders telling Mathew where they would prefer to see the rate set that day and offers of coffee and sushi.

"Were you setting a dishonest rate for some sushi?" Clegg asked.

"No," Mathew replied.

Mathew also played down allegations that there was an international conspiracy to rig rates, saying he only met three of his co-defendants when the trial started last month.

Mathew said the first time he saw U.S.-based trader Pabon was on the steps outside the London courtroom. He met Reich and Merchant, two more defendants, the same day.

Pabon “came up and introduced himself on the first day, in the queue as I came into the building," Mathew said.

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