Ex-Barclays trader accused of Euribor rigging felt 'let down and used' by private messages

Alexandra Rogers
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Bank Employees Appear In Court Charged With Manipulation Of Euribor
Colin Bermingham told the court that he did not know of the messages exchanged between Philippe Moryoussef and Christian Bittar (Source: Getty)

A former Barclays employee on trial for Euribor rigging has said he felt "let down and used" when he discovered that a colleague had been privately discussing with another trader at a rival bank how they could alter submissions for the interest rate benchmark.

Colin Bermingham, 62, told Southwark Crown Court he felt it was "absolutely not right" that Barclays colleague Philippe Moryoussef and Deutsche Bank's star trader Christian Bittar were privately discussing how to submit rates for Euribor – a benchmark banks rely on to lend each other money – that boosted their trading books.

Bermingham told the court he was not aware of the "close relationship" between the two traders or the "frequency or content" of their communications until the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) started.

Cross examining, defence barrister Andrew Thomas QC said: "We've all seen that they were discussing what rates they wanted to see, what their own banks were going to do and what they wanted other banks to do," Thomas continued. "How you did feel when you discovered those things had been going on and that Philippe Moryoussef had been part of it inside your bank?"

"Well, I felt let down by it and used," Bermingham responded.

Bermingham, 62, is one of three former Barclays employees charged by the SFO with conspiracy to defraud. Sisse Bohart 41, and Carlo Palombo, 40, are also standing trial over allegations they conspired with Bittar and Moryoussef to submit "false and misleading" Euribor rates to benefit their trading positions.

The prosecution alleges that they "deliberately disregarded the proper basis" for submitting Euribor rates in a way that "prejudiced" the economic interests of others.

The defendants deny the charges.

Bittar and Moryoussef were both convicted last year for their role in manipulating the benchmark.

The court heard extracts from some of the messages between the two traders. In one, Moryoussef said: "I am receiving ​€200m. I'm putting them sky high."

Bittar replied: "Don't mess about, I have a big fix, help me I'm begging you." He later asked: "Please speak to your bloke", which the court heard was a reference to Bermingham.

Bittar continues:​ "I've got ​€21bn for one month and ​€6bn on three months I'm begging you help me. I'll pay the falafel."

When asked how he would have felt "ethically, morally" had he known about it at the time, Bermingham said: "The impression that I had when I was working there is that Deutsche would have been a big rival bank of Barclays, not hand-in-hand like this. These are – supposed to be a rival bank in the market. I would have been just so angry about it."

Asked if he would have submitted a figure that was designed to assist members of his team, as opposed to reflecting the market, Bermingham said he would contribute a rate that "reflected what happened in the market".

"Now, if we could have accommodated a lower fixing on this time, justified by an offer of cash in the market, we would have done, I think."

The trial continues.