RBS is next bank facing fines over scam
BANKERS who manipulate interest rates to boost their profit margins will face criminal investigation under new laws to be proposed by Ministers this week amid growing demands for a full inquiry into the scandal of Britain’s financial sector practices.
An independent review of regulations, to be unveiled by David Cameron, is expected to bring in severe punishments for bank staff who seek to rig key interest rates following the £290 million fine levied on Barclays Bank.
Fears were mounting last night that if the rigged-rates scandal spreads to other banks such as the publicly-owned Royal Bank of Scotland, taxpayers could be left exposed to multi-million pound fines. RBS’s exposure will be raised at this week’s meeting of the Treasury Select Committee, which yesterday ordered Bob Diamond, Barclay’s under-fire chief executive, to appear before it to answer questions on how much he knew about the affair and when.
But calls are growing for banks and their staff to face more than financial penalties if found guilty of criminal behaviour. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, who admitted that financial crime was “easier to get away with” than virtually any other misdemeanours, said bankers should be prosecuted where crimes had been committed. “We are very bad at prosecuting financial crime in this country,” he said.
Cameron added: “We are going to take all of the actions necessary; making sure they [bankers] pay their taxes, making sure there is proper transparency, making sure that the criminal law can go where it needs to. All those things need to happen”.
Mark Hoban, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, also signalled further sanctions when he said bonuses should be clawed back from the bankers involved in the scandal, under new rules introduced since the 2008 financial crisis. “Now bankers’ bonuses can be clawed back where there’s a failure in performance or a problem such as this, and I want to see those rules utilised. The people responsible for this should face the consequences. Where bonuses have been paid, as a consequence of this, they should be clawed back.”
The crisis was triggered when Barclays was forced to pay a record fine for manipulating a key inter-bank lending rate (Libor), in actions described by Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, as a “deceitful” attempt to fool shareholders and investors.
Yesterday, Labour leader Ed Miliband called for a full public inquiry into banking practices and said that the current Barclays leadership could not continue in post.
Despite ordering an urgent review of how Libor rates are set, however, Cameron stopped short of calling for Diamond to resign and said there would be no “snap” decision on holding a full inquiry.
Hoban confirmed yesterday that, despite the multi-billion pound deception, there was no criminal sanction in place. The review would be “particularly” asked to examine how to change the law, with any provisions inserted into the Government’s Financial Services bill.
The review will also look at ways of better regulating the way inter-bank lending rates are collated. Ministers are also considering a separate review into professional standards. As speculation mounted that the nationalised RBS will be one of the next banks to be hit with a massive fine for rate-rigging, politicians said they were anxious to ensure that action is taken to prevent the taxpayer losing out. John Thurso, a Lib Dem member of the Treasury Select Committee, said he would raise the “very serious issue” of potential RBS fines when the committee meets on Wednesday.
The Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP warned that it was possible that there was “bigger and worse to come” for bank customers, shareholders and taxpayers. “The mood music that is coming out of the City says there are four or five other banks involved in this.”
He added that the current system in which fines are used to finance the industry-funded regulator should be changed so money flowed back instead to the Treasury.
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