UBS agreed to pay $1.5 billion in the latest settlement of interest-rate… (Simon Dawson / Bloomberg )
In the largest fine issued so far in a probe of interest-rate manipulation by major banks, UBS has agreed to pay a $1.5 billion to U.S. and European authorities.
The Switzerland-based bank said it had reached settlements with the Department of Justice and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission the U.S. as well as with British and Swiss authorities. A division of the bank in Japan also agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud related to the scandal.
The settlement is the latest concerning the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, a benchmark interest rate that is supposed to be an average of certain rates offered by major banks. Authorities say that during the financial crisis, banks manipulated their submissions to the group that calculates Libor, in part to make the banks appear healthier.
UBS is paying much more than the $450 million that Britain's Barclays Bank agreed to pay in the scandal. Days after that agreement was announced in June, most of Barclays' top management, including Chief Executive Bob Diamond and Chairman Marcus Agius, resigned.
UBS issued a statement Wednesday blaming its interest-rate manipulations on "certain employees."
“Their misconduct does not reflect the values of UBS nor the high ethical standards to which we hold every employee,” UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti said in the statement. “We have cooperated fully with the authorities and taken decisive and appropriate actions to correct the issues and to strengthen our control processes and procedures.”
Britain's Financial Services Authority released information Wednesday indicating that UBS traders "routinely" made requests to people at UBS responsible for submitting Libor data, urging them to adjust the rates to benefit the traders. At least 45 people at the bank were aware that manipulation was going on, the authority said.
“The findings we have set out in our notice today do not make for pretty reading," said Tracey McDermott, the FSA's director of enforcement and financial crime. "They manipulated UBS’ submissions in order to benefit their own positions and to protect UBS’ reputation, showing a total disregard for the millions of market participants around the world who were also affected by Libor."
Authorities seem to be stepping up prosecution of individuals related to the Libor scandal. Last week, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office arrested three men, including a former UBS trader, in connection with the rate-rigging scandal.
The agreement with UBS marks the second billion-dollar settlement in recent days for alleged financial misconduct. Last week, HSBC agreed to pay a $1.92-billion fine after a probe of laundering drug money.