RABOBANK ADMITS WRONGDOING IN LIBOR INVESTIGATION, AGREES TO PAY $325 MILLION CRIMINAL PENALTY

WASHINGTON — Coöperatieve Centrale  Raiffeisen-Boerenleenbank B.A. (Rabobank) has entered into an  agreement with the Department of Justice to pay a $325 million penalty to  resolve violations arising from Rabobank’s submissions for the London InterBank  Offered Rate (LIBOR) and the Euro Interbank Offered Rate (Euribor), which are  leading benchmark interest rates around the world, the Justice Department  announced today.

A criminal information will be filed  today in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut that charges  Rabobank as part of a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). The  information charges Rabobank with wire fraud for its role in manipulating the  benchmark interest rates LIBOR and Euribor. In addition to the $325  million penalty, the DPA requires the  bank to admit and accept responsibility for its misconduct as described in an  extensive statement of facts. Rabobank has agreed to continue cooperating  with the Justice Department in its ongoing investigation of the manipulation of  benchmark interest rates by other financial institutions and  individuals.

“For years, employees at Rabobank, often working with traders at other  banks around the globe, illegally manipulated four different interest rates –  Euribor and LIBOR for the U.S. dollar, the yen, and the pound sterling – in the  hopes of fraudulently moving the market to generate profits for their traders  at the expense of the bank’s counterparties,” said Acting Assistant Attorney  General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “Today’s criminal resolution – which represents the second-largest penalty in  the Criminal Division’s active, ongoing investigation of the manipulation of  global benchmark interest rates by some of the largest banks in the world –  comes fast on the heels of charges brought against three former ICAP brokers  just last month. Rabobank is the fourth major financial institution that  has admitted its misconduct in this wide-ranging criminal investigation, and  other banks should pay attention: our investigation is far from over.”

“Rabobank rigged multiple benchmark rates, allowing its traders to reap  higher profits at the expense of their unsuspecting counterparties,” said  Deputy Assistant Attorney General Leslie C. Overton of the Justice  Department’s Antitrust Division. “Not only was this conduct fraudulent,  it compromised the integrity of globally-used interest rate benchmarks –  undermining financial markets worldwide.”

“Rabobank admitted to manipulating LIBOR and Euribor submissions which  directly affected the rates referenced by financial products held by and on  behalf of companies and investors around the world,” said Assistant Director in  Charge Valerie Parlave of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Rabobank’s  actions resulted in the deliberate harm to counterparties holding products  referencing the manipulated rates. Today’s announcement is yet another  example of the tireless efforts of the FBI special agents and forensic  accountants who are dedicated to investigating complex fraud schemes and,  together with prosecutors, bringing to justice those who participate in such  schemes.”

Together with approximately $740 million in criminal and regulatory  penalties imposed by other agencies in actions arising out of the same conduct  – $475 million by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) action, $170  million by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) action and approximately  $96 million by the Openbaar Ministerie (the Dutch Public Prosecution Service) –  the Justice Department’s $325 million criminal penalty brings the total amount  to be paid by Rabobank to more than $1 billion.

According to signed documents, LIBOR is an average interest rate,  calculated based upon submissions from leading banks around the world and  reflecting the rates those banks believe they would be charged if borrowing  from other banks. LIBOR serves as the primary benchmark for short-term  interest rates globally and is used as a reference rate for many interest rate  contracts, mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other consumer lending  products. The Bank of International Settlements estimated that as of the  second half of 2009, outstanding interest rate contracts were valued at  approximately $450 trillion.

LIBOR is published by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), a trade  association based in London. At the time relevant to the conduct in the  criminal information, LIBOR was calculated for 10 currencies at 15 borrowing  periods, known as maturities, ranging from overnight to one year. The  LIBOR for a given currency at a specific maturity is the result of a  calculation based upon submissions from a panel of banks for that currency (the  Contributor Panel) selected by the BBA. From at least 2005 through 2011,  Rabobank was a member of the Contributor Panel for a number of currencies,  including United States dollar (dollar) LIBOR, pound sterling LIBOR, and yen  LIBOR.

The Euro Interbank Offered Rate (Euribor) is published by the European  Banking Federation (EBF), which is based in Brussels, Belgium, and is  calculated at 15 maturities, ranging from overnight to one year. Euribor  is the rate at which Euro interbank term deposits within the Euro zone are  expected to be offered by one prime bank to another at 11:00 a.m. Brussels  time. The Euribor at a given maturity is the result of a calculation based  upon submissions from Euribor Contributor Panel banks. From at least 2005  through 2011, Rabobank was also a member of the Contributor Panel for  Euribor.

According to the statement of facts accompanying the agreement, from as  early as 2005 through at least November 2010, certain Rabobank derivatives  traders requested that certain Rabobank dollar LIBOR, yen LIBOR, pound sterling  LIBOR, and Euribor submitters submit LIBOR and Euribor contributions that would  benefit the traders’ trading positions, rather than rates that complied with  the definitions of LIBOR and Euribor.

In addition, according to the statement of facts accompanying the  agreement, from as early as January 2006 through October 2008, a Rabobank yen  LIBOR submitter and a Rabobank Euribor submitter had two separate agreements  with traders at other banks to make yen LIBOR and Euribor submissions that  benefitted trading positions, rather than submissions that complied with the  definitions of LIBOR and Euribor.

The Rabobank LIBOR and Euribor submitters accommodated traders’  requests on numerous occasions, and on various occasions, Rabobank’s  submissions affected the fixed rates.

According to the statement of facts, Rabobank employees engaged in this  conduct through electronic communications, which included both emails and  electronic chats. For example, on Sept. 21, 2007, a Rabobank Yen  derivatives trader emailed the Rabobank Yen LIBOR submitter at the time with  the subject line “libors,” writing: “Wehre do you think today’s libors are?  If you can, I would like 1mth libors higher today.” The submitter  replied: “Bookies reckon 1m sets at .85.” The trader wrote back: “I have  some fixings in 1 mth so would appreciate if you can put it higher mate.”  The submitter replied: “No prob mate let me know your level.” The trader  responded: “Wud be nice if you could put 0.90% for 1mth cheers.” The  submitter wrote back: “Sure no prob. I’ll probably get a few phone calls but no  worries mate!” The trader replied: “If you may get a few phone calls then  put 0.88% then.” The submitter responded: “Don’t worry mate – there’s  bigger crooks in the market than us guys!” That day, as requested,  Rabobank’s 1-month Yen LIBOR submission was 0.90, an increase of seven basis  points from its previous submission, whereas the other panel banks’ submissions  decreased by approximately a half of a basis point on average. Rabobank’s  submission went from being tied as the tenth highest submission on the  Contributor Panel on the previous day to being the highest submission on the  Contributor Panel.

On Nov. 29, 2006, a Rabobank dollar derivatives trader wrote to  Rabobank’s Global Head of Liquidity and Finance and the head of Rabobank’s  money markets desk in London, who supervised rate submitters: “Hi mate, low 1s  high 3s LIBOR pls !!! Dont tell [another Rabobank U.S. Dollar derivatives  trader] haa haaaaaaa. Sold the market today doooooohhhh!” The money  markets desk head replied: “ok mate , will do my best …speak later.”  After the LIBOR submissions that day, Rabobank’s ranking compared to other  panel banks dropped as to 1-month dollar LIBOR and rose as to 3-month dollar  LIBOR. Two days later, on Dec. 1, 2006, the trader again wrote to the money  markets desk head: “Appreciate 3s go down, but a high 3s today would be nice…  cheers chief.” The money markets desk head wrote back: “I am fast turning  into your LIBOR bitch!!!!” The trader replied: “Just friendly  encouragement that’s all , appreciate the help.” The money markets desk  head wrote back: “No worries mate , glad to help ….We just stuffed ourselves  with good ol pie , mash n licker !!”

In an example of an agreement with traders at other banks, on July 28,  2006, a Rabobank rate submitter and Rabobank trader discussed their mutual  desires for a high fixing. The submitter stated to the trader: “setting a  high 1m again today – I need it!” to which the trader responded: “yes pls  mate…I need a higher 1m libor too.” Within approximately 20 minutes, the  submitter contacted a trader at another Contributor Panel bank and wrote: “morning  skipper…..will be setting an obscenely high 1m again today…poss 38 just  fyi.” The other bank’s trader responded, “(K)…oh dear..my poor  customers….hehehe!! manual input libors again today then!!!!” Both  banks’ submissions on July 28 moved up one basis point, from 0.37 to 0.38, a  move which placed their submissions as the second highest submissions on the  Contributor Panel that day.

As another example, on July 7, 2009, a Rabobank trader wrote to a  former Rabobank yen LIBOR submitter: “looks like some ppl are talking with each  other when they put libors down. . . quite surprised that 3m libors came down a  lot.” The former submitter replied: “yes deffinite manipulation – always  is tho to be honest mate. . . i always used to ask if anyone needed a favour  and vise versa. . . . a little unethical but always helps to have friends in  mrkt.”

By entering into a DPA with Rabobank, the Justice Department took  several factors into consideration, including that Rabobank has no history of  similar misconduct and has not been the subject of any criminal enforcement  actions or any significant regulatory enforcement actions by any authority in  the United States, the Netherlands, or elsewhere. In addition, Rabobank  has significantly expanded and enhanced its legal and regulatory compliance  program and has taken extensive steps to remediate the misconduct.  Significant remedies and sanctions are also being imposed on Rabobank by  several regulators and an additional criminal law enforcement agency (the Dutch  Public Prosecution Service).

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by special agents, forensic  accountants, and intelligence analysts of the FBI’s Washington Field  Office. The prosecution of Rabobank is being handled by Assistant Chief  Glenn S. Leon and Trial Attorney Alexander H. Berlin of the Criminal Division’s  Fraud Section and Trial Attorneys Ludovic C. Ghesquiere, Michael T. Koenig and  Eric L. Schleef of the Antitrust Division. Deputy Chiefs Daniel Braun and  William Stellmach of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, Criminal Division  Senior Counsel Rebecca Rohr, Assistant Chief Elizabeth B. Prewitt and Trial  Attorney Richard A. Powers of the Antitrust Division’s New York Office, and  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Glover and Liam Brennan of the U.S. Attorney’s  Office for the District of Connecticut, along with Criminal Division’s Office  of International Affairs, have provided valuable assistance in this  matter.

The investigation leading to these cases has  required, and has greatly benefited from, a diligent and wide-ranging  cooperative effort among various enforcement agencies both in the United States  and abroad. The Justice Department acknowledges and expresses its deep  appreciation for this assistance. In particular, the CFTC’s Division of  Enforcement referred this matter to the department and, along with the FCA, has  played a major role in the investigation. The department has also worked  closely with the Dutch Public Prosecution Service and De Nederlandsche Bank  (the Dutch Central Bank) in the investigation of Rabobank. Various  agencies and enforcement authorities from other nations are also participating  in different aspects of the broader investigation relating to LIBOR and other  benchmark rates, and the department is grateful for their cooperation and  assistance. In particular, the Securities and Exchange Commission has  played a significant role in the LIBOR investigation, and the department  expresses its appreciation to the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office for its  assistance and