The trader who had it all, and lost it all
Tom Hayes' life has changed. Before he went to prison, when he worked as a trader for UBS and Citi, he was one of the top rates traders in the world. He didn’t have one Mercedes, he had five. He had a wife, a child, a 7-bedroom house in Surrey. He was feted by global banks that wanted to hire him and that flew him to New York and wined and dined him to gain his favour.
Today, Tom has lost his money, his marriage, and his health. “I went from being very, very wealthy to having nothing,” he says. After five and a half years in prison for manipulating the LIBOR rate, he’s developed multiple sclerosis, is divorced and was the subject of an £879k possession order. Today, he lives in a flat owned by his parents in London's Docklands, where he's had to learn how to occupy space again. “In prison, I did everything in one room,” he says. “When you’re in a cell for five years and you wash, sleep, do everything in a small space, it’s difficult to get out of the habit. My mum would be like, ‘Don’t you want to use the dining room?’”
As the drum beats again for layoffs in investment banks, Hayes says there are worse things than losing your seven-figure finance job. “Being laid off is not extreme,” he says. “Having your cellmate throttle you is extreme. Things that I used to lose sleep over, like late trains are not important. My dream isn’t to have five cars again; my dream is to walk in the park with my kid.”
Hayes spent half a decade in prison and was sentenced to 11 years. Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to 11 years in prison for fraud last week, but beyond the sentence lengths, there’s little comparison. Holmes’ prison stay will be spent at an open prison, but Hayes was in some of the UK’s most brutal institutions, including Wandsworth and Belmarsh. “It’s a quick way to bring you back down to earth,” he says. “You’re in a three-man cell in Belmarsh and are forced to defecate in front of two other human beings, one of whom is in there for attacking someone with a machine gun.”
It could have been different. When Hayes’ case went to court aged 34 in 2015, he was given an exit option: he could have given evidence against his co-defendants (all of whom were acquitted) and received a three-year sentence, of which 14 months would have been spent in an open prison. “I wasn’t prepared to do that,” he says. His colleagues went free and Hayes lost more than he’d ever imagined.
He says no amount of money can ever make up for this. “Ten years ago, if you told me what would happen and that I would get $20m in compensation at the end of the process, I would say no to the money. Nor is any monetary compensation forthcoming anyway. But he wouldn’t change anything, and he’s not bitter. Not anymore. “I was very bitter, but I came to terms with it,” he says. “- There’s no point. Being angry and bitter is like drinking poison.” He has a therapist; his therapist says he should get out and talk to someone every day.
When Hayes was bitter, his bitterness was directed at the UBS and the bosses who threw him under a bus. “All my managers knew everything I did,” he maintains. Hayes doesn’t say so himself, but there’s a possible whiff of classism about his sacrifice – in a world where traders are increasingly drawn from the middle and upper middle classes, Hayes was a bit of rough. He grew up with a single mother in London’s Shepherd’s Bush. There was intelligence – his mother was a researcher for former Prime Minister Gordon Brown – but there wasn’t much money. When he was hired into one banking role on a large financial package, Hayes said colleagues openly referred to him as a barrow boy. At the time, that sort of thing didn’t seem to matter – “The great thing about finance is that it’s a meritocracy: if you make money, you do ok.” In retrospect, maybe it did.
Hayes has been diagnosed with autism. While he says his condition doesn’t mean he’s the “unusual Aspie” or mathematical genius that some accounts have made him out to be, it has possibly lent him the persistence necessary to fight to prove his innocence. Seven years after the original court case, nearly two years after he was released from prison and after one failed appeal request, he’s determined not to give up. Most of his time is spent on his case. “This is a war I’m in,” says Hayes. “And you can’t be in a war part-time. A large part of my life is spent finding documents for lawyers and working on legal arguments.”
A front in that war was won last month when Hayes had the charges against him dismissed in the US. A January US appeals court decision to clear Deutsche Bank FX traders Matthew Connolly and Gavin Black of wire fraud, suggests the broader battle may be turning in favour of wronged traders. Connolly is now suing DB for $150m, but Hayes says he doesn’t expect monetary compensation. He does expect to clear his name.
And when he does? He won’t go back into banking. But maybe he’d go to a fund: he still watches the markets.
For Hayes, working in banking transformed his life. Before he got an internship at UBS, he worked an 80 hour week earning £2.70 an hour in a kitchen. He studied maths and engineering at the University of Nottingham. Trading was great, until it wasn’t.
To anyone else who finds themselves in his situation, Hayes has several pieces of advice: communicate in writing, take contemporaneous notes during conversations on the alleged offense, and get your own lawyer. “Do not go into any interviews without your own lawyer, who you’re paying for yourself,” he says. “I went to interviews being told by the COO that I had nothing to worry about and that I wouldn’t lose my job. The next thing I knew, they had fired me.”
Hayes is still in touch with people from his finance career. When a disaster befalls you, he says you find out who your friends are and they're not always the people you thought. But he also has new friends, including murderers and people convicted of other violent crimes. There are a lot of millionaires in prison, says Hayes: "You meet more millionaires in prison than anywhere else."
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