Back in August 2015, I wrote an article on here about the sentencing of Tom Hayes, an interest rate trader, in connection with the influencing of LIBOR rates. You may recall he was given fourteen years, reduced on appeal to eleven, and he has subsequently been released after serving half his sentence, which was the parole guidance given by the court.
Now, I’m not going to rehash the whole thing here, but I will repeat my personal view that Tom Hayes was treated by the courts and the prosecution system behind them as a scapegoat, and given a ludicrously heavy sentence. The reason that I do bring this up again is that the BBC (or more correctly, one of its economic correspondents, Andy Verity) has obtained audio recordings which – it is suggested – may overturn the received opinion on this case; in particular, it is suggested that these tapes will demonstrate that the knowledge and decision-making throughout this affair went to a far higher level than Tom Hayes and his fellow traders. This programme is being broadcast each day this week on Radio Four, and I’m sure it will be available on whatever it is that the BBC currently call their radio catch-up service. I have a feeling it will be an interesting listen, as it promises to look a bit more deeply into the question of responsibility than the prosecutors appeared willing to do at the time.
On a different subject, it is some years now since this column appeared in the pages of Metal Bulletin – now Fast Markets – but I still consider many people there friends and colleagues; right now, they have a sizeable team in Kyiv, still working at their jobs. Our thoughts should be with them, and indeed all those in Ukraine, suffering in the current nightmare.
I’m not going to write about wars and invasions – not a subject I really know about – but just a few thoughts. In the 1990s and 2000s, as the soviet state imploded to be replaced with a so-called democracy, many of us in the metals business made healthy profits out of Russia, be it as LME traders, or physical merchants; indeed, some went on to become unconscionably rich on the back of Russian resources. Speaking for myself and my colleagues, we kind of accepted the corruption, the kleptocracy and the casual violence really just as “that’s how they behave over there”. In retrospect, that was probably wrong; the acceptance of the surge of money into property, football clubs, superyachts, Courchevel, Verbier and the rest is arguably part of what has led to where we are now, with a meglomanic dictator rewriting history to justify his spreading death and destruction in a European country. I suppose one partial justification of this acceptance could be the thought that after 70-odd years of marxist-socialism stealing the country, anything else had to be better; we now know it’s just the same, under a different name.
I think I have written before that the most serious issue facing western governments generally (wars excepted) is energy security, and the current situation simply makes that even more difficult. It appears that Germany, whose new Chancellor seems possibly more alert to this than Angela Merkel, is likely to revert to some reliance on nuclear power and also seems to be moving towards delaying its final end to coal burning. Given their dependence on Russian oil and gas, that sounds a positive step. It’s time the UK also woke up a bit, to allow further North Sea exploration and – importantly – gas fracking. Moving a bit more rapidly on small nuclear reactors would also be the right move. Energy policy and security cannot be left to whim of schoolchildren and fringe, extreme political minorities.
Finally, just a plug. To see a (fictional) account of how a Russian president who would be a Czar could use resources and energy to achieve his goals of greater power, you could read my 2012 novel, “Czar Rising”, available as a paperback, and an ebook on Amazon.