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Barclays’ Agius Faces Lawmakers Over Rate-rigging Scandal


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Marcus Agius, the man at the top of Barclays when its traders rigged a global benchmark interest rate, faces questions from British lawmakers on Tuesday about what he knew about a scandal that threatens a dozen more international banks.

Barclays has been fined more than US$450 million for its part in manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, the interest rate that underpins financial transactions worth hundreds of trillions of dollars.

Agius was the first top Barclays executive to quit when the extent of the scandal emerged this month, but his exit was not enough to protect chief executive Bob Diamond, who was forced out last week. Agius will now remain at the bank while a successor to Diamond is found.

Agius, 65, will be the third high-profile witness to give evidence on the rate-rigging scandal to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee within a matter of days. When he resigned last week he acknowledged that the scandal had dealt a devastating blow to Barclays’ reputation.

Diamond last week admitted Barclays’ traders had behaved reprehensibly in rigging interest rates, while on Monday, Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker denied he had been pressured by government ministers to encouraged banks to manipulate rates.

The suggestion that government ministers and officials were somehow involved has turned the affair into a political dogfight, with finance minister George Osborne saying people around the previous prime minister, Gordon Brown, had questions to answer. The accusation has been denied by Brown’s adviser, Ed Balls, who demanded an apology from Osborne.

In their testimony neither Tucker nor Diamond lent support to the suggestion of pressure from officials or ministers in the rigging of Libor.

Tucker also said that he was not aware of moves to rig the Libor rate at the time.

“This was a cesspit,” he said of the Libor manipulation.

“We were not aware of it, other than what is starting to come out in these investigations. We didn’t have any knowledge, I didn’t have any knowledge.”

Barclays is among more than a dozen global banks under investigation by authorities in North America, Europe and Japan and the only one so far to admit wrongdoing.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a parliamentary inquiry into banks in an attempt to quell public outrage with the industry, while the European Union saying it would propose new rules to criminalise the manipulation of indexes such as Libor.

Barclays says a group of its traders tried to manipulate Libor for profit as far back as 2005, and says it wrongly lowered estimates of the interest it paid other banks at the height of the crisis in 2008 to make its financial position appear better.

Libor, or the London interbank offered rate, is compiled from estimates by large international banks of how much they believe they have to pay to borrow from each other.

It is used for US$550 trillion of interest rate derivatives contracts and influences rates on mortgages, student loans and credit cards.

The rates submitted by banks are compiled by Thomson Reuters, parent company of Reuters, on behalf of the British Bankers’ Association.

(Source: Reuters)

 

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