British Bankers’ Association Fights Back Over Libor

Terry Flanagan

The British Bankers’ Association says it has no plans to surrender oversight of Libor to UK regulators, despite recent allegations of manipulation of the rate.

Earlier this week, the British Bankers’ Association, a trade association for the UK banking and financial services sector, and many of the banks that help to set the rate met with UK regulator the Financial Services Authority to begin a process on how the system may be overhauled.

Libor, or the London Interbank Offered Rate, which serves as a fundamental benchmark to around £350 trillion of financial contracts around the world, is a notional rate set by a 16-bank panel. They are all asked how much it would cost to borrow from one and other and the rate is then calculated and published daily by global news and information provider Thomson Reuters on behalf of the British Bankers’ Association, covering a variety of currencies and time durations.

Libor and other benchmark lending rates that are worked out in the UK have been the subject of ongoing investigations by regulators in North America, Europe and Japan.

“We are committed to retaining the reputation and integrity of BBA Libor, which continues to be the authoritative benchmark of the wholesale money market,” said Brian Mairs, in charge of strategic communications, in a blog on the British Bankers’ Association website.

However, Bob Penn, a partner at law firm Allen & Overy in London, believes that some kind of oversight may be needed.

“In the event that it is shown that Libor has been manipulated then there is a case for some level of regulation,” he said.

“A point of genuine concern would be seeing other competing interests of the regulator creeeping in to the way it is policed. This remains my biggest concern.”

Libor is used as the primary benchmark of short-term interest rates globally, a barometer to measure strain in the money markets and the basis for settlement of interest rate contracts on many of the world’s major futures and options exchanges. Asset managers also use Libor as a benchmark for a number of funds.

International regulators have been investigating banks that helped set Libor, Tokyo’s Tibor and the euro’s Euribor since late 2010 over allegations that banks understated borrowing costs to artificially suppress the lending rate.

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