The Cost of Doing Business

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Barclays fined for manipulation of Libor

By Danielle Douglas, Washington Post

Published: June 27

The British bank admits to scheming to manipulate rates to increase profits and hide the reality of its distress during the financial crisis. Regulators suspect Barclays did not act alone, but was part of a larger conspiracy to set artificially low rates for Libor and the Euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor.

The U.S. Commodities Future Trading Commission uncovered evidence of Barclays senior management and numerous traders in London, New York and Tokyo making false reports to improve the bank’s trading position dating to 2005, according to the complaint filed Wednesday. At the height of the recession, the bank submitted low figures to keep rates down and to deflect public scrutiny about its condition.

“When a bank acts in its own self-interest by attempting to manipulate these rates for profit, or by submitting false reports . . . to lower submissions to guard the bank’s reputation, the integrity of benchmark interest rates is undermined,” David Meister, director of enforcement at the CFTC, said in a statement.

Counterparites: Barclays’ $450 million LIBOR settlement

By Ben Walsh, Reuters

June 27, 2012

The importance of Libor and, to a lesser extent, Euribor, is hard to overstate. They are used to value of hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial instruments. Or as Matt Levine puts it, they “set the rates on pretty much all the loans and swaps in the world … CFTC order mentions $350 trillion of [over-the-counter] swaps, $10 trillion of loans, and $437 trillion of CME eurodollar contracts indexed to Libor alone”.

In that context, it’s fair to ask what’s $450 million compared with a scheme like that? Not much, proportionally. And Barclays won’t face criminal prosecutions, because of what the DOJ calls its “extraordinary cooperation”. Individual employees, though, are the subject of ongoing criminal investigation.

This Week in Financial Not-Crime

By: masaccio, Firedog Lake

Wednesday June 27, 2012 1:47 pm

(T)oday we learn that manipulating LIBOR isn’t a crime. Barclays Bank paid $450 million to settle charges that it deliberately manipulated the bench-mark interest rate used to establish how much people pay on $350 billion worth of credit cards, student loans and mortgages. It’s also good news for other banksters who haven’t even been sued, like HSBC, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and other firms that are being looked at by regulators around the world.

Apparently the manipulation ran both ways, to increase the rate artificially for direct profit, and to reflect a lower rate to hide the fact that other banks were charging Barclays more than other banks because of its perceived weakness. Still, it’s hard to see a connection between a $450 million fine and the massive profits that could come by increasing LIBOR even fractionally. If LIBOR were .1% higher on $350 billion of debt, that comes to $350 million per year. The fraud went on for at least 4 years, which in my example means $1.4 billion in profits, all going directly to the bottom line.

Quelle Surprise! Barclays Settlement on Massive Interest Rate Price Fixing Illustrates Bank Crime Pays Well

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Barclays is first to settle, and given the scale and potential profitability of this activity, the fine looks paltry: $450 million among the FSA, the CFTC, and the Department of Justice (£230 million to the US authorities, £60 million to the FSA). The DOJ has granted “conditional leniency” on anti-trust charges. Price fixing is criminal under the Sherman Act. Four top executives, including CEO Bob Diamond are also giving up bonuses this year.

But all we need to do is contrast this case with the municipal bid-rigging prosecution described by Matt Taibbi in the current Rolling Stone. Here you have three individuals at GE Capital going to jail for price fixing, which is crime under the Sherman Act. But they were merely the arms and legs of big banks. Where were the prosecutions of the higher ups, or of the senior officers of banks who were in on this con? We see the same pattern over and over: justice is meted out only on the foot soldiers, those far enough away from the executive ranks so as not to call into question the integrity of the system. The irony of it all is the public is well aware of how crooked the financial services industry is (the poll data alone is proof). But for the elites, it is vital that they not admit that something is rotten in Denmark, for if they did, they’d have to do something about it.

A Huge Break in the LIBOR Banking Investigation

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

POSTED: June 28, 10:15 AM ET

This is unbelievable, shocking stuff. A sizable chunk of the world’s adjustable-rate investment vehicles are pegged to Libor, and here we have evidence that banks were tweaking the rate downward to massage their own derivatives positions. The consequences for this boggle the mind. For instance, almost every city and town in America has investment holdings tied to Libor. If banks were artificially lowering the rates to beef up their trading profiles, that means communities all over the world were cheated out of ungodly amounts of money.

