In admitting to fraud, Switzerland’s largest bank became the second bank, after Britain’s Barclays PLC, to settle over the rate-rigging scandal. The fine, which will be paid to authorities in the U.S., Britain and Switzerland, also comes just over a week after HSBC PLC agreed to pay nearly $2 billion for alleged money laundering.
The settlement caps a tough year for UBS and the reputation of the global banking industry. As well as being ensnared in the industry-wide investigation into alleged manipulations of the benchmark LIBOR interest rate, short for London interbank offered rate, UBS has seen its reputation suffer in a London trial into a multibillion dollar trading scandal and ongoing tax evasion probes.
As a result of the fines, litigation, unwinding of real estate investments, restructuring and other costs, UBS said it expects to make a fourth quarter net loss of between 2 billion to 2.5 billion Swiss francs ($2.2-2.7 billion). Nevertheless, the Zurich-based bank maintained that it “remains one of the best capitalized banks in the world.”
Despite the fine, investors were cheered that some of the uncertainty surrounding the stock has been lifted. UBS shares were trading up 1.6 percent at 15.50 francs around noon on the Zurich exchange.
Other banks are expected to be fined for their involvement in the LIBOR scandal. LIBOR, which is a self-policing system and relies on information that global banks submit to a British banking authority, is important because it is used to set the interest rates on trillions of dollars in contracts around the world, including mortgages and credit cards.
UBS characterized the probes as “industry-wide investigations into the setting of certain benchmark rates across a range of currencies.”
The UBS penalty is more than triple the $450 million in fines imposed by American and British regulators in June on Barclays for submitting false information between 2005 and 2009 to manipulate the LIBOR rates. Those fines exposed a scandal that led to the departure of Chief Executive Bob Diamond and the announcement that Chairman Marcus Agius would step down at the end of the year.
In accepting the fines, UBS said some of its employees tried to rig the LIBOR rate in several currencies, but that its Japan unit, where much of the manipulation took place, entered a plea to one count of wire fraud in an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.
UBS said some of its personnel had “engaged in efforts to manipulate submissions for certain benchmark rates to benefit trading positions” and that some employees had “colluded with employees at other banks and cash brokers to influence certain benchmark rates to benefit their trading positions.”
UBS added that “inappropriate directions” had been submitted that were “in part motivated by a desire to avoid unfair and negative market and media perceptions during the financial crisis.”
Different desks were responsible for different rate submissions. At least 2,000 requests for inappropriate submissions were documented — an unquantifiable number of oral requests, which by their nature would not be documented, were also made, the U.K.’s Financial Services Authority said.
“Manipulation was also discussed in internal open chat forums and group emails, and was widely known,” the FSA said. “At least 45 individuals including traders, managers and senior managers were involved in, or aware of, the practice of attempting to influence submissions.”
Joe Rundle, head of trading at London-based ETX Capital, said the case exposes “just how brazen and arrogant” the UBS traders were while collaborating with “corrupt external brokers.”View Entire Story
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