LIBOR

  • 09 Jul 2013 at 10:47 AM

NYSE Wants To Be Responsible For Libor For Some Reason

The Hogg Tendering Advisory Committee announced today that it’s selling Libor to NYSE Euronext, which immediately raises questions like:

  • the “Hogg Tendering Advisory Committee”? Really? and
  • why would you want to own Libor?

So: one, yes, the Hogg Tendering Advisory Committee, my favorite name for a financial thing since the Tick Size Flexibility Act of 2013, was put in charge of picking someone to take over Libor. And, two, because it’s profitable I guess?1 It’s hard to tell; here’s how the Hogg Committee described Libor’s commercialization in its request for proposals: Read more »

  • 26 Jun 2013 at 5:38 PM

Bonus Watch ’07: ICAP

Employees of the brokerage firm were (allegedly!) rewarded by UBS for a job well done (i.e. helping the Swiss bank Libor). Read more »

The FX market’s entry into the Great Libor Scandal Lookalike Contest may have been a little underwhelming1 – Libor, a made-up number, was manipulated by making up a different number; the FX market’s WM/Reuters benchmark, which was derived from actual trades, was manipulated by actually trading – but the judges deemed it adequate:

“All benchmarks share similar vulnerabilities so there is a need for a framework that applies to all benchmarks to ensure their integrity and restore market confidence,” Chantal Hughes, a spokeswoman for European Union Financial Services Commissioner Michel Barnier, said in an e-mailed statement.

Trade-based and poll-based benchmarks would actually seem to share opposite, not similar, vulnerabilities, but whatever: uniform standard-setting is vaguely afoot, and “The International Organization of Securities Commissions, a Madrid-based group known as Iosco that harmonizes market rules, may propose final guidelines improving transparency and oversight of benchmarks.” I guess they’ll make the poll-based benchmarks more like the trade-based benchmarks? Which were also manipulated? Read more »

Here’s a fun Libor lawsuit: the ghost of problematic former hedge fund FrontPoint is suing the Libor banks for (1) selling FrontPoint some interest-rate swaps and (2) manipulating Libor in a way that hosed FrontPoint on those swaps. Here is the complaint and here is Alison Frankel on the legal issues, which are interesting and which we can talk about a little below.1

Up here let’s talk about the trades that FrontPoint (and Salix Capital, which now owns these claims) is suing over. They’re interest rate swaps, of course, where FrontPoint received Libor, and where Libor was systematically manipulated lower by banks looking to enhance confidence in themselves by showing lower funding costs. But those swaps were part of a larger negative-basis package trade where (1) FrontPoint bought bonds (funded at a spread to Fed Funds), (2) FrontPoint bought CDS from a bank to hedge credit, and (3) FrontPoint entered into a swap with the bank to hedge interest rates. Schematically, when everything cancels, it looks like this:

If you asked FrontPoint what the trade was they might say “we are betting that the negative basis in these bonds will converge, making the bonds worth more relative to the CDS,” or alternately, that they would just ride the trade to maturity, getting paid that negative basis, and “earn a risk-free return by buying and selling the same credit exposure via alternative instruments in different markets.” That’s what the trade is primarily about: that orange thing in the lower-right-hand corner labeled “(Basis).” Read more »

I’ve occasionally pointed out that one problem with the antitrust Libor lawsuits is that the allegations are mostly “the banks lied about Libor in order to trick each other about their creditworthiness and/or screw each other on some swaps trade,” so it’s hard to claim that they were all working together in a big antitrust conspiracy. But Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, who mostly dismissed a batch of Libor lawsuits on Friday, has an even better objection, which is that even if it was a conspiracy, it was supposed to be a conspiracy:

[T]he process of setting LIBOR was never intended to be competitive. Rather, it was a cooperative endeavor wherein otherwise-competing banks agreed to submit estimates of their borrowing costs to the BBA each day to facilitate the BBA’s calculation of an interest rate index. Thus, even if we were to credit plaintiffs’ allegations that defendants subverted this cooperative process by conspiring to submit artificial estimates instead of estimates made in good faith, it would not follow that plaintiffs have suffered antitrust injury. Plaintiffs’ injury would have resulted from defendants’ misrepresentation, not from harm to competition.

As Judge Buchwald points out, in a delightfully sensible 161-page opinion, antitrust violations require a competitive market that can be subverted by a conspiracy. Here, there was no competitive market to subvert, and the injury that the plaintiffs suffered – manipulated Libors – could have come as easily from individual bank manipulation as from a grand conspiracy. Normal markets don’t work that way: if I just decide to charge you twice the going rate for my product, and no one else does, that tends not to work. If I submit twice the real rate for my Libor, and no one else does, that kind of still works, though I guess it works better if everyone joins in.

So, so much for antitrust. Read more »

As you may recall, over the summer, former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond resigned in disgrace after revelations that bank employees had engaged in rampant rate rigging on his watch. And while the scandal clearly had an affect on his last performance review, Bob and friends o’ Bob will be pleased to hear that it didn’t actually hurt him too badly come pay day! In addition to a couple million pounds (for half a year’s work), it was announced today that Diamond’s 2012 package also includes lodging while he’s visiting old colleagues in town, as well as a company car and driver. No need to see the guy reduced to dirtying his hands opening door or walking, when he’s already been through so much. Read more »

  • 27 Feb 2013 at 12:31 PM

Clawbacks Watch ’13: Barclays

Those Libor fines don’t pay for themselves! Read more »