Ex-Rabobank Trader to Plead Guilty in U.S. Libor Probe

  • Paul Thompson would be sixth convicted trader from Dutch bank
  • Financial industry has paid more than $9 billion in penalties

Paul Thompson leaves Federal Court in New York on July 6, 2016.

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

A former Rabobank Groep trader arrested last year in Australia will plead guilty to U.S. charges that he schemed to manipulate benchmark interest rates, his lawyer said.

Paul Thompson, who is among seven Rabobank traders indicted in New York, appeared on Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan, where he pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Harry Sandick, told the judge that he would admit his guilt at another proceeding on Thursday. Thompson was released on $500,000 bond, to be secured by $100,000 in cash.

Thompson was arrested in Perth in October after the U.S. sought his extradition to face prosecution for wire and bank fraud and conspiracy. He’s remained free pending Wednesday’s arraignment.

The Justice Department has been criticized for negotiating billion-dollar settlements with banks for misconduct without charging individuals, but in the years-long investigation into the rigging of the London interbank offered rate, U.S. prosecutors have charged more than a dozen bankers while securing several convictions.

Thompson’s arrival in the U.S. to face charges underscores that foreign traders ensnared in the Libor scandal aren’t always shielded by their location overseas, as the Justice Department presses to bring cases against London-based traders for rigging currency rates.

For a QuickTake primer on the Libor scandal, click here.

With a guilty plea, Thompson would be the sixth trader from Rabobank to be convicted in the probe, which has resulted in $9 billion in penalties worldwide for the financial industry. His appearances in U.S. court come just over a month after charges were filed in the U.S. against three former traders of Deutsche Bank, two of whom admitted guilt.

Criminal defendants typically enter please of not guilty when first appearing in court to answer charges before they formally plead guilty. Sometimes the guilty plea occurs on the same day, sometimes it occurs later; the judge sets the schedule.

Thompson was Rabobank’s head of money market and derivatives trading for Northeast Asia and later executive director of currency trading for Asia. He was indicted in 2014 by a federal grand jury on conspiracy and fraud charges related to the manipulation of the Yen Libor, which sets the interest rates for borrowing in the Japanese currency.

Thompson is accused of scheming with others at the bank by requesting that their “submitter” improperly modify the bank’s reports to the British Bankers’ Association, which was in charge of collecting interbank borrowing rates, to give them a trading advantage.

‘Bump It Up?’

In one message excerpted in the indictment, Thompson, who was known among colleagues as “Thomo,” wrote to Paul Robson, a Rabobank submitter, on Nov. 8, 2006: “Got a few big 3mth fixings in the next 2 days, and chance you cud bump it up a couple? What do you actually think 3mth today 45.25-45.5 ish?”

“Will set them high and dry skip,” replied Robson, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiring to commit bank and wire fraud.

Tetsuya Motomura, a former senior trader on Rabobank’s Tokyo desk who was charged in the same indictment with Thompson, remains a fugitive, according to the U.S.

The Justice Department has won about $2 billion in criminal penalties from banks including Barclays Plc and UBS Group AG. Rabobank agreed to pay more than $1 billion in 2013 to resolve regulators’ claims, including a $325 million penalty from the Justice Department.

The case is U.S. v Allen, 14-cr-272, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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