RBS could face £350m fine from US watchdog as decision looms on Libor

Stephen Hester: Hoping for news before results announcement. Picture: Reuters
Stephen Hester: Hoping for news before results announcement. Picture: Reuters
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ROYAL Bank of Scotland (RBS) remained tight-lipped last night amid speculation that it will take a hit of £350 million from transatlantic regulators for its role in the Libor rate-rigging scandal.

It was reported that RBS – 82 per cent owned by the British taxpayer after its £45 billion state bailout – was close to a deal that would see regulators fine it more than the £290m suffered by rival Barclays after its admission of guilt.

An RBS spokesman declined to comment. Stephen Hester, the bank’s chief executive, said at the recent pre-close trading update he hoped there would be news on the subject before RBS announces its 2012 results in February.

Many believe an announcement from the Financial Services Authority in the UK and the Securities & Exchange Commission in the United States could come over the next few weeks.

A major fine for RBS, widely expected in the City, would be a fresh blow for the UK’s embattled banking sector, which has been riven by controversy.

Last week, HSBC was fined a record $1.9bn (£1.2bn) by the US authorities for laundering cash for Mexican drug cartels and entities associated with banned states, including Iran.

Meanwhile, Swiss media reports suggest that UBS’s Libor bill from worldwide regulators could top $1.5bn and that the deal could be announced as early as this week.

Along with RBS and Citigroup of the US, the Swiss banking giant was one of three major banks bailed out by taxpayers to stop them collapsing in the 2008 financial industry crash.

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has also launched an investigation into manipulation of Libor, the rate at which banks lend to each other.

Last week the SFO arrested three Britons as part of its inquiries, including Tom Hayes, a trader who worked at both UBS and Citigroup.