Rigged tells the as-yet untold story of a whole series of miscarriages of justice and a cover-up at the highest levels of the US and UK financial systems, unveiling evidence that upends the received version of the biggest scandal since the financial crash. It picks up where The Big Short leaves off, in the autumn of 2007, as the dark clouds of the financial crisis gather. Financial institutions enter a state of panic. For the Big 16 banks, their measure of health is an interest rate measure known as Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate). The higher the Libor, the worse off the bank – too high and it’s goodnight Vienna. Libor is heading skywards. To save themselves from collapse, nationalisation and loss of bonuses, banks and governments (including central banks such as the Bank of England) conspire to rig Libor so it stays artificially low – a practice called lowballing now regarded as criminal.
A handful of low-level traders, outraged after being ordered to rig Libor, turn whistleblowers, alerting the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). When, in April 2008, the WSJ hints that banks are lowballing, both the USA’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) seize their chance. After a series of extremely expensive botched operations, both organisations are on the verge of being abolished. This is a chance to prove their worth. With great public fanfare, they launch investigations into ‘massive interest rate manipulation’ but run into trouble when they realise that following the evidence to the top could bring down the entire financial system. So instead they go after the traders with the same rage reserved for whistleblowers from Shahmir Sanni to Julian Assange. They charge them with rigging interest rates for profit. Rigged exclusively reveals the evidence, much of it kept out of their trials, that they are innocent.
30 traders have been prosecuted for rate-rigging at the time of writing, with 11 convicted, 13 acquitted and 6 on the run. They remain the only bankers jailed since the 2008 financial crisis. Yet the evidence revealed in Rigged points to the conclusion that the crimes didn’t even take place. These trials served as a distraction, allowing the real perpetrators – bank bosses and executives, the people who played havoc with ordinary people’s money – to go unpunished. Many of these executives gave evidence against their former employees before going on to other, high-paid jobs, million-pound bonuses in their pocket, some with knighthoods.
Misled by the prosecution, news organisations failed to see the truth at the time but the authors have acquired a huge cache of exclusive evidence (recorded phone calls showing criminal activity, confidential internal emails and witness statements) which detail exactly how the world was fooled.
If it seems hard to believe, it is. Innocent people jailed for years for doing the right thing, their lives ruined and families destroyed. One of the most spectacular miscarriages of justice the USA and UK have ever seen. How could this happen?
Turns out, it’s not just the market that’s rigged – it’s the entire system.
Andy is the award-winning economics correspondent for BBC News, covering finance and business on the BBC radio and TV bulletins as well as reporting for Panorama, BBC Newsnight and BBC Radio 4’s investigative strand, File on Four. He can currently be heard on the Today programme, Radio Four’s six o’clock news and the BBC News TV channel reporting the worst economic crisis in 300 years caused by the pandemic - all the while knowing how much of the truth about the previous mega-crisis has been covered up and kept from the public. Joining the BBC from The Independent, h...
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