Libor (London interbank offered rate), is meant to represent how much banks pay to borrow from one another. It is also a benchmark for at least US$550 trillion worth of contracts spanning interest rate derivatives to residential mortgages. A scandal erupted after banks were found to be rigging the system. Barclays was fined US$453 million by global regulators in June 2012 for manipulating Libor, and UBS was hit with a US$1.5 billion bill in December 2012. In February 2013, RBS was fined US$612 million to settle US and UK regulatory charges of misconduct, manipulation, attempted manipulation and false reporting of yen, Swiss franc and dollar-denominated Libor.
EU fines five banks and a broker HK$18b for fixing Libor, other rates
European Union antitrust regulators fined six financial institutions including Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Citigroup a record total of €1.71 billion (HK$18 billion) yesterday for rigging financial benchmarks.
They include the London interbank offered rate (Libor), the Tokyo interbank offered rate and the euro area equivalents such as Euribor.
The combined penalty is the biggest yet to be handed down to banks for rigging the benchmarks used to determine the cost of lending, one of the most brazen violations of conduct since the global financial crisis. It is also the highest antitrust penalty ever imposed by the European Commission's competition watchdog.
The other institutions penalised were banks Societe Generale and JPMorgan and brokerage RP Martin.
Deutsche Bank received the biggest fine of €725.36 million.
The commission said it would continue to investigate Credit Agricole, HSBC, JPMorgan and the brokerage ICAP for possible similar offences.
Unlike the six institutions that admitted liability in return for a 10 per cent reduction in their fines, Credit Agricole has refused to settle and will likely face sanctions next year. HSBC has also contested the EU's proposed penalty.
Both banks were expected to be formally charged.
An HSBC spokesman said it would defend itself vigorously in the Euribor case, while Barclays confirmed its co-operation with the commission, which helped it stave off a €690 million sanction.
The benchmarks are used to price hundreds of trillions of dollars in assets ranging from mortgages to derivatives.
"What is shocking about the Libor and Euribor scandals is not only the manipulation of benchmarks … but also the collusion between banks who are supposed to be competing with each other," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.
Deutsche Bank said it had set aside enough money to cover most of the €725 million fine. JPMorgan confirmed that it had a €79.9 million penalty in the Libor case but said it would defend itself in the Euribor case. Societe Generale declined to comment. RBS said its €391 million penalty had been fully provisioned for.
Authorities around the world have so far handed down US$3.7 billion in fines to UBS, RBS, Barclays, Rabobank and ICAP for manipulating rates.