Photo: James Davies
Two former National Australia Bank traders have been jailed over their roles in the $326 million rogue trading scandal that rocked Australia's largest bank.
Judge Geoff Chettle of the Victorian County Court sentenced one of the traders, David Bullen, to an effective sentence of 44 months with a minimum of 30 months to be served before he is eligible for release on good behaviour.
Judge Chettle sentenced Vince Ficarra to a term of imprisonment of 28 months with a minimum of 15 months to be served before he is eligible for release on good behaviour.
Ficarra, 27, of North Fitzroy, and Bullen, 34, of Eversley near Ballarat, were found guilty in May on a string of charges related to the unauthorised trading on NAB's foreign exchange options desk, which cost the bank $326 million in 2003/04.
In sentencing Bullen, Judge Chettle told the court the two traders and the rest of their team saw themselves as "invincible".
"In the corporate culture that existed, you forgot your legal responsibilities to the bank, its management and its shareholders," Judge Chettle said.
"General deterrence must be the principal sentencing consideration for crimes such as yours."
Judge Chettle said that, despite their crimes, Bullen and Ficarra showed good prospects for rehabilitation.
He said Bullen had made full admissions of his criminal conduct and when he gave evidence at his trial, had effectively made a complete confession.
"So far as you are concerned Bullen, it appears that you embraced Buddhism somewhere around 2002 and your conduct in contesting the trial springs largely from a peculiar and particular philosophical approach you have to life rather than out of any real denial as to your conduct.
"You, Ficarra, attempted to convince the jury that your conduct was not dishonest."
Judge Chettle said that because Bullen lived in a rural area, he was not eligible to be considered for home detention.
The judge said he had reduced the sentence he would otherwise impose to reflect the fact that Bullen would not be able to benefit from home detention but would otherwise be eligible for it.
"Your criminal conduct was extensive," Judge Chettle said.
"You were a senior trader and knew full well that your conduct was illegal.
"Your conduct continued over many months. However, on the other hand, to your credit you co-operated fully with the authorities."
Judge Chettle said he accepted that Bullen's offending occurred "in a culture of profit-driven morality".
"Your employment required you to take risks in order to achieve the projections and targets set for your desk.
"To further your career, you had to succeed."
Judge Chettle said he accepted Ficarra was the most junior of the offenders at the NAB foreign exchange options desk, that his role was "largely mechanical" and that he carried out the instructions of his superior Luke Duffy.
"You were not the author or architect of any of the dishonest conduct but had an active role in entering the false foreign exchange spot trade transactions because you were the member of the team performing early duty at a time that the false entries had to be made in order for the fraud to be perpetrated.
"Further, I note that you were not charged with the option offences unlike your three co-offenders."
Judge Chettle accepted Ficarra's crime took place "in a culture where profit and loss distortion had occurred in the past and where risk-taking was an inherent part of your occupational duties".
"I also accept that profit was perceived as being the be-all and end-all of business and that you somehow became swept up and carried along by the personality of Mr Duffy.
"You became enmeshed in the culture that saw you seeing yourselves as invincible and somewhat arrogant."
Judge Chettle said he had taken into account matters in Ficarra's favour but to some extent Ficarra's statement had indicated a lack of remorse for his crimes in that he still maintained that some of the arguments he raised during the course of his trial were valid arguments.
The judge said it was clear the jury had rejected these arguments beyond reasonable doubt.
Judge Chettle said he was unable to accede to a request by Ficarra that he be sentenced to home detention.
Some of the assertions made by Ficarra during his trial had indicated that he had almost come to believe "some of the more ridiculous propositions" he had asserted, Judge Chettle said.
On May 27 after a lengthy trial, Bullen was found guilty of 17 of 19 charges of gaining financial advantage for himself and others, along with one count of gaining financial advantage by deception.
Ficarra was found guilty of all charges - 12 of gaining financial advantage for himself and others and one of gaining financial advantage by deception.
In June last year, the former head of the desk, Duffy, was sentenced to 29 months in prison with a minimum term of 16 months for his part in the scandal.
Duffy, then 36 and of Albert Park, and a fourth trader Gianni Gray, 36, of Port Melbourne, had pleaded guilty to three charges of dishonestly using their position for personal gain.
Gray was sentenced to 16 months jail in April this year and ordered to serve a minimum of eight months.
The four men were involved in unauthorised trading that resulted in Australia's biggest bank taking a $326 million hit in January 2004 as it scurried to close down the losing positions taken by the trading desk