Home Featured State agencies coerced Libor traders into perjury, claims senior Tory MP
State agencies coerced Libor traders into perjury, claims senior Tory MP

State agencies coerced Libor traders into perjury, claims senior Tory MP

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LONDON — British and U.S. authorities covered up state involvement in Libor rigging and scapegoated low and middle-ranking bankers, some of whom spent years in jail, a senior Conservative MP told the House of Commons on Thursday.

“I am greatly concerned that the Treasury select committee may have been misled by state agencies about the knowledge and involvement of the state in setting false rates,” said David Davis in a point of order in parliament. The former Cabinet minister told the House of Commons he intends to write to the Metropolitan Police to ask them to investigate any potential perjury that took place.

“There is prima facie case to believe that state agencies coerced individuals into perjury that led to false conviction,” he said.

The state’s pursuit of Libor traders from 2012 onwards took place amid mass public anger towards banks and bankers for the role they played in the global financial crisis of 2008, which hit economies the world over. Libor until then was a little-known process that bankers used to help set the price at which banks and other institutions would lend to each other, but became a central point of focus in the blame game for what went wrong.

The rate depended on daily submissions from low-ranking bankers to form a consensus on the cost of funding on any given day.

From 2007 onwards, as the financial crisis began to grip, Libor rates increasingly misrepresented the true cost of lending for banks, leading to accusations of purposeful collusion by bankers to misdirect markets.

In total, eight bankers served jail time in the U.K. after being found guilty of “deliberately disregarding the proper basis for submitting Libor.” They included Tom Hayes, the former UBS trader, who served five and a half years in jail — the most of any of the traders — after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud in 2015. He became the most high-profile face of the Libor scandal.

New evidence dropped to BBC journalist Andy Verity by a whistleblower, however, casts doubt on whether justice was properly dispensed in the prosecution of the traders.

In his book Rigged, set for release on June 1, Verity draws on a data cache that includes internal bank telephone recordings, emails and documentary data — most of which was never presented to juries — to argue that those at the very top of the financial system should have been implicated but were never prosecuted.

It’s “a secret history to which the public would otherwise have had no access,” says Verity in the book’s preface seen by POLITICO. “The bankers that went to jail were the ones who put their faith in the justice system and told the truth. Even more incredibly, some were the very people who had brought the authorities’ attention to the crimes in the first place. They were whistleblowers.”

Senior officials from the Bank of England as well as from Barclays testified in front of the Commons Treasury select committee on the matter of Libor in July 2012. Some, such as Paul Tucker, then the deputy governor of the Bank of England, were grilled on whether they had asked institutions like Barclays to purposefully misrepresent the rates in a process known as low-balling, to hide the market’s loss of trust in them. Tucker rejected allegations of low-balling, saying the Bank believed the numbers represented “a malfunctioning market, not a dishonest market.”

David Davis is urging the chair of the Treasury committee, Harriett Baldwin, to look into the issue further. “This is a big and complex issue with hundreds of pages of evidence,” he told parliament Thursday.

Tom Hayes told POLITICO he was pleased that thanks to the investigative journalism of Andrew Verity the real story about false Libor submissions was coming to light. “I hope that the relevant parties who were misled at the time can now take the appropriate action and criminal cases be returned to the court of appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. U.K. law on this matter is a global outlier and needs urgent attention,” he said in a texted statement.

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