Banks cooperate for lower fines in Euribor probe: sources

Mon Jul 30, 2012 12:25pm EDT
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Several banks under investigation for suspected rigging of euro interest rates are cooperating with EU antitrust regulators in the hope of lower fines, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday, a move which puts the lenders at a higher risk of lawsuits.

The decision by the banks to disclose more about their knowledge of possible manipulation of the Euro Interbank Offered Rate (Euribor) is effectively an admission of wrongdoing and illustrates growing nervousness that they face a heavy penalty.

The European Commission is investigating possible manipulation of Euribor, the benchmark used when pricing bank lending in euros.

The EU watchdog has not disclosed the names of the banks being investigated, which could face fines of up to 10 percent of their global revenues if found to have breached EU antitrust rules.

Earlier this month, sources told Reuters that Deutsche Bank, was already cooperating with the authorities. The lender had revenues last year of 33.2 billion euros.

"Several banks have come forward with information to the Commission," said one of the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. This person declined to provide more details.

The second person said there could be at least two banks, besides Deutsche Bank, which have sought leniency under the European Commission's scheme to encourage whistleblowers.

The EU Commission spokesman for competition policy, Antoine Colombani, declined to comment.   Continued...

Josef Ackermann, outgoing CEO of Germany's largest business bank, Deutsche Bank AG arrives for the bank's annual shareholders meeting in Frankfurt May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Alex Domanski