- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Two British ex-bankers were convicted Thursday of conspiring to manipulate the primary benchmark for global short-term interest rates so that their bank and fellow traders could earn higher profits.

Anthony Allen, 44, shook his head as the guilty verdicts were announced in Manhattan federal court on conspiracy to conduct wire fraud and bank fraud and 18 other charges carrying potential penalties of decades in prison.

His co-defendant, Anthony Conti, 46, was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and eight other charges stemming from a Justice Department probe into what Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell described as a “global fraud scheme.” He also could face decades in prison, though they are likely to face far less.

Caldwell noted in a statement that the investigation into the manipulation of a composite of the interest rate used by London banks when they borrow money from one another also resulted in the conviction in London of Tom Hayes, a former bank executive in the United Kingdom. He was sentenced in August to 14 years in prison.

“This is round one,” said Michael Schachter, Allen’s lawyer. Tor Ekeland, an attorney for Conti, said they would pursue all legal options.

Conti, of Essex, England, was a senior banker who handled U.S. dollars while Allen, of Hertsfordshire, England, was the global head of cash at the Dutch bank Rabobank when prosecutors said the scheme was carried out from 2005 to 2011. Besides Allen and Conti, three other former Rabobank employees have been convicted in the probe while two others await prosecution.

The London interbank offered rate, known as LIBOR, is used by banks to borrow from each other and affects trillions of dollars in contracts around the world, including mortgages, bonds and consumer loans.

Regulators in Britain, Switzerland, the U.S. and Asia have been investigating the banks’ conduct for months, and negotiating settlements with banks.

Netherlands-based Rabobank agreed two years ago to pay about $1 billion to settle U.S., British and Dutch charges of manipulating the key global interest rate. The payout included a $325 million deal with the U.S. Justice Department to allow the bank to avoid criminal prosecution in exchange for cooperation.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff rejected a request that bail be revoked.

“I’m not particularly worried Mr. Conti or Mr. Allen will flee,” he said.

Hinting at a measure of leniency likely at sentencing, Rakoff said the men probably would have faced more prison time if they had been prosecuted in London.

He said they would be foolish to flee, making them “pariahs for life.”

Outside court, juror Howard Wasserfall noted that Allen’s nicknames at the bank included “Ghostie” and “Casper,” signifying that as a manager he “always knew he’d be a figure in the background” as co-workers pleaded for them to manipulate interest rates to benefit their trades.

Wasserfall said it was significant there was no evidence Allen ever told anyone: “Hey, maybe we’re putting too much stock in what the traders are saying.”

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