By DAVID ENRICH for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL —
LONDON—A Citigroup Inc. executive in London said he was pressuring brokers to get other banks to lower their interest-rate submissions, a London court heard Tuesday.
Andrew Thursfield, a high-ranking executive in Citigroup’s London office, wrote to a colleague in September 2007 about plans to try to get the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, to a lower level. “We will continue to pressure the brokers to talk it down and generally press lower,” Mr. Thursfield emailed his colleague on Sept. 7. The colleague, Scott Bere, previously had asked Mr. Thursfield to help reduce Citigroup’s Libor submissions, “assuming we aren’t adversely impacting our reset risk.” That appears to be a reference to Citigroup’s holdings of derivatives pegged to Libor.
The emails were shown to a jury hearing the trial of former Citigroup trader Tom Hayes, who is charged with eight counts of fraud related to alleged manipulation of Libor. Mr. Hayes, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of working with brokers in a conspiracy to manipulate benchmark interest rates to benefit his holdings of derivatives.
Mr. Thursfield, who has spent more than two decades working at Citigroup, most of it in the bank’s internal treasury office, oversees the bank’s Libor submitters. On the witness stand Tuesday, he was asked about his statement that he would continue pressuring brokers. “Some of the wording is poorly chosen,” Mr. Thursfield said. He said he thinks Citigroup would have been asking brokers “to show the full width of the market.”
A few days later, on Sept. 11, 2007, when Mr. Bere again pressed for Libor to be lower, Mr. Thursfield noted that other banks, such as Barclays PLC, remained at higher levels than Citigroup. “If you could some how get Barclays to lower their rates it would have more impact!” Thursfield wrote.
On Tuesday, Mr. Thursfield dismissed that remark as “just a flippant comment” and an “attempt at humor and nothing else. There definitely is not any attempt to speak to Barclays.”
In another email exchange that September, Mr. Thursfield said that “we are constantly on the offensive to talk down the broker indications.” On the stand Tuesday, he said those were “poorly chosen” words.
A couple of days later, Mr. Bere wrote to Mr. Thursfield and reiterated his desire to get Libor lower. “Assuming you don’t need a high setting for your book…I would appreciate if we could be aggressive with out setting,” Mr. Bere wrote.
“Will continue to push them down,” Mr. Thursfield responded. On the stand, he said Mr. Bere appeared to be asking for Citigroup to take its trading portfolio into account when setting Libor, which he said would be inappropriate. Mr. Thursfield said he wasn’t aware of any misconduct by Citigroup’s Libor submitters.
Citigroup is one of a small handful of large global banks that hasn’t been accused by regulators of trying to manipulate benchmark interest rates, although it has said it is still under investigation. Citigroup fired Mr. Hayes in 2010 after learning that he allegedly was trying to manipulate Libor. Bank executives have since described Mr. Hayes as a lone bad actor.
Mr. Hayes said in a 2013 text message to The Wall Street Journal that “this goes much much higher than me.”