Barclays rate fixing scandal: Serious Fraud Office to decide on charges within month
THE UK Serious Fraud Office hopes to decide within four weeks whether to bring charges in the Libor rate fixing scandal which claimed its first casualty with the resignation of Barclay chairman Marcus Agius.
The crime fighting body said it was considering whether it was appropriate and possible to bring criminal prosecutions and hoped to come to a conclusion within a month.
The SFO has been talking to the Financial Services Authority about the attempts by banks to manipulate London Inter-Bank Offered Rate, the rate used by banks to lend to each other.
George Osborne, the Chancellor, is also preparing to unveil a wider inquiry into the banking sector in Parliament this afternoon.
Nick Robinson, the BBC Political Editor, wrote in his blog: "It will not be a full Leveson-style public inquiry. However, it will be separate from, and much wider than, the inquiry already announced into the abuses of Libor ... at Barclays and other banks."
Earlier on Monday, Mr Agius stepped down from Barclays in the wake of fierce shareholder and political pressure over the bank’s “misconduct”. Barclays was fined a record £290m last week for attempting to manipulate the interbank lending rate, Libor, between 2005 and 2009.
Libor is the average cost of borrowing for banks, calculated daily using submissions of from a number of selected banks. It is used to price trillions of pounds of loans and financial products across the world.
Mr Agius, chairman of Barclys for the past five years, said on Monday: "Last week's events – evidencing as they do unacceptable standards of behaviour within the bank – have dealt a devastating blow to Barclays reputation. As Chairman, I am the ultimate guardian of the bank's reputation. Accordingly, the buck stops with me and I must acknowledge responsibility by standing aside."
He is believed to be hoping his departure will serve as a lightning rod to conduct anger away from the bank and its chief executive Bob Diamond, who is facing calls to resign.
Alongside his resignation, Barclays also launch an independent audit of the bank's business practices in an attempt to restore the bank's reputation.
It will "undertake a root and branch review of all of the past practices" that have been "revealed as flawed" since the credit crisis started. The report, which will be made public, will lead to the creation of new, mandatory code of conduct at Barclays.
"We will establish a zero-tolerance policy for any actions that harm the reputation of the bank," the bank said in a statement.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said of the resignation: " I'm like everybody else in this in that now that the chairman of Barclays has fallen on his sword and has taken responsibility for what has happened, everybody is asking when are the other senior people at the top of Barclays going to take responsibility for the things that happened on their watch.
"I don't think it is for politicians to individually hire and fire bankers, but I do think the buck stops at the top.