LIBOR just keeps getting bigger by the day, like a wildfire.
US lawmakers have raised concerns that the alleged manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, may have harmed households, raising the stakes on a scandal that thus far has been confined to Wall Street and the City of London.
There are at least 900,000 outstanding US home loans indexed to Libor that were originated from 2005 to 2009, the period the key lending gauge may have been rigged, investigators have said. Those mortgages carry an unpaid principal balance of $275bn, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bank regulator.
During periods when banks were allegedly attempting to push Libor higher, households with loans tied to the gauge may have paid higher rates than necessary. However, if the rate was manipulated lower, households may have benefited from paying below-market interest rates.
“I think the US government should be just as aggressive in getting to the bottom of this scandal as the United Kingdom has been,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, chair of the bank regulatory subcommittee on the Senate banking committee.
“This was not isolated to London, but affected tens of millions of investors, borrowers and taxpayers in our country as well,” Mr Brown added.
One area we hope will be investigated is the impact on TALF borrowing. Some of the loans were priced off Libor, raising the specter that the banks might have gamed the rates not just for advertising purposes, but to game these programs. From the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s website:
The interest rate on TALF loans secured by ABS backed by federally guaranteed student loans will be 50 basis points over 1-month LIBOR. The interest rate on TALF loans secured by SBA Pool Certificates will be the federal funds target rate plus 75 basis points. The interest rate on TALF loans secured by SBA Development Company Participation Certificates will be 50 basis points over the 3-year LIBOR swap rate for three-year TALF loans and 50 basis points over the 5-year LIBOR swap rate for five-year TALF loans. For three-year TALF loans secured by other eligible fixed-rate ABS, the interest rate will be 100 basis points over the 1-year LIBOR swap rate for securities with a weighted average life less than one year, 100 basis points over the 2-year LIBOR swap rate for securities with a weighted average life greater than or equal to one year and less than two years, or 100 basis points over the 3-year LIBOR swap rate for securities with a weighted average life of two years or greater. For TALF loans secured by private student loan ABS bearing a prime-based coupon, the interest rate will be the higher of 1 percent and the rate equal to “Prime Rate” (as defined in the MLSA) minus 175 basis points. For other TALF loans secured by other eligible floating-rate ABS, the interest rate will be 100 basis points over 1-month LIBOR.
Note again that some of the loans were priced off one-month Libor, which per the Barclays disclosures, were among the maturities manipulated; these are clearly a place to start [..]
In the aftermath of the Barclays rate-fixing scandal, the most surprising reaction has been from people in the financial sector who fully understand the awfulness of what has happened. Rather than seeing this as an issue of law and order, some well-informed people have been drawn toward arguments that excuse or justify the behavior of the Barclays employees.
This is a big mistake, in terms of the economics at stake and the likely political impact.
The behavior at Barclays has all the hallmarks of fraud – intentional deception for personal gain, causing significant damage to others.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission nailed the detailed mechanics of this deception in plain English in its Order Instituting Proceedings (which is also a settlement and series of admissions by Barclays). Most of the compelling quotes from traders involved in this scandal come from the commission’s order, but too few commentators seem to have read the full document. Please look at it now, if you have not done so already.
The commission’s order portrays a wide-ranging conspiracy (or perhaps a set of conspiracies) to rig markets, including, but not limited to, any securities for which the price is linked to a particular set of short-term interest rates.
This past weekend on Up with Chris Hayes, Chris and his panel guests discuss the rate rigging scandal.