If you're a trader in an investment bank, you might not want to spend your bonus this year. It could be advisable to set it to one side in case you have a huge expenditure in the future. What kind of huge expenditure? - How about a personal fine from the regulator, followed by huge legal costs and the prospect of a decade in prison miles from home?
It happens. It happened to Chris Ashton at Barclays. Ashton was once head of voice spot FX trading at Barclays. He lived in a six-bedroom house with five bathrooms, a study, a games room, a walk-in wardrobe and a dressing room, which cost £1.3m ($1.7m) in 2013. In 2010, aged 36, Ashton made a bonus of £380k. In 2011, Ashton made a bonus of £725k ($925k). However, in 2016 Ashton sold his house, and today - aged 44 - he's teaching children tennis at his local tennis club.
What went wrong? An accusation of currency rigging.
Ashton and around three other traders participated in a chat room jokingly called 'The Cartel,' where they discussed FX benchmarks. In 2016, Ashton personally was fined £920k by the Fed for his part in the group. Yesterday, he and two others (Richard Usher from J.P. Morgan and Rohan Ramchandani from Citi) appeared in court in the U.S. after a 10 week trial for conspiring to fix prices and rig bids in the foreign exchange market. They were found not guilty.
While Usher and Ramchandani had their legal fees paid by the banks they worked for, Barclays left Ashton - who wears a pacemaker - to pay his own way. He sold his house to pay the bills.
Now Ashton and the others want to warn fellow traders of the risks they're taking. In particular, they warn that if you work for a bank in one jurisdiction (eg. a British bank in London, like Ashton) you may be covered by overseas laws - but may never be told of or advised on this.
“Who in England is getting compliance advice on the Sherman [antitrust] Act?”, Sara George, Ashton's lawyer, told the Financial Times. “You tell me any foreign exchange trader who is familiar with the jurisdictions and the law of every single currency they trade. Of course they aren’t, so basically these individuals are sitting ducks for overseas prosecutors,” she added.
Nor can you necessarily expect support from your employer. While Citi and J.P. Morgan stood by their traders, Ashton was left to defend for himself. “They [Barclays] were willing to see Chris go to prison undefended for conduct that happened in the course of his employment for an offence that he hadn’t even heard of,” said George. "He was never given any legal advice, guidance or instruction by Barclays in relation to U.S. law," George said previously.
You have been warned.
Separately, if you're a trader who hasn't fallen foul of the D.O.J and wants to date other people with a similarly unblemished record, you could always try a dating app called Luxy. In a semi-critique of elite dating apps which turns into more of a review of what's out there, the Financial Times discovers that plenty of finance types are on the Luxy app, which advertises itself as, “Tinder, minus the poor people” and tenders to the likes of, 'Irina in France who earns more than $350,000; Jason in Los Angeles who earns above $250,000; and Robert in Seattle who earns more than $750,000.'
Only 10-15% of those who apply to Luxy are accepted. If you don't meet the standard, there's also 'the League,' which screens people on the basis of the industry they work in, their university education and how many LinkedIn connections they have (a known marker of virility). “I hate elitism and it’s a douchey concept in some ways,” says one London finance professional. But, “The reality is I need to save time and I’ve had bad experiences with Tinder — hours of swiping and little reward in terms of meeting someone you vibe with. I don’t have time to go out or socialise midweek and most friends’ friends are not single...I would not have met my girlfriend without it — we have no mutual friends. Essentially I found love.”
Ex-Deutsche Bank CFO Marcus Schenck is making a comeback as an advisory banker at Perella Weinberg Partners. He thinks this offers more freedom than being a CEO. "A corporate executive role comes with things slotted into your calendar that you don’t have much option over." (Financial Times)
Front office headcount at 12 top investment banks has shrunk for eight years running. Nearly 15,000 jobs, or 22% of the total have disappeared. (Bloomberg)
Huw Pill is to retire as chief European economist at Goldman Sachs, aged 50. (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs partner Stephanie Cohen on being a woman in banking: "What I’ve noticed at Goldman Sachs is that men tend to talk about investment opportunities amongst each other." (Observer)
It's become harder to get a post-MBA job in the U.S. if you're not an American citizen. (Financial Times)
Stockpile wine before Brexit. (Quartz)
Kweku Adoboli's last moments in the UK: “They did a bait and switch on the tarmac at Heathrow. They indicated I would be boarding one plane then at the very last moment they forced me on to another so I couldn’t alert friends and family to what was happening.” (Guardian)
When money is at stake, people would rather work with competent jerks than likable fools. (Stanford)
If you work more than 50 hours a week you will expose yourself to psychological trauma (Les Echos)
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