It turns out that the former Citigroup and UBS banker can’t entirely rely on the “everybody was doing it so I had no idea it was illegal” argument at his trial. But he could have if only he hadn’t done some shady dealings with someone who couldn’t speak English clearly.
Mr. Hayes, a former UBS AG and Citigroup Inc. trader on trial for trying to rig benchmark interest rates, told investigators with the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office that he had engaged in what he described as “collusive” behavior with Deutsche Bank AG trader Guillaume Adolph…. Mr. Hayes nicknamed his rival Deutsche Bank trader “Gollum” because he had trouble pronouncing Mr. Adolph’s first name. In a June 2009 electronic chat, Mr. Adolph asked for Mr. Hayes’s mobile-phone number. The pair then spoke for several minutes, before picking up the conversation on the chat program after Mr. Hayes’s phone died. Mr. Hayes then recounted in writing the arrangement they had hammered out over the phone, in which the traders would coordinate their banks’ submissions to the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, to benefit both of their trading positions. “Basically I will help you in two weeks time,” Mr. Hayes wrote. “Perfect,” Mr. Adolph responded before repeatedly telling Mr. Hayes to stop discussing their plans in writing. Eventually Mr. Hayes said “I’ll shut up now….” Four years later, Mr. Hayes explained to SFO investigators that he had put the arrangement in writing because Mr. Adolph’s heavy French accent made it difficult to understand exactly what he had said. “What an idiot,” Mr. Hayes said of himself...In general, Mr. Hayes said, “I knew I was operating in a gray area…but I couldn’t point you to an explicit thing I was breaking. With the Guillaume thing…I blatantly knew I shouldn’t have done that.”
Or perhaps some French Rosetta Stone tapes might've helped. Hindsight!