Barclays Traders Victims of SFO Tunnel Vision, Lawyer Says

  • SFO focused on assumption junior traders knew conduct was bad
  • Jury may start deliberations in the case by end of the week

The lawyer for a former Barclays Plc trader on trial for manipulating Libor took aim at prosecutors during closing arguments, saying the U.K. Serious Fraud Office suffered from “tunnel vision” that blinded investigators to the weakness of their case.

John Ryder, who is representing former junior trader Stylianos Contogoulas, said his client, was following the instructions of bosses and never knew there was a problem with making rate requests to colleagues. Prosecutors, however, focused only on an assumption that Contogoulas must have known that it was wrong.

"It’s a feature of this case actually and this investigation, certainly so far as Mr. Contogoulas is concerned, that the investigating and indeed prosecuting authority have not been interested in anything that runs contrary to their suspicion," Ryder said during his closing arguments Monday. Their investigators had "tunnel vision."

Contogoulas, 45, and Ryan Reich, 35, are accused of conspiring with others to manipulate the U.S. dollar London interbank offered rate from 2005 to 2007, a key benchmark used to value financial products including loans and mortgages.

Adrian Darbishire, a lawyer for Reich, asked the jury to ignore the fact that others had been convicted of Libor manipulation. The previous cases don’t prove that there is any evidence that his client, or Contogoulas, were part of any conspiracy.

Darbishire asked the jury to focus on how the perceptions of Libor and banking have changed in the decade since the alleged conduct took place.

"There has been a radical change to Libor and everything that trails in its wake," Darbishire said. "Mr. Reich’s conduct made no tangible difference" to the financial position of Barclays.

Darbishire said his client, a boring "goody two shoes," had been living an "extended nightmare."

The case is in its sixth week with the jury set to start its deliberations in the coming days. Judge Anthony Leonard will begin summing up the case for the jury Tuesday.

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