U.K. Prosecutors Said to Plan New Libor Charges This Year

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office is readying more criminal charges this year against traders in its Libor-manipulation probe, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The charges will cover the rigging of several London interbank offered rate benchmarks, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Libor rates are set daily for five currencies: dollar, sterling, euro, yen and Swiss franc.

“Our investigation into the manipulation of Libor continues,” the SFO said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “Charges have so far been brought by the SFO against 12 people -- more will follow.”

Global authorities are investigating whether more than a dozen firms colluded to manipulate the benchmark used for more than $300 trillion of securities ranging from mortgages to student loans, with fines so far reaching almost $6.5 billion. The SFO is prosecuting ex-traders from institutions including Barclays Plc, ICAP Plc and RP Martin Holdings Ltd, all three of which have already settled investigations.

The London prosecutors have a list of more than 20 people it alleges were part of a conspiracy to rig yen-Libor, eight of whom have been charged already, one person said. The others already accused face prosecution for dollar-Libor rigging.

The U.S. Justice Department has charged at least nine individuals. Some people have been accused in both countries.

Postponed Talks

The SFO, which began its probe after the Financial Conduct Authority, has asked the markets regulator in recent months to postpone discussions about civil fines for some traders accused of manipulating interbank rates while the SFO decides whether to charge them, two people said.

The prosecutors are seeking to avoid a trader contesting criminal proceedings saying a fair trial wouldn’t be possible if he’d been fined for similar behavior by the FCA, one person said. In the U.S., it’s common practice for civil authorities to put a case on hold to allow a parallel criminal case to go forward.

Chris Hamilton, an FCA spokesman, declined to comment.

The FCA sends notices to people and institutions when it’s concluded investigations, laying out the wrongdoing it claims to have uncovered and the penalty it plans to levy. Traders can appeal those findings to the Regulatory Decisions Committee, an internal FCA advisory panel made up of industry figures including lawyers and accountants. The SFO has requested these meetings be postponed.

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