LONDON (Reuters) - Former UBS UBSN.VX trader Kweku Adoboli was accused on Friday of trying to rely on public hostility towards banks as a defence in his rogue-trading trial.
Prosecutor Sasha Wass urged the jury to put aside whatever feelings they may have about the failings of the banking industry and focus on the alleged wrongdoing of Adoboli, 32, who is blamed for a loss of $2.3 billion.
Adoboli, then a senior trader on the Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) desk, was arrested at UBS’s London offices in September last year. He denies four counts of false accounting and two of fraud by abuse of position.
Adoboli admits trading in excess of his risk limits, concealing his positions with fictitious bookings into the accounts, and lying to the back office during the summer of 2011, when he says he “lost control” of his trading due to burnout.
He says he was not acting dishonestly because others sanctioned his methods, which he had been using profitably for years. He also says the bank had pushed him to increase profits in a way it knew could not be achieved by sticking to the official rules.
“Mr Adoboli is relying in his defence on the dislike that many people have of banks or bankers,” Wass told the jury in the final minutes of a lengthy closing speech for the prosecution.
“We love to despise the greed, the recklessness, the arrogance of bankers. Mr Adoboli has sought to cash in on this public mood,” she said.
During the course of his eight days defending himself in the witness box, Adoboli had cited various scandals affecting UBS and other banks as evidence that this was an industry that did not strictly enforce rules or ethical standards.
“I am not here to defend the bankers,” Wass told the jury. “I am here to prosecute one of them.”
She told the jury that none of the witnesses who were employees or ex-employees of UBS had backed up Adoboli’s account of a bank that cared only about profits, no matter how they were made.
“None of those people (the witnesses) fit the mould of the reckless and arrogant banker,” said Wass.
“During this case we’ve seen only one person who fits the cliché of the reckless and arrogant banker, and that is Mr Adoboli himself.”
But launching into the closing speech for the defence after Wass had finished, Adoboli’s lawyer Charles Sherrard made exactly the point she had been seeking to undermine.
Sherrard raced through what he called a “rogues’ gallery of banks”, mentioning to the jury the fall of Lehman Brothers, the bailout of UBS by the Swiss government, the problems at Britain’s Northern Rock and RBS, and the LIBOR interest rate-rigging scandal that has engulfed Barclays.
He argued that what all of these disparate events had in common was “the drive to make money”.
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.