Not only are we looking at fraud and self-dealing by the largest banks in the West.
Not only are we looking at interest rate manipulation that deprives hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of interest-sensitive instruments of money they deserved to receive. (See our LIBOR backgrounder for more.)
We now have some evidence that the Bank of England — the UK central bank — had knowledge of the LIBOR Lies, and approved Barklays' artificially lowered submissions as a solution for Barklays.
If so, the Bank of England knew about it all. From ProPublica (my emphasis and paragraphing):
In October 2008, with the financial crisis at full bore, Barclays was again on the higher end of rate submissions. That month, according to filings, a senior Barclays manager spoke with a Bank of England official about Libor rates, and the idea that they might be artificially low.Shorter Barklays: Sir, these other lying banks are killing us, making our rates look too high.
Hearing of this conversation, other Barclays managers “formed the understanding” that the Bank of England wanted Barclays to lower its submissions.
This week, Barclays released an email confirming the conversation was between Diamond and Bank of England’s deputy governor Paul Tucker. It was another Barclays manager, Jerry del Missier, who determined what he thought Tucker’s comments meant, Barclays says.
Shorter Bank of England: So? How 'bout you lie too.
This is still iffy; interpretation land. But it's pretty certain that the conversation took place, whatever meaning either side attached to the statements.
Even so — if the UK central bank knew that LIBOR was being manipulated, that itself is enough to make ... who? the UK government? ... complicit.
The parallel case would be if the Fed knew that JPMorgan Chase — a LIBOR bank, by the way — were doing the same thing. Whom do you arrest? Ben Bernanke?
And you should know that there are starting to be reports that what the Bank of England knew, the Fed knew. Business Insider:
But a research paper from the Federal Reserve's Jeremy Berkowitz (now a professor at the University of Houston) indicates that the Fed was worried about LIBOR manipulation as early as February 1998.If the Fed was alerted in the late 1990s, they had to be paying attention. Do these Big Boy bankers talk to each other? I'm guessing once a month at least — at St. Andrews.
In that paper, Berkowitz tests alternative methods of calculating LIBOR rates specifically because the Fed has already seen three examples of misreporting from one bank in early 1996. While he writes those incidents off as being "undoubtedly...unintentionally misreported," the composition of a paper to prevent against such errors suggests a great deal of interest from the Fed in this subject. ...
While Rabinowitz's paper does not imply that banks had been colluding to manipulate rates at the time it was written, it suggests that the Fed was already be concerned about the effects of inaccurate reporting by banks about their lending practices ten years before the financial crisis.
Just keep your eyes open. This hasn't begun to blow. (And if it never does, that will be even worse news.)
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