Yves Smith writes: In case it isn’t yet apparent to you, the unfolding scandal over manipulation of Libor and its Euro counterpart Euribor is a huge deal. Even though at this point, only Barclays [the fourth largest bank in the world], the UK bank that was first to settle, is in the hot lights, at least 16 other major financial players, which means pretty much everybody, is implicated.
First, Libor is the basis for pricing over $10 trillion of loans. As the CTFC noted:
US dollar Libor is the basis for the settlement of the three-month Eurodollar futures contract traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which had a traded volume in 2011 with a notional value exceeding $564 trillion.
The Wall Street Journal puts total in contracts affected at $800 trillion.
Second is that price fixing is a criminal violation under the Sherman antitrust act. The Department of Justice stressed that Barclays had been the first bank to cooperate with the investigation and had been extremely forthcoming, and for that reason it would not be prosecuted if it complied with the settlement terms for two years. The implication is that the DoJ will not be as generous with other banks involved in the price-fixing scheme. This is an overview from the Financial Times of Barclay’s misdeeds:
The bank admitted that it lowballed estimates of its borrowing costs from late 2007 to May 2009 because it wanted to reassure investors of its strength during the financial crisis and it believed other banks were doing the same. It also admitted that its traders improperly influenced the rate submissions from 2005 to 2008 to make money on derivatives.
Note that, according to Barclays, there were two scandals: one is the usual “rogue traders” sort, which took place from 2005 to 2007 (funny how these CEOs take credit for overall performance for bonus purposes and blame inadequately supervised lower level employees whenever real trouble arises?); the second, as we will discuss, is that Barclays submitted lower rates for the daily Libor “fixing” than its actual funding costs to make itself look healthier than it was during the crisis. [Continue reading…]
Will Hutton writes: Investment banking is an organised scam masquerading as a business. It is defined by endemic conflicts of interest, systemic amoral behaviour and extreme avarice. Many of its senior figures should be serving prison sentences or disgraced – and would have been if British regulators had been weaned off the doctrine of ” light touch” regulation earlier and if the Serious Fraud Office’s budget had not been emasculated by Mr Osborne. It is a tax on wealth generation and an enemy of honest endeavour – the beast that is devouring British capitalism.