February 14, 2017 / 8:23 PM / 6 months ago

Ex-Rabobank trader spared prison for cooperating in U.S. Libor probe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday spared a former Rabobank trader from prison after he cooperated in a U.S. probe into how traders manipulated Libor, the leading benchmark for pricing financial transactions, to the bank's advantage.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan imposed the no-prison sentence on Lee Stewart, 53, citing the British citizen's decision to cooperate with the U.S. Justice Department.

"I'd just like to apologize for my terrible behavior," said Stewart, known at the bank as the "Ambassador." He pleaded guilty in March 2015 to conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud.

Libor, or the London interbank offered rate, underpins trillions of dollars of financial products and is based on what banks believe they would pay if they borrowed from other banks.

Various probes into whether banks manipulated Libor have led to roughly $9 billion in global settlements with financial institutions as well as U.S. and UK criminal cases against several people.

Stewart and six other former Rabobank traders were charged by the Justice Department after the bank reached a $1 billion settlement in 2013 to resolve related U.S. and European probes.

Prosecutors said they participated in a scheme with others to rig the U.S. dollar and yen Libor rates to benefit Rabobank's trading positions, in which traders sought to influence the bank's Libor submissions.

Stewart, a former derivatives trader, testified for the prosecution against two other British ex-Rabobank traders, Anthony Allen, the Dutch bank's former global head of liquidity and finance, and Anthony Conti, a former senior trader.

A federal jury found Allen, 45, and Conti, 47, guilty in November 2015, and Rakoff sentenced them to two years and one year in prison, respectively, in March 2016. Both are appealing.

Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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