Friday, April 24, 2015

Deutchse Bank fined US$2.5 billion over LIBOR scam

Germany's biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, has become the latest global financial giant to be fined for rigging a key interest rate known as the LIBOR.

Deutsche will pay a record US$2.5 billion to settle investigations into dodgy practices where it manipulated the benchmark rate for its own profit.

The bank has been slammed for "cultural failings" almost seven years after the Wall Street collapse was triggered by greed and bad banking behaviour.

LIBOR is the London Interbank Offered Rate and an average rate set daily to determine how banks borrow and lend between each other.

It is used to price hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial transactions around the world and a higher or lower rate can mean millions in big business deals.

The impact of LIBOR goes unseen by most people even though it can flow into mortgage rates, car loans, personal loans and credit card rates.

Deutsche's US$2.5 billion fine from US and British regulators comes as banks around the world - including Australia - are being scrutinised more than ever for alleged unlawful and unethical practices.

The settlement dwarfs fines paid by Barclays and UBS which paid $US500 million and $US1.5 billion respectively.

While the fine is less than what Deutsche Banks makes in a year it is around what it makes in a quarter.

But in the case of Deutsche the evidence has been damning and that appears to have ramped the the severity of the fine.

One request, now public, highlights the deals done on LIBOR with a Deutsche trader pleading with Barclays for a lower quote saying: "I'm begging you, don't forget me .. I'm on my knees."

Deutsche's image has not been helped by the accidental destruction of around 482 tapes of telephone calls of LIBOR transactions.

Martin Arnold, the banking editor at the Financial Times, says Deutsche sent the impression it had something to hide.

"It's pretty damaging and what stands out in this case is some of the language by particularly the UK's Financial Conduct Authority which is very critical of how the banks has behaved during this investigation and been very resistant to cooperating," Mr Arnold told the BBC.

"And it says misled the regulator at several points and even says that the bank destroyed some evidence that the regulator had requested it preserve. So there's a lot of criticism there and this doesn't reflect well on Deutsche Bank's leadership."

The US Justice Department says investigations are far from over and that a range of other banks and individuals are being quizzed about the LIBOR scam.

So far total fines are approaching $US9 billion but analysts say that's tiny compared to what banks could make through LIBOR fixing.

To date there has been no evidence that any Australian bank has been involved in LIBOR rigging although their reputations have been tainted by association. 

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