British regulators moved Friday to prevent a future rate-fixing scandal involving the London Interbank Offered Rate like the one that has ensnared a number of top banks and produced a raft of lawsuits, including one filed by an Austrian hedge fund.
The Financial Services Authority said that it plans to make altering LIBOR for financial gain a criminal offense. It has also removed the British Bankers' Association from its rate-setting role and will pick a new administrator within a year. The new LIBOR will also focus on fewer currencies and rates, and banks' daily LIBOR submissions will face new scrutiny from regulators.
Still, Martin Wheatley, who will take over the FSA's successor, the Financial Conduct Authority, when the regulator is moved to the Bank of England next year, admits, "there's always a possibility for collusion." But, he warned, "under the new regulatory structure, people would be taking a high risk."
Wheatley's review came as Barclays agreed to pay US$450 million to settle allegations that some of its traders sought to manipulate the key interest rate, which is tied to futures with a notional value of more than US$560 trillion. At the center of the Barclays scandal is trader Ryan Reich, who was fired by the bank and now works at hedge fund WCG Management. WCG has said that Reich "has cooperated" with investigators.