Fordham Law


Big Banks Fined $2.3B Over Illegal Libor Cartels, More Fines On The Way

Mark Patterson in Forbes, December 04, 2013

Media Source

Libor rigging allegations continue to cost the world’s big banks.

The European Commission, the region’s antitrust regulators, hit eight big financial firms with $2.3 billion in fines for their alleged roles in the global Libor-rigging scandal. The settlement is based on antitrust laws and accuse the banks of participating in cartels.

Among the banks fined are two U.S. banks; JPMorgan will pay $107 million and Citigroup will cough up $95 million.

Those fines were among the smallest shelled out to the various banks. Deutsche Bank’s $633 million fine is the largest followed by Société Générale’s $606 million.

The range of fines was determined by a few factors including how long each bank participated in what the  Commission calls “illegal cartels.”

JPM’s fine, for instance, is based on a month’s participating in the cartels in Yen Libor rates, according to the regulator.

In statement, the bank noted that the “settlement makes no finding that JPMorgan Chase management had any knowledge or involvement in the conduct at issue, or that the traders’ actions had any impact on the firm’s LIBOR submissions or the published LIBOR rates.”

Mark Patterson, a professor at Fordham University School of Law, notes the difference between the European settlement which goes after banks for antitrust violations and U.S. settlements that go after banks for fraud.

“Europe’s antitrust approach is a better match for the illegal conduct, which involves conspiracies, not just fraud.  The antitrust approach also makes it easier for private plaintiffs to bring damages actions,” Patterson notes.

Libor rigging news broke in June 2012 after Barclays paid up $450 million for trying to manipulate the rates at which banks lend to one another.

It was disclosed then that dozens of banks around the world were involved in alleged rigging of the rate. The rates are tied to some $800 trillion of financial instruments and products like mortgages and credit cards.

Since the Barclay’s settlement (which cost CEO Bob Diamond his job) UBS and RBS have also faced fines from US and European regulators. UBS became the second bank to settle Libor manipulation charges agreeing to pay $1.5 billion to US, UK and Swiss authorities. Shortly after, Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to pay $615 million to settle U.S. and U.K. rate-rigging charges.

The Libor problems aren’t over yet for many banks. JPM noted in its statement that the Commission continues to investigate it in connection with Euro-interest-rate derivatives referenced to the EURIBOR benchmark rate.

“JPMorgan Chase has cooperated fully with the European Commission throughout its investigation and does not believe that the firm engaged in wrongdoing with respect to the EURIBOR benchmark. The company intends to defend itself fully,” the bank said.