Exclusive: EU to fine banks billions of euros over rate rigging

Wed Nov 6, 2013 1:10pm EST
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A number of finance firms, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Rabobank face billions of euros in fines next month from European Union regulators for colluding on global benchmark interest rates, reinforcing Brussels' hard line on the sector after the financial crisis.

EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia is set to unveil a record fine of at least 1.5 billion euros ($2.03 billion) on six banks, including Barclays and RBS, for rigging the yen Libor interest rate benchmark, a banking source said on Wednesday.

In addition to the yen Libor fines, likely to be the biggest so far from Brussels, Almunia will also penalize another group of banks for operating as a cartel in a separate case involving the rigging of the Euribor benchmark interest rate, reported by Reuters on Tuesday.

Fines in the two cases could run to billions of euros.

The fines will add to the spiraling cost to banks for cleaning up past misdeeds. Globally this is expected to reach about $125 billion if JP Morgan agrees a $13 billion deal with the U.S. authorities over mortgages.

This earnings season, banks set aside more money for the rising cost of fines, lawsuits and compensation.

Authorities in the United States, Britain and elsewhere have so far fined UBS, RBS, Barclays, Rabobank and ICAP $3.7 billion for manipulating rates. Seven individuals face criminal charges.

The London inter-bank offered rate (Libor) and its European cousin (Euribor) are used to price hundreds of trillions of dollars in assets, from Spanish mortgages to derivatives.   Continued...

People walk past a branch of Barclays bank in London October 30, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville