Last Week's LIBOR Ruling Not Quite As Dispositive As (Alleged) LIBOR-Rigging Banks Might Have Liked

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There are lots of ways to win a legal battle. You can win it outright. You can win it morally. And you can win it Pyrrhic-ally. Avoid the latter if you can.

When last week, a federal judge junked a proposed class-action lawsuit against the banks who may or may not have played fast and loose with the London Interbank Offered Rate, that seemed like a good thing for said banks. But then the Hon. Naomi Reice Buchwald had to go and throw this in:

There are "many requirements that private plaintiffs must satisfy, but which government agencies need not," she wrote in Friday's ruling.

Certain government agencies—namely, the states—plan to see just how few requirements they'll need to get their billion pounds of flesh.

Thirty state attorneys general are investigating alleged interest-rate rigging by banks that set Libor, and the probe isn't slowing despite a U.S. judge's ruling last week in favor of the banks in private lawsuits.

The number of states involved in the coordinated probe has grown substantially in recent months and could result in enforcement actions seeking billions of dollars in damages, according to people close to the investigation. New York and Connecticut are leading the investigation, which has widened to include Arizona, Delaware, Iowa and Maryland, according to a list reviewed by The Wall Street Journal….

A spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Judge Buchwald's ruling "does not have any impact on our multistate probe into losses incurred as a result of Libor…manipulation."

Ruling in Rate Probe Doesn't Slow Cases [WSJ]

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At Some Point In The Future, BlackRock Might Sue Over Libor Manipulation

Or it might not. No one can say at this time. Charlie Gasparino reports: BlackRock has $240 billion in money market assets, much of which is priced off of Libor. Thus even artificially depressing Libor a bit could mean that the firm’s customers missed out on billions upon billions in investment returns. A BlackRock spokeswoman told FOX Business: “We are closely following the investigations as well as related litigation to assess the full implications and possible impact these events may have had on our clients and the cash markets. The implications of the various investigations and litigation are complex and it will be some time before greater clarity emerges.” Indeed, people inside BlackRock say assessing damages won’t be easy. First it’s unclear just how much the manipulation cost fund investors since the evidence so far shows that banks like Barclays only depressed their Libor submissions during certain periods of time, particularly during the financial crisis, when they didn’t want to alert investors that they were being charged higher interest rates to borrow money. BlackRock Mulls Legal Action Amid Libor Scandal [FBN]

RBS Trader Whose Instant Messages Clearly Show Him (Allegedly) Engaging In Libor Manipulation Not Going Down Without A Fight

One thing that most people probably agree on is that having their instant messages, e-mails, and phone calls end up court would be cause for at least a little embarrassment. Everyone's thrown in an emoticon they aren't proud of, some of us have used company time to chat with significant others about undergarments, and the vast majority of workers have spent a not insignificant amount of the workday talking shit about their superiors. Of course, the humiliation gets ratcheted up a notch in the case of people who 'haha' (and in extreme circumstances "hahahah') their own jokes* which, just for example, involve habitual Libor manipulation. Tan Chi Min knows what we're talking about: “Nice Libor,” Tan said in an April 2, 2008, instant message with traders including Neil Danziger, who also was fired by RBS, and David Pieri. “Our six-month fixing moved the entire fixing, hahahah.” And while having such an exchange become public would be tremendously awkward for most, you know what's really 'hahaha' about this whole thing is that 1) Tan was the one who wanted people to read the above, which was submitted as part of a 231-page affidavit earlier this month and 2) He's trying to use it as evidence that he didn't deserve to be fired. The conversations among traders at RBS and firms including Deutsche Bank AG illustrate how the risk of abuse was embedded in the process for setting Libor, the benchmark for more than $300 trillion of securities worldwide......Tan, the bank’s former Singapore-based head of delta trading for Asia, [is] suing Britain’s third-biggest lender by assets for wrongful dismissal after being fired last year for allegedly trying to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. Tan, who 'allegedly' tried to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, also included this conversations as part of his defense: “What’s the call on Libor,” Jezri Mohideen, then the bank’s head of yen products in Singapore, asked Danziger in an Aug. 21, 2007, chat. “Where would you like it, Libor that is,” Danziger asked, according to a transcript included in Tan’s filings. “Mixed feelings, but mostly I’d like it all lower so the world starts to make a little sense,” another trader responded. “The whole HF world will be kissing you instead of calling me if Libor move lower,” Tan said, referring to hedge funds. “OK, I will move the curve down 1 basis point, maybe more if I can,” Danziger replied. And this: In another conversation on March 27, 2008, Tan called for RBS to raise its Libor submission, saying an earlier lower figure the bank submitted may have cost his team 200,000 pounds. “We need to bump it way up high, highest among all if possible,” Tan said. Tan also asked for a high submission in an Aug. 20, 2007, instant message to Scott Nygaard, global head of RBS’s treasury markets in London. “We want high fix in 3s,” Tan said in the message. “Neil is the one setting the yen Libor in London now and for this week and next.” Also this: “It’s just amazing how Libor fixing can make you that much money or lose if opposite,” Tan said on an Aug. 19, 2007, conversation with traders at other banks, including Deutsche Bank’s Mark Wong. “It’s a cartel now in London.” And this philosophical one, for good measure: “This whole process would make banks pull out of Libor fixing,” Tan said in a May 16, 2011, chat with money markets trader Andrew Smoler. “Question is what is illegal? If making money if bank fix it to suits its own books are illegal... then no point fixing it right? Cuz there will be days when we will def make money fixing it.” The defense rests. RBS Instant Messages Show Libor Rates Skewed for Traders [Bloomberg] *Although actually people who do this probably don't even have the good sense to be ashamed of themselves.