Fearful banks aid EU interest rate inquiry

Tue, Jul 31, 2012, 01:00

SEVERAL BANKS under investigation for suspected rigging of euro interest rates are co-operating with EU anti-trust regulators in the hope of lower fines, two sources familiar with the matter said yesterday.

The decision by the banks to disclose more about their knowledge of possible manipulation of the Euro Interbank Offered Rate (Euribor) is effectively an admission of wrongdoing and illustrates growing nervousness that they face a heavy penalty. The European Commission is investigating possible manipulation of Euribor, the benchmark used when pricing bank lending in euro.

The EU watchdog has not disclosed the names of the banks being investigated, which could face fines of up to 10 per cent of their global revenues if found to have breached EU antitrust rules.Earlier this month, sources said Deutsche Bank was already co-operating with the authorities. Fines for those who co-operate with an investigation can be reduced by 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

The lender had revenues last year of €33.2 billion. “Several banks have come forward with information to the commission, said one of the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

This person declined to provide more details. The second person said there could be at least two banks, besides Deutsche Bank, which have sought leniency under the European Commission’s scheme to encourage whistleblowers.

US and British authorities have already fined Barclays $453 million for manipulating Libor, a similar rate based on how much banks charge to lend to each other in other currencies including US dollars and sterling. More banks are expected to be drawn into the Libor investigation. – (Reuters)