The FCA has prohibited Christian Bittar, a former derivatives trader of products referenced to Euribor at a global bank, from all controlled functions for seeking to manipulate Euribor. The FCA refrained from imposing an additional financial penalty on the basis that the Crown Court had sentenced Mr Bittar to 5 years and 4 months in prison and confiscation order of £2.5m plus costs in relation to substantially the same matters. During the relevant period, Mr Bittar made internal and external requests to make high or low Euribor submissions to benefit the profitability of his trading positions (or, on occasion, the trading position of external traders). He was the Managing Director of the bank’s Global Finance and FX Forwards Group in London at the time.
The FCA had sought to fine Mr Bittar £6.5m in addition to imposing the prohibition and Mr Bittar had referred the matter to the Upper Tribunal. This reference was stayed pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings brought by the SFO.
In the context of those criminal proceedings, Mr Bittar sought an early determination of whether the Euribor Code of Conduct precluded banks from taking into account their own commercial interests as a matter of Belgian law (on the basis that Belgian law governed the Euribor Code of Conduct). Following the determination of this legal issue against Mr Bittar in September 2018 and the dismissal of his appeal in January 2018 (together with a refusal of permission to appeal to the Supreme Court), in March 2018 Mr Bittar submitted a guilty plea to the charge of conspiracy to defraud.
The judge found that Mr Bittar knew that what he was doing was dishonest, concluding that “In my view, the reason for your offending came at least in part from the satisfaction of being able to beat the system, undetected for so many years, by manipulating the Euribor rate to your own trading advantage.” .
In sentencing Mr Bittar, the judge took into account a number of mitigating factors including a wealth of character references. The judge also recognised that Mr Bittar was entitled to ask the Crown Court and Court of Appeal to determine the law and that Mr Bittar had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity when the law had been set out. The judge also noted in his judgment that “certainly others above you were aware of the request culture and took no steps to stop it.” .
In light of the Crown Court’s sentence and confiscation order (including that court’s sentencing remarks which had taken into account the need to deter others from similar misconduct), the FCA agreed not to impose an additional financial penalty. With Mr Bittar’s consent, the FCA sought an Upper Tribunal order that no financial penalty