An Occupy London protestor sits on the window ledge of an unused building owned by UBS bank on November 18, 2011 in London, England.

Earlier this week, HSBC agreed to pay a record fine for money laundering. And today, the Swiss banking giant UBS is reportedly going to agree to a $1 billion settlement over accusations it rigged LIBOR interest rates.

That fine is double what Barclays Bank paid over the summer in the LIBOR scandal, although we still await confirmation next week that they will actually pay this amount.

But analysts say that this penalty comes from not being the first to admit wrongdoing. Robert Cole of Reuters Breakingviews says this is a clear sign that U.S. and U.K. authorities want to punish the banks, but not completely gut them.

"The biggest you hear is about banks being 'too big to prosecute,'" he says, "because the threat is quite high that the EU authorities could actually bring down the banks -- which is the last thing they want to do, of course."

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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