Barclays paying $453 mln to settle Libor probe

WASHINGTON/LONDON, June 28: UK bank Barclays will pay 453 million dollar to US and British authorities to settle allegations that it manipulated key interest rates, increasing pressure on other banks to cooperate in a probe that could cost the financial industry billions of dollars.
The settlement raises fresh questions about the reliability of the London interbank offered r ate, or Libor,
which underpins some 360 trillion dollar of loans and financial contracts.
The attempted manipulation, which according to authorities
took place from 2005 through 2009, meant that millions of borrowers paid too little or too much interest on their debt.
The US government implicated senior executives at Barclays
in its settlement. It cited reams of emails that showed how the bank sought to move Libor rates to profit on trades and to hide its high borrowing costs during the financial crisis.
Barclays Chief Executive Bob Diamond acknowledged on Wednesday that the settlement would damage customer trust in the ba nk. He said he and other senior executives would forgo their bonuses this year. Much of the improper trading and manipulation occurred under the watch of Diamond, a fixed-income trader who replaced John Varley as CEO in 2011.
Libor underlies everything from derivatives trades to U.S.
consumer credit card rates to loans as far afield as those financing Turkish phone networks. Barclays also tried to manipulate Euribor, a separately managed series of euro-denominated rates.
The bank settled on a civil basis with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the US Department of Justice and the UK’s Financial Services Authority. The Justice Department
is still conducting a criminal investigation.
The broader Libor probe dates to at least 2011 and includes Japanese, Canadian and Swiss authorities.
Last year, Swiss bank UBS AG agreed to cooperate with US investigators in exchange for conditional immunity from pr osecution. Ea rlier this year, in court documents filed in Ontario Superior Court, a Canadian antitrust regulator said that a ‘cooperating party’ had provided information on how the a lleg ed Libor manipulation took place.
The Barclays settlement puts pressure on other banks to follow suit, a former US prosecutor said.
‘I don’t think there is any question that the industry’s total cost when you throw in class actions, regulatory settlements, going-forward compliance and even the professional fees associated with the defense of these matters, will be well into the tens of billions of dollars,’ said Jacob Frenkel, a partner at Shulman Rogers in Potomac, Maryland.
Investigators were helped by the extensive email traffic among Barclays employees involved. In one email, after a Barclays swaps trader asked for low levels to be reported on certain short-term rates, an employee who submitted rates for
the survey responded by email, ‘Done … For you big boy …’
Market participants said that fewer traders have faith in
Libor as a benchmark now.
‘There isn’t really a lot of trust in the way Libor is calculated as … There were some banks who used to manipulate
the rates just to get better conditions in the money market,’
said ING rat e st rategist Alessandro Giansanti in Amsterdam.
The series of interest rates are determined based on a daily poll of banks regarding their estimated borrowing costs. Libor is so deeply entrenched in financial markets that there are few plausible alternatives, experts have said.


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