...a gripping narrative focused on Tom Hayes, a math whiz from a dysfunctional West London family who decides early on that he wants to work on Wall Street and make a lot of money ... His impressive reporting and writing chops are on full display in The Spider Network, a vastly expanded version of his original Journal series about the scandal. From the start, the book reads like a fast-paced John le Carré thriller, and never lets up ... To Enrich’s considerable credit, he does his very best to remain objective about the Libor scandal and Hayes’s principal role in causing it to happen. (It turned out the practice of manipulating Libor was more widespread than what Hayes and his various accomplices were doing.) But Enrich is human, and it’s clear that Hayes has captivated him. Not in a bad way, mind you, and not in a way that makes you question the accuracy of what is presented.
It’s an entertaining and outrageous story, full of smiling scum who pride themselves on being cool, fun-loving guys as they screw over 99 percent of the population, but it’s also a tough one to begin. The first 75 pages of this sizable tome often require delving into arcane and unavoidably dry financial explanations, simply to do the legwork necessary for all the nefarious subsequent wheeling and dealing to make sense. Enrich does his best with this material, but in the early going, it can bring the momentum to a standstill. Still, once that’s over, his breezy and occasionally soapy prose fits the subject matter when he’s detailing the strange aspects of Hayes’ private life and delving into the chummy but loyalty-free nature of Hayes’ associates, whom Enrich captures with an artful eye.
Mr. Enrich effectively uses the unique access he secured to the mildly autistic UBS trader, Tom Hayes, who became the fall guy for the unfolding scandal, to produce a surprisingly human narrative. But as entertaining as the colorful character portraits are, what makes The Spider Network truly memorable are the portraits of the various institutions that made the scandal not just possible but inevitable ... The Spider Network is at its most compelling when describing the quotidian activities of the “network” of traders and brokers who tirelessly concocted strategies to influence the benchmark rate ... Mr. Enrich’s intense sympathy for Mr. Hayes — his 14-year sentence is wildly disproportionate to his responsibility for the system’s corruption — has positive and negative consequences for the book ... a vivid depiction of the ethos of the core financial institutions upon which the global economy depends.