ASIC Cashed Up for Court Action Amid BBSW Manipulation Probe

  • Regulator has A$80 million war chest for legal proceedings
  • ASIC says still undecided on whether court action needed

The Australian regulator probing possible manipulation of the nation’s interest-rate benchmark said it has an A$80 million ($57 million) war chest for potential legal action and is prepared to use it.

“We can either have a contested outcome in the court or we can have an agreed outcome in the court,” Greg Medcraft, chairman of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, told a parliamentary committee Thursday. “We’re happy to go to court and we have got a war chest.”

The regulator has been investigating the setting of the bank-bill swap rate -- the local equivalent of Libor -- since mid-2012 and Medcraft has previously criticized a lack of cooperation from the nation’s banks. The investigation led to the suspension of seven traders at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in November 2014 and voluntary contributions of a combined A$3.6 million toward financial literacy projects from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, UBS Group AG and BNP Paribas SA.

ANZ Bank said Monday it’s continuing to cooperate with ASIC, after the Australian Financial Review reported that the regulator may make an announcement on civil action against the lender in the next few weeks.

The investigations into alleged BBSW manipulation are at an advanced stage, Cathie Armour, an ASIC commissioner, told the parliamentary committee Thursday.

“We haven’t come to a final conclusion on whether there is a need for us to take action to enforce the law,” she said.

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