LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s banking trade body has no plans to cede oversight of Libor to regulators, saying it remains fully committed to the interbank lending rates being scrutinized by global enforcement agencies for signs of manipulation.
The British Bankers’ Association (BBA) has put its London Interbank Offered Rate under review to establish whether it remains fit for purpose after allegations surfaced in 2008 that banks were rigging the rates to improve their credit quality during the credit crisis.
It said on Wednesday it was “committed to retaining the reputation and integrity of BBA Libor” following a meeting with banks on Monday to “consider future regulatory and market developments, such as the incoming liquidity rules.”
The meeting triggered speculation that the Bank of England — which under a planned supervisory shake-up will regulate banks from 2013 — could wrest control of Libor, which is compiled and distributed for the BBA each day by global news and information provider Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO), from the trade body.
The rates are the benchmark for around $360 trillion worth of financial contracts worldwide, and are designed to reflect the likely rates at which top banks could borrow money from each other each day in 10 major currencies and for 15 borrowing periods ranging from overnight loans to 12 months.
But the rates are purely notional and, as the credit crisis raged, allegations started mounting that Libor no longer reflected reality. This has increased calls for the benchmark to be overhauled.
“The Bank of England will, I think, take an active oversight role,” noted one economic consultant, who declined to be named.
At present the setting of the rate is not directly regulated by supervisors, although the individual contributors are.
The regulatory probes, which span from the United States across Europe to Japan, have meanwhile been expanded to include interdealer brokers and whether attempts were made to manipulate the Tokyo and euro interbank offered rates, Tibor and Euribor.
Societe Generale (SOGN.PA), France’s second largest bank, said it had become the latest bank to have received requests for information from U.S. and European regulators about both Libor and Euribor rates.
Euribor is a benchmark rate that banks refer to when fixing a price on interbank euro loans. There are 44 contributors to the Euribor rate, far more than contribute to Libor. Most major banks, including Santander (SAN.MC), BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) and UBS UBS.VX, are on the Euribor panel.
The European Commission raided banks including Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) last year in a probe into suspected Euribor rigging.
Additional reporting by Huw Jones, Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Alexander Smith