Ex-Deutsche Bank Trader Bittar Wins Bid to Proceed With FCA Suit

  • Christian Bittar can fight suit while criminal trial pending
  • Civil suits usually delayed in face of criminal proceedings

Ex-Deutsche Bank AG trader Christian Bittar can press ahead with a lawsuit against the U.K. regulator over its portrayal of his conduct in relation to interest-rate rigging while facing criminal prosecution, a London judge ruled.

Putting a complete hold on the civil case until the criminal trial is complete could unnecessarily delay the complaint against the Financial Conduct Authority for years, Judge Timothy Herrington said in his ruling dated June 2 and posted on the court’s website.

Christian Bittar

Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Bittar is suing the FCA over allegations it made about his conduct in a penalty notice against Deutsche Bank last year, when the bank paid a record $2.5 billion fine over benchmark manipulation. Despite the FCA’s attempt to anonymize individuals in the report, a London court ruled Bittar was identifiable, which means he should have been given a chance to respond to the report.

Since that decision, Bittar was charged with conspiring to manipulate Euribor -- the euro counterpart of the London interbank offered rate -- by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office in January. He is scheduled to stand trial in September 2017. The FCA and the SFO wanted to delay the civil suit until after the trial.

Answer Allegations

Bittar’s petition to press-on with the civil proceedings is unusual. Individuals facing criminal charges usually welcome the routine decision to postpone regulatory cases until a prosecution has concluded to avoid publicity that could interfere with the right to a fair trial, as well as paying for lawyers in two trials at once. But Bittar argued it was more prejudicial in light of the criminal case to leave the allegations in the notice unanswered.

“We are pleased with the decision of the Upper Tribunal and look forward to the substantive hearing of Mr. Bittar’s Reference," a lawyer for the 44-year-old former trader said in an e-mailed statement. "Mr. Bittar continues to deny the allegations made against him.” A spokesman for the FCA declined to comment.

Herrington hasn’t scheduled a date for the full hearing, but based on the current timetable there could be a window between July and November 2017. If the September trial starts on time, it is possible he would delay the hearing. If the trial is delayed until 2018, the civil action could be heard first, he said in the ruling.

Macris Case

Another reason the FCA sought the delay was the appeal in another identity case due to go before the Supreme Court in October. The FCA is challenging a lower court’s decision that Achilles Macris, the manager of the so-called London Whale trader at JPMorgan Chase & Co., was improperly identified in the FCA’s settlement with the U.S. bank over the scandal. The outcome of the hearing will set a precedent for all similar cases.

But Herrington rejected the FCA’s arguments to postpone Bittar’s hearing until after the Macris case because he said a decision could be as far away as January.

The FCA has faced a number of suits from traders over their identifiability in reports accompanying bank settlements. If an individual is identified in a notice, the FCA has to give them the opportunity to respond to the allegations before it publishes them.

The regulator tries to avoid this lengthy process by giving individuals monikers such as "trader A."

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