U.K. Trader’s ‘Blind Ambition’ Led to Libor Fixing, SFO Says

  • Prosecutors describe bank hierarchy when showing Libor e-mails
  • Mathew says he asked boss about request to avoid ‘bollocking’

A former Barclays Plc trader helped fix Libor rates in an attempt to boost his career by currying favor with the swaps desk, where the "glamour boys" and "big dogs" worked, a prosecutor said Tuesday at a London trial.

Jonathan Mathew said new employees often targeted the swaps desk as a career goal. He was willing to break the rules to get there, James Hines, a prosecutor for the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, said.

"You were motivated by blind ambition -- for your career and all its trappings," Hines said to Mathew. "You were prepared to rip off these counterparties -- because that is what it took." Hines had described Mathew as an ambitious "high flyer."

Mathew, 35, denied the allegations.

"I was doing what I was told to do by my boss," Mathew said, referring to his manager Peter Johnson.

Mathew is among five former bank employees accused of conspiring to fix the London interbank offered rate, which is tied to trillions of dollars in securities and loans. 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. Jurors were told last week that Johnson pleaded guilty to rigging Libor in 2012.

Hines described the bank’s hierarchy as he showed jurors the first request Mathew received to move the rate in 2005. Mathew did nothing until his boss got back from vacation, despite e-mails asking him to adjust the rate.

Mathew said the first request in August 2005 didn’t seem “significant” at the time. “It wasn’t something that I had seen before, so I asked my boss.”

“There were 20 other things that could have cost PJ or the bank money,” Mathew said Tuesday. “I didn’t want to get a bollocking” when Johnson got back from vacation.

Johnson “always tried to help out’’ the traders, and had a good relationship with the swaps desk, Mathew said.

“It was the desk that people wanted to get onto,” according to the 35-year-old Mathew, who was testifying for a fourth day. “All the graduates wanted to become swaps traders, they didn’t want to be on the money markets desk.”

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