US to jury: 2 British ex-bankers manipulated interest rates

NEW YORK – The first U.S. trial to result from a worldwide investigation into the manipulation of interest rates began Wednesday when a prosecutor told jurors that two British former bankers put themselves first at one of the world’s largest banks, while defense lawyers portrayed their clients as scapegoats.

Carol Sipperly, a Justice Department prosecutor, said in Manhattan federal court that Anthony Allen, 44, and Anthony Conti, 46, abused their positions at the Dutch bank Rabobank to influence the daily benchmarks of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, a measurement of London-based interbank interest rates that influence interest rates worldwide.

“They sought to rig the rate to benefit themselves,” Sipperly said, urging jurors to sift through the testimony of three former co-workers at Rabobank who have pleaded guilty to conspiracy in cooperation deals as well as voluminous email and other document evidence. “It will feel like putting a puzzle together.”

She said the men “exploited and abused” their responsibilities from 2005 to 2011 to report their bank’s cost of borrowing from other banks in London, as one of 16 banks that contribute the information that influences trillions of dollars in contracts around the world, including mortgages, bonds and consumer loans. Conti was a senior banker who handled U.S. dollars; Allen was the global head of cash.

Two years ago, Rabobank of the Netherlands agreed to pay about $1 billion to settle U.S., British and Dutch charges of manipulating the key global interest rate.