Sunday

24th Mar 2019

EU promises change to scandal-tainted bank lending rate

  • An estimated 20 banking giants are under investigation over the Libor rate fixing scandal (Photo: stefan)

The EU is planning an overhaul of inter-bank lending rates tainted by the Libor and Eurlibor rate-fixing scandals.

At a public hearing in the European Parliament on Monday (24 September), EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier said that new rules on the calculation of interest rates would be presented before the end of 2012.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He told MEPs that the European Commission is working with other international regulators to restore public trust in the system, which he described as a "public good."

He added that a radical "culture-change" is needed to get away from the "anything goes attitude of the financial sector."

The hearing was held against the backdrop of new EU-wide rules on market manipulation which are currently being negotiated by MEPs and ministers.

In July, the commission announced plans to widen the scope of the legislation to include criminal sanctions on rate fixing.

However, Gary Gensler, chairman of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who spoke to MEPs via videolink, went further by indicating that Libor should be scrapped.

Gensler said that there are "no rules or controls to prevent banks from intentionally or unintentionally herding together to distort the rate." he added that "if Libor does not reflect genuine unsecured interbank lending then maybe we should move to a replacement."

He pointed out that the Libor rate had been unchanged from the previous day in 85 per cent of cases. "Given that markets are volatile, why is Libor so stable?" he asked.

The parliament committee hearing came after public outcry about the Libor scandal which has engulfed Europe and the US.

In the summer, the chief executive of British banking giant Barclays, Bob Diamond, was forced out after the bank was fined almost £300 million (€375 million) for its involvement in rate-fixing. More than 20 banks are now believed to be under investigation over their role in the affair.

The Libor index calculates the London inter-bank interest rate, based on self-reported borrowing costs on unsecured loans between banks. It also determines the price of an estimated $800 trillion worth of financial instruments.

For his part, Gensler also said that the rapid decline in the volume of inter-bank loans when money markets seized up during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 had increased the scope for abuse. He added that "collusion is less likely if Libor rates are anchored on real transactions."

Meanwhile, Dan Doctoroff, the chief executive of financial information service Bloomberg, told MEPs that his company is establishing its own "Blibor" indices based on a range of real credit information, including credit default swaps and short term maturity bonds.

He noted that a "widespread lack of transparency and reliable information contributed substantially to the crisis."

Meanwhile, EU competition chief, Joaquin Almunia, revealed that the EU executive is investigating a series of cases where bank cartels had colluded to artificially raise interest rates.

Almunia, who described the Libor scandal as another product of the "age of deregulation," told euro-deputies that the commission has already moved against rating agency Standard & Poor's and Thomson Reuters over restrictions they placed on the availability of their market information.

He added that the blame for rate-fixing does not lie solely with banks and that politicians and regulators also bear responsibility, however.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Agenda

Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

The UK parliament will likely hold a third vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week, determining the UK's departure from the bloc. In the meantime, the controversial copyright reform will be on the EU parliament's agenda.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us