First there were huge bid-rigging settlements for Chase, UBS, Bank of America, GE and Wachovia. Now we’ve got a $450 million settlement for Barclays for Libor manipulation, and one imagines this won’t be the end of it. Anyway, more on this to come soon, and if you’re wondering, yes, there should be a lot more press on this.

UK probing more banks for interest rate fixing

By ROBERT BARR, Associated Press

20 minutes ago

Osborne said Barclays was not the only bank to be involved in market fixing. Beyond the U.K., there are also investigations in several countries involving numerous global banking groups.

“Banks were clearly acting in concert,” said Andrew Tyrie, a British lawmaker who chairs the influential Treasury Committee in the House of Commons. “I fear it’s not going to be the end of the story, that we are going to find that other banks have been involved.”

“If Bob Diamond had a scintilla of shame, he would resign,” said Matthew Oakshott, a member of the House of Lords. “If Barclays’ board had an inch of backbone between them, they would sack him.”

Prime Minister David Cameron, when asked whether Diamond should resign, said he thinks “the whole management team have got some serious questions to answer. Let them answer those questions first.”

The massive fines are unlikely to be the end of the pain for Barclays. The cost of lawsuits related to the LIBOR scandal will likely be bigger, said Sandy Chen, banking analyst at Cenkos Securities.

“Since Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group have also been named in lawsuits, we expect they will also face significant fines and damages. We are penciling in multi-year provisions that could run into the billions,” Chen said.

Leading article: A sick banking culture that cannot be tolerated

The Independent

Friday 29 June 2012

Politicians have attempted with varying degrees of rigour to introduce rules preventing a recurrence. Mostly, in the face of determined lobbying by the banks (led in the UK by Barclays), they have retreated or watered down their proposed measures. But it is obvious now that the authorities are only scratching at the surface: a far stronger hand is required.

For a start, they should act immediately and decisively. Fining a bank has little effect: what is required is the naming and shaming and driving from office of those involved. The era of entitlement – something we hear an awful lot about in relation to those at the other end of society, on benefits – must be brought to an end for bankers. Incredibly, only one UK top banker has been punished for his bank’s role in provoking the credit crunch: Fred Goodwin lost his job and subsequently, his knighthood. Now, with a second storm engulfing the sector, that cannot be allowed to happen again. Light-touch regulation and, with it, light-touch penalties should be banished. In that respect, Bob Diamond is right: the time for mere remorse is well and truly over.

Barclays Libor fix trail leads to senior managers

By Sarah White, Reuters

Wed Jun 27, 2012 6:09pm EDT

Staff responsible for submitting rates in some instances told colleagues of “internal political” pressure to set these low, the FSA’s report shows.

Barclays “senior management at high levels” became concerned over the media scrutinizing the bank’s funding access early in the financial crisis, in August 2007.

“Senior management’s concerns in turn resulted in instructions being given by less senior managers at Barclays to reduce Libor submissions in order to avoid negative media comment,” the UK’s FSA said in its report. “The origin of these instructions is unclear.”

The U.S. CFTC said specific instructions to lower submissions came from “senior Barclays Treasury managers”. They asked submitters to provide rates at a level where Barclays wouldn’t be “sticking its head above the parapet”.

Can Bob Diamond hang on after Barclays Libor scandal?

Nils Pratley, The Guardian

Wednesday 27 June 2012 11.37 EDT

Barclays tried to manipulate a $550tn market for almost half a decade. Internal controls and risk management functions were inadequate. The compliance department failed to do its job. The bank’s actions created the risk that the stability of the UK financial system would be threatened.

Add up that collection of misdemeanours and even £290m of fines, plus a voluntary waiving of boardroom bonuses, is woefully inadequate. The outside world will want to know why no director of Barclays has offered his resignation.

None of the various regulators’ reports suggest that Diamond or any other executive director at Barclays knew what was going on – they, we must assume, are not the “senior management” referred to in the FSA report who gave instructions to reduce Libor submissions. But should the top brass have known what was going on? Why doesn’t the buck stop at the top when the reputation of the bank has been so badly damaged?

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