Barclays has been fined, the British have issued their report, and now the market is anxious for everything to go on as usual with the London Interbank Offer Rate (“LIBOR”). I think that would be a serious mistake. The U.S. and British investigations into rate-fixing by Barclays revealed a widespread culture of pervasive, deceitful conduct in the setting of the most important private sector benchmark for over $300 trillion in derivative contracts and $10 trillion in adjustable-rate loans. It is highly unlikely that Barclays was the only major bank engaging in this conduct, and public investigations and private lawsuits against a range of participants in LIBOR rate-setting are likely to reveal further misconduct in the months ahead. The basic structure for the setting of LIBOR is fundamentally flawed. It permits banks with obvious conflicts of interest to skew the LIBOR rate in order to benefit their own firm. Barclays, for example, was alleged to have attempted to manipulate LIBOR to benefit its traders and to hide its growing costs of borrowing in the financial crisis. The LIBOR structure also facilitates collusion among the rate-setting banks, in violation of the antitrust laws. Barclays, for example, was alleged to have attempted to manipulate LIBOR in collusion with other firms to benefit particular trades over a number of years. Both public antitrust investigations and a range of private lawsuits are likely to be pursued with vigor in the coming months.
Barr, Michael S. "Too LIBOR, Too Late: Time to Move to a Market Rate." Competition Pol'y Int'l Antitrust Chron. 11, no. 2 (2012).