Libor was Nothing Special to Ex-Barclays Trader, London Court Hears

Libor was "nothing special" and of "negligible importance" to one of the ex-Barclays traders on trial on charges of conspiracy to manipulate the global financial benchmark, a London court heard on Monday.

Greek-born Stylianos Contogoulas, 44, is one of five men on trial for conspiracy to defraud by manipulating US dollar Libor rates between June 2005 and September 2007. The London interbank offered rate (Libor) is a benchmark for about US$450 trillion of financial contracts worldwide, from complex derivatives to student loans.

His lawyer John Ryder told the court Contogoulas was instructed by his boss early in his career that he would be asked to pass on requests regarding the Libor rate from traders in New York to submitters in London.

"Libor was of negligible importance to him," Ryder told the jury at Southwark Crown Court. "He wasn't a submitter."

"He had received no training with regards to it. Any reference to Libor had only been made in general terms. It was nothing special, absolutely nothing special," Ryder said.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office ("SFO") has alleged that Contogoulas, Barclays' former rate submitter Jonathan Mathew and ex-traders Jay Merchant, Ryan Reich and Alex Pabon dishonestly agreed to procure or make false or misleading submissions of rates into the dollar Libor-setting process. 

Each count carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years.

The five men have pleaded not guilty. Defence lawyers for the five, and Barclays, declined to comment.

Ryder told the jury that no-one at Barclays ever suggested to Contogoulas, who had previously worked in IT before joining the bank, that reflecting a trader's wishes in a Libor submission was either wrong or unusual, given the fact that commercial interest was fundamental to everything the bank did.

"The instruction was entirely open. There was nothing secretive or confidential or cautious about it," Ryder said.

Ryder said passing on requests took "a matter of minutes" and did not affect any bonus and remuneration to any significant extent.

"The reality is, he does not deserve to be here. He deserves a great deal better than being compared to a greedy thief, or shady fixer or rigger of horse races," Ryder said.

Last week, the counsel for the SFO James Hines used a horse racing analogy during the trial.

Jurisdictions: 

Anjuli Davies is a correspondent at Reuters in London.