The Spider Network


David Enrich, Custom House, 508 pages, $29.99. Of all the financial schemes and crises of the past decade, it may seem at first glance hard to imagine a mainstream, Hollywood-ready hit about the Libor scandal, the manipulation from the mid-2000s through 2012 by traders and bankers of the London Interbank Offered Rate. But David Enrich’s “The Spider Network: The Wild Story of a Math Genius, a Gang of Backstabbing Bankers and One of the Greatest Scams in Financial History” makes headway, thanks in part to his unprecedented access to the alleged mastermind of the scandal: Tom Hayes. The gifted, eccentric derivatives trader, after working first for UBS and then Citigroup, was convicted in 2015 of manipulating Libor and is serving an 11-year sentence in Britain. The book grew out of an award-winning series Enrich wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 2015, and the tale portrays the Libor manipulation affair as hardly the work of one man, but a widespread and systemic manipulation game practiced by an entire network of brokers, bankers and traders. In Hayes, Enrich has a gift of a character, and he paints a nuanced, complicated picture of a socially awkward math genius diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. While the book is a feat of reporting, and much of it reads like a novel, it suffers at times from too broad a spider network of its own. The cast of characters is by necessity large, but Enrich does not always distinguish between those who merit in-depth development and those who do. But Enrich’s keen eye for detail make for a compelling portrait of a gifted but troubled man.