Ex-BlackRock fund manager Mark Lyttleton has been given a 12-month sentence, including six months in jail, after previously pleading guilty to two counts of insider trading made in 2011.
He received a sentence of 12 months, to start immediately, of which six months will be spent in prison and the remainder out on licence.
The manager, who was once responsible for over £2bn at BlackRock including the UK Dynamic and UK Absolute Alpha funds, attended a sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court today.
Lyttleton (pictured) pleaded guilty to the two counts of insider trading related to equity trades and a call option at a London court on 2 November. He was arrested in April 2013, after resigning from his role a month before.
In court this morning, the former fund manager's barrister Patrick Gibbs QC said: "The first thing Mr Lyttleton wishes me to say, and very publicly say, is that he is sorry.
"He is sorry to all those he has let down. He has embarrassed his wife, he has embarrassed his family, he has embarrassed his employer and colleagues. Looking back now, he can only think 'what on earth was I doing?'"
Speaking in Lyttleton's defence, Gibbs said the manager "was not himself at the time". For all his success and the confidence attached to him, "by the end of 2011 he was a man, in effect, of mental freefall", he said.
Gibbs added that in his business life, Lyttleton was suffering from a diminished position at BlackRock.
"He was a 'big thing' - he has stayed with the same organisation for the whole of his career," he said. "The environment involves long hours, high pressure and high rewards if successful. He was at the height of his career at the beginning of 2009, but went from a 'hero' to a 'liability' by end of 2011. The fund was going down and investors were withdrawing. The pressures created by this huge financial machine may be difficult to understand outside the extraordinary world of the City."
Gibbs noted the manager had taken a sabbatical in the summer of 2012, and at his lowest, he failed to seek medical advice.
"If he had, he may not be standing here. What he did was bad but he was in a terrible state. He should have stopped working and been given something for 'generalised anxiety disorder'," he said.
Gibbs said Lyttleton accepts what he did is extremely serious, but said there was no impact on any of BlackRock's clients.
"The amounts traded were insignificant in market terms and he has not put clients at risk for his own profit.
"He did not receive the information directly as a result of a relationship of trust. He has not transgressed over a lengthy period. The 'complex web', the sophistication of layers of offshore arrangements and different institutions used, were not his sophistication."
However, prosecuting barrister Zoe Johnson QC argued: "Clearly these offences were premeditated and dishonest but what remains a mystery is why such a successful fund manager would descend into criminality. He certainly did not need the money."
She added that his recent performance was waning and he may have been looking for ways to be a 'star' fund manager once again.
"Perhaps this was an expression of power," she said.
Last month, Lyttleton admitted he was able to discover inside information during his role on the fundamental equity team at BlackRock, by working on the deals related to these stocks or being party to conversations conducted by colleagues.
The two stocks concerned are EnCore Oil (between 1 October 2011 and 13 October 2011) and Cairn Energy (between 4 November 2011 and 17 December 2011).
The former manager used the inside information to trade the companies' shares a short time before any public announcements were made, conducting this through an overseas asset manager trading on behalf of a Panamanian-registered company.
Reports at the time of his arrest revealed the manager was detained by the City of London Police on 30 April 2013 as part of a market abuse probe launched by the FCA.
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