Of all the scandals uncovered during the financial crisis and its aftermath, the biggest were those related to the setting of Libor, a key benchmark interest rate. Banks had, it turned out, colluded to fix this number in their own interests and had to pay billions in fines as a result. Barclays’ CEO Bob Diamond was forced to resign.
The loss of confidence as a result of the exposure of collusion led to more investigations, revealing even more blatant manipulation. However, up until last year, only one person had been jailed: the trader Tom Hayes. It’s telling that, despite the mountain of evidence against him, and the fact that he initially confessed to regulators, the authors feel Hayes’s decision to fight the charges was justified as he nevertheless had a chance of winning.
The book does consider the wider issue of corruption in finance and argues the problems are systemic. But the main focus is on Hayes and his downfall. The authors have an eye for juicy anecdotes and skilfully avoid drowning the reader in too much detail. The light style helps convey the often farcical nature of what happened and means the book is the sort of thing you could get through on a long train ride.
While the “filmic” and “clunky” nature of some of the passages “grate”, says Patrick Jenkins in the FT, “the account as a whole hangs together well and rarely lacks pace”. The book “may leave some readers wanting more” detail, says Dominic Elliott for Reuters BreakingViews, but “its skewering of regulators makes it an essential account”.