Ex-Barclays Trader Just Wanted Boss to Chill Out, Not Rig Market

(Bloomberg) -- Caught in the cross-hairs of a stressed-out boss in 2008, a former Barclays Plc trader said he may have fibbed to ease tensions. That doesn’t mean he helped manipulate financial markets, he told a London court Thursday.

Carlo Palombo was under pressure from his superior, Clement Perrette, to speak to the bank’s cash desk to help out struggling bond traders, Palombo said. In a message shown to the court by the prosecutor, Palombo told Perrette that he had spoken to his fellow defendant, Colin Bermingham, about making bids in the cash market that could affect prices. The conversation with Bermingham may not have really happened the way he related it in his email, Palombo said.

“I was just trying to please Clement Perrette and trying to ensure I was on the case,” Palombo said. “I don’t know if lie is the right word, but there was an attempt to paint the situation in a way that was essentially making him chill out.”

Palombo, 40, Bermingham, 62, and Sisse Bohart, 41, are on trial for conspiracy for allegedly trying to push Euribor rates up or down to benefit their trading positions while at Barclays from 2005 to 2009. Euribor, the Euro interbank offered rate, is tied to trillions of dollars worth of loans and derivatives.

Palombo said the messages he sent to his boss didn’t mean he tried to influence prices.

“I’m trying to give the impression that something is being done,” Palombo said. “I was not in any sense coordinating an actual market manipulation.”

‘Behind His Back’

The prosecutor for the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office questioned why Palombo would drag his colleague into what has become a scandal and criminal trial.

“There was no reason for you to lie directly to your boss to the detriment of Mr. Bermingham,” Prosecutor James Waddington said. “You accuse him behind his back of trying to effectively manipulate the market.”

Palombo said he apologized for “having caused problems for him because of this.”

Instead of a lie, the prosecutor suggested that Palombo had in fact carried out the conversation to influence Bermingham, as he told Perrette.

“A very intelligent and well-educated man, you of course accurately accounted in those messages for the conversations you had with Mr. Bermingham, and faithfully reported them to your boss,” Waddington said.

Palombo said he disagreed.

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