The Fix by Liam Vaughan and Gavin Finch

The Blurb On The Back:

”The first thing you think is, where’s the edge?  Where can I make a bit more money?  You want every little bit of money that you can possibly get because, like I say, that is how you are judged: that is your performance metric.”

– Tom Hayes, convicted former trader for UBS and Citigroup

The Fix, by award-winning Bloomberg journalists Liam Vaughan and Gavin Finch, is the inside story of the Libor scandal told through the journey of the man at the center of it – Tom Hayes, a young, scruffy, socially awkward misfit from England whose genius for math and obsessive personality made him a trading phenomenon but ultimately paved the way for his own downfall.   

In the midst of the financial crisis, Hayes and his network of traders and brokers from Wall Street’s leading firms engineered the biggest financial conspiracy ever seen.  As the rest of the world burned, they came together on secret chat rooms and late-night phone calls to hatch an audacious plan to rig Libor.  Without the persistence of a rag-tag team of investigators from the US, they would have gotten away with it …

Based on hundreds of interviews opening up unprecedented access to the traders and brokers involved in the scandal, the regulators and central bankers who failed to stop it and the investigators who caught up with them, The Fix provides a rare look into the dark heart of global finance at the start of the 21st century.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

In 2015 a former derivatives trader called Tom Hayes was convicted on 8 counts of fraud and sentenced to 14 years in prison (reduced on appeal to 11 years) for his role in orchestrating the rigging of Libor rates.  Hayes’s conviction was the most significant of the criminal actions taken for what emerged as a common practice within the finance industry.  In this carefully researched and meticulously footnoted book based on court testimony, interviews and financial articles Liam Vaughan and Gavin Finch set out Hayes’s activities against the myriad of regulatory failures surrounding Libor, the impact of the Financial Crash of 2007 and the events that led to its exposure.

What’s shocking about this book is partly how normal it was in the financial community to manipulate Libor for their own benefit but mainly how the so-called regulators – the British Bankers Association, the Bank of England and the then Financial Services Authority – all abrogated their responsibility to take control of the widespread corruption because, quite simply, it did not suit their own ends.  Also appalling is how the investment banks involved (including UBS, Citigroup, Deutsche and Barclays) had no problem with what was going on because it boosted their own profits at a time when they were seeking to recover losses from the Financial Crash and how, despite massive fines being levied against them in the US and UK, so few individuals (and no corporations) have been put on criminal trial for what had happened, and even fewer have been convicted.  Vaughan and Finch set out the failures of the Serious Fraud Office when bringing cases and the difficulties in establishing conspiracy (which resulted in a number of not guilty findings as defendants argued that they had no intention of following through on their promises to Hayes).

Although the book centers on Hayes, Vaughan and Finch do not seem to have interviewed him themselves – much of the material comes from court transcripts and evidential findings – which means that the sections where they try to piece together his motives and emotions feel contrived and a little one-dimensional and I didn’t really get much of a sense of him as a person.  Ultimately though, I found this a fascinating book and for anyone new to the topic, it allows you to follow what the scandal was about and why it was so important, which is why I think it’s worth a look.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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