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LIBOR rigging could be made a crime in Europe

The Canary Wharf headquarters of Barclays Bank on June 28, 2012 in London, England.

Stacey Vanek Smith: A bit later this morning, U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will go before Congress. One likely topic that will come up? The LIBOR interest rate rigging, and how much Geithner knew. Meanwhile today, European lawmakers have proposed making interest rate rigging a crime.

From London Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: Many investors were surprised to learn that manipulating LIBOR is not, apparently, illegal under European Law. The interest rate is a vital benchmark for global financial transactions. But the fact that it's based on data voluntarily supplied by the banks means that criminal sanctions do not seem to apply.

Today the European Union aims to put that right. It's publishing plans to make LIBOR interest rate rigging a criminal offense.

But as lawyer Zia Ullah told the BBC, this won't punish past wrongdoing.

Zia Ullah: It will criminalize the fixing and manipulation of LIBOR and Euribor going forward but it won't be retrospective. It won't cover the activities that may already have taken place.

Barclays, however, has been slapped with a big regulatory fine, and could face a bill for more that a billion dollars in U.S. civil lawsuit damages. Worried investors are now calling on all the banks involved to estimate how much the scandal is likely to cost them.

In London, I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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