U.K. Wins First Guilty Plea From Banker on Libor-Rigging

A senior banker from a leading British bank pleaded guilty to conspiring to manipulate London interbank offered rates in a U.K. court last week.

The individual, who can’t be identified by order of the judge today, is the first to plead guilty in the U.K. Serious Fraud Office’s interest-rate rigging investigation. Twelve have been charged in connection to the U.K. case.

The SFO released a statement today confirming the plea and saying it couldn’t comment further on the matter for legal reasons.

Authorities around the world have been investigating the rigging of interbank offered rates, benchmarks used to calculate more than $300 trillion of securities, including mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other consumer lending products. Two individuals have pleaded guilty this year to Libor-manipulation charges in the U.S.

The first trial for an individual trader in the global probes is set to take place in London next year. The banker who pleaded guilty in the U.K. will be sentenced later.

The plea marks the first success in what SFO Director David Green said last week is a “watershed” moment for the agency as the first cases initiated under his watch come to trial. The prosecutor has faced criticism after a number of cases taken on by his predecessor failed.

‘Good Result’

The SFO is still fighting critics for its survival, after some government ministers tried to combine it with other agencies in 2011. A new government report -- part of a review into British policing of bribery and white-collar crime -- assessing the various U.K. prosecution bodies is expected to be published in the coming months. The SFO said yesterday there’s no indication splitting it up “would be more effective.”

The guilty plea “is a good result for the SFO but it underlines the recklessness of ministers speculating once again about its survival at a time when it is undertaking some of its most important work in years,” Emily Thornberry, the spokeswoman for legal matters for the U.K. opposition Labour Party, said in an e-mailed statement. “Morale at the SFO has only just recovered from the last bout of open speculation about its future.”

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