LONDON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Lawyers representing former Deutsche Bank star trader Christian Bittar on Thursday accused the UK watchdog of denying him his right of reply despite publicly “shaming” him with scant regard to protecting his identity when fining the German lender.
Bittar is one of eight traders who allege they were improperly identified and prejudiced when the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) fined a string of banks for alleged benchmark interest rate manipulation and foreign exchange market rigging.
The traders are relying in part on a Court of Appeal ruling of May that decided a former JPMorgan executive, Achilles Macris, had been improperly identified, despite not being named when the FCA fined the U.S. bank almost 140 million pounds ($217 million) in 2013.
The FCA hopes to appeal that decision at the Supreme Court.
Bittar’s lawyer Andrew Hunter told London’s Upper Tribunal, tasked with hearing challenges to FCA decisions, that Bittar could be easily identified in the Deutsche Bank enforcement notice, particularly if readers cross-referenced it with notices published by U.S. authorities.
Deutsche Bank was fined $2.5 billion by U.S. and British authorities in April as part of a global investigation into alleged benchmark interest rate rigging.
When fining some of the world’s most powerful financial institutions for alleged benchmark rigging, authorities have published reams of computer chats and emails attributed to traders by code names, partly to avoid having to wait for people to respond to allegations before publishing their findings.
But Paul Stanley, representing the FCA, said Bittar had failed to provide evidence that he had been identified in various notices published by authorities in April, which had referred to him as “Manager B”, “Trader 3”, “a London desk head” or the “London MMD (money market derivatives) manager”.
Instead, he had embarked on a decoding exercise that “rested on slender foundations”, Stanley said, noting that a “relevant” reader could only have drawn tentative conclusions.
Bittar, a former London-based manager who traded in interest rate derivatives pegged to Euribor (Euro interbank offered rate) before moving to Singapore in 2010, was one of Deutsche Bank’s most profitable traders.
He was awarded a bonus of around 80 million euros in 2009, based on his trading at the height of the credit crisis. But he was fired in 2011 for alleged rate rigging. Last year, he was sent an FCA notice warning him he might face a multi-million pound fine over alleged attempted rate rigging.
The FCA has sent a string of such warning notices to traders for alleged misconduct as part of its investigation into benchmark rate manipulation. But civil proceedings have been complicated when there are parallel criminal proceedings.
$1 = 0.6600 pounds Editing by David Holmes
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