Libor Convict Tom Hayes Says Inmates, Traders Both Seek Instant Gratification
(Bloomberg) -- After six years in prison, Tom Hayes has some insight to share about his fellow inmates, and his former colleagues on the trading floor.
“The one common trait I saw in prison and the City was narcissism and instant gratification,” the 41-year-old said in an interview Wednesday. “If you were to draw a Venn diagram of characteristics between prisoners and City workers, those are probably the two that would intersect.”
The former UBS Group AG and Citigroup Inc. trader was the most high-profile conviction in a crackdown on the rigging of the London interbank offered rate in the wake of the financial crisis a decade ago. He was freed from prison Friday after serving half of his 11-year sentence.
At his trial, Hayes was described by prosecutors as the “ringmaster” of a global network of traders and brokers who manipulated Libor, while some saw him as the fall guy for what had been until then a common practice at the world’s biggest banks.
He made a handful of close friends in prison. Their bond, made through shared experiences, will last forever, he said.
“Almost exclusively, all of my best friends have been convicted murderers,” he said. “I wouldn’t have guessed that before I came to prison.”
Hayes also found solace by communicating with fellow convicted trader Christian Bittar. Hayes immediately wrote to the former senior trader at Deutsche Bank AG after his conviction in 2018 and the pair exchanged letters for over a year.
Hayes advised Bittar to stay as anonymous as possible and gave pointers on to how to escape “the hell” that was Wandsworth prison. They haven’t spoken since Bittar was released last year, but Hayes would like to meet up with him.
Bittar, in a message sent Thursday, said he was on good terms with Hayes.
Hayes told prosecutors that Bittar had sounded him out about a position in 2009 but turned it down because he had already agreed to join Citigroup.
Hayes is unsure about his next move.
The ex-trader continues to fight to overturn his U.K. conviction for Libor-rigging, faces a life ban from Britain’s financial regulator, and still fears a U.S. criminal trial.
Parole conditions coupled with the Covid-19 lockdown means he’s confined to his London apartment. Not that he can go anywhere: prosecutors still have his passport.
“Being released into lockdown, you’re going from being locked up behind walls to being locked up in an apartment,” he said. It’s better than being stuck in a cell with a convicted assassin though, as he was in the capital’s notorious Belmarsh prison, he added.
Unlike most of the world, Hayes isn’t used to conducting life through computer screens. Donning a white t-shirt and fresh haircut, he quipped that he’d forgotten how to use technology in prison as he struggled with the sound quality while speaking to Bloomberg Wednesday.
He said he’s tempted to return to the world of trading.
“I miss being on the trading floor, I miss the camaraderie, I miss the adrenaline,” he said. He made around 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) trading on his own in the two years before he was charged in America. That brought on a nervous breakdown, he said, and he lost it all in six weeks.
As a trader, he was always among the most profitable, advancing easily as banks recognized his talent despite his peculiarities.
He was a “complete nutter on the trading floor,” dressed in free polo shirts he was given by his brokers and prone to shouting at colleagues, but still kept getting promoted, he said.
It’s “because I was a money-maker,” he said.
Hayes has received tentative interest from several people wanting to profit off his trading talents, including a friend who runs a hedge fund in Hong Kong. Others have talked to him about writing a book and speaking at conferences.
He may also pursue a full-time contract with Dando Drilling International Ltd., where he’s worked for the past 18 months as part of a work-release program. He’s currently on furlough from the company, which manufactures drilling equipment.
He must win his appeal and avoid a ban from the Financial Conduct Authority before making a decision. The Criminal Cases Review Commission, which probes suspected miscarriages of justice, is still considering his case four years after he applied. He expects a decision to be made in the next 12 weeks.
Hayes is also hoping the U.S. will drop its case against him. If authorities pursue him, he will fight in court rather than take a plea deal and will represent himself, he said.
After his release, Hayes’ brother drove him to meet his probation officer in west London, where he grew up. They drove past his primary school, his childhood home with the same yellow door, and Loftus Road, home of the soccer team Queens Park Rangers, which he supports.
“It’s almost like a 360-degree journey,” he said emotionally. “I’m re-starting my life again in the same way I started it as a child. I’ve got this great big blank canvas in front of me, except when you’re a child it doesn’t scare you.”
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