The London Inter-Bank Offer Rate (LIBOR) manipulation scandal involving Barclays Bank (BCS-P) has now opened up a global probe, as investigators from the United States, Europe, Canada, and Asia try to figure out exactly what happened. While Barclays may have the settled the allegations for $450 million with the UK’s Financial Services Authority, the US Department of Justice, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, now a number of other financial firms are under investigation including UBS AG (UBS), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse Group (CS), Citigroup Inc., Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, HSBC Holdings PLC (HBC-PA), Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LYG), Rabobank Groep NV, Mizuho Financial Group Inc. (MFG), Societe Generale SA, RP Martin Holdings Ltd., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., and Royal Bank of Scotland PLC (RBS).
In the last few weeks, the accuracy of LIBOR, which is the average borrowing cost when banks in Britain loan money to each other, has come into question in the wake of allegations that Barclays and other big banks have been rigging it by submitting artificially low borrowing estimates. Considering that LIBOR is a benchmark interest rates that affects hundreds of trillions of dollars in financial contracts, including floating-rate mortgages, interest-rate swaps, and corporate loans globally, the fact that this type of financial fudging may be happening on a wide scale basis is disturbing.
“It’s my understanding the total financial paper effected by LIBOR is close to $500 trillion dollars. This is a half-quadrillion dollars if you are wondering about the next step up,” said Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP Founder and Institutional Investment Fraud Attorney William Shepherd.
Barclays contends that its manipulation of borrowing estimates could not alone have dramatically influenced the final labor rate. The bank claims that it submitted low borrowing costs that were artificial because it suspected that this is what other banks were doing and it didn’t want to look like it was in financial trouble by comparison.
“In the US, these allegations could fall under the Sherman Anti-trust and/or the Clayton Unfair Trade Practices Acts, said Securities Lawyer Shepherd. “The recovery possible under such legislation could reach triple damages, plus legal fees and costs.”
A slew of securities lawsuits, including class actions and regulator complaints, against some of these banks under investigation, are likely. CNN reports that already, attorneys general in Massachusetts, Florida, New York, and Connecticut are investigating the LIBOR rate-setting scandal. There may be a variety of plaintiff types, including municipal governments and investment firms.
“Institutions are usually the subject of such actions, which are also federal crime statutes, but individuals can also be held liable,” said Stockbroker Fraud Attorney Shepherd. “The allegations cover more than just price-fixing or predatory pricing and involve multiple acts of price manipulation among institutions (legally an “enterprise”), such that racketeering (RICO) laws could also apply.”
Banks belonging to the LIBOR panels will likely become defendants of criminal complaints, regulator complaints, and huge class actions. For now, they in turn, have been blaming the central banks and regulators.
States weighing Libor scandal suit, CNN, July 16, 2012
Who Else Is Under Investigation for Libor Manipulation?, The Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2012
The Worst Banking Scandal Yet?, Bloomberg, July 12, 2012
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