UBS fined HK$12b for rigging global interest rates

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 3:19am

UBS, Switzerland's biggest bank, must pay about 1.4 billion Swiss francs (HK$11.84 billion) to US, British and Swiss regulators for trying to rig global interest rates, triple the penalties levied against Barclays.

Fines from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the United States Department of Justice total US$1.2 billion, UBS said yesterday. It will pay £160 million (HK$2.01 billion) to the British Financial Services Authority (FSA), the largest fine imposed by that regulator, and disgorge 59 million francs in estimated profits to the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.

"Clearly, this chapter isn't positive," UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti told reporters. "We want to move forward and I think we're showing our determination in the bank to move forward and to change the bank for good. It's important to recognise mistakes like we do today, but it's also important to recognise that the bank has changed."

About 30 to 40 people have left the bank as a result of the investigations, Ermotti said, adding that the behaviour of certain employees was "unacceptable." No more departures are expected.

Global authorities are investigating claims that more than a dozen banks altered submissions used to set benchmarks such as the London interbank offered rate (Libor) to profit from bets on interest-rate derivatives or make the lenders' finances appear healthier. Barclays, Britain's second-biggest bank, agreed to pay £290 million in June to resolve the American and British Libor probes.

The British finance regulator found more than 2,000 documented requests by UBS traders to manipulate rates in chat messages and group e-mails, and that at least 45 people at the bank knew of the practice over a six-year period until the end of 2010. Bank employees colluded with interdealer brokers and paid them bribes to help manipulate Yen Libor submissions by other banks, the FSA said in a statement.

Libor, a benchmark for more than US$300 trillion of financial products worldwide, is derived from a survey of banks conducted each day on behalf of the British Bankers' Association in London. Lenders are asked how much it would cost them to borrow from one another for 15 different periods, from overnight to one year, in various currencies.