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EU’s Almunia Says Libor, Euribor Collusion Probe Is Top Priority

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Libor and Euribor rate-manipulation antitrust probes are a “top priority,” European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said today.

The EU probe, opened last year, focuses on possible collusion between financial institutions that may have violated antitrust rules, while investigations by regulators in other jurisdictions are concerned with fraud, Almunia said in an e-mailed statement.

“We are looking at the possible collusion between financial institutions that should compete with each other,” Almunia said. “I am deeply worried about what the documents made public may reveal about the conduct of some in the sector.”

His comments come two days after Barclays Plc, Britain’s second-biggest bank by assets, was fined $451 million by the U.K. Financial Services Authority, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission after admitting it submitted false Libor rates to benefit derivatives trades.

Citigroup Inc., Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, UBS AG, ICAP Plc, Lloyds Banking Group Plc and Deutsche Bank AG are among the firms some of the regulators are investigating. A total of 18 banks are surveyed as part of the process of determining London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and related rates. Euribor is a related euro-denominated rate.

Libor is derived from a survey of banks conducted each day on behalf of the British Bankers’ Association in London. Lenders are asked how much it would cost them to borrow from each other for 15 different periods, from overnight to one year, in currencies including dollars, euros, yen and Swiss francs. After a set number of quotes are excluded, those remaining are averaged and published for each currency by the BBA before noon.

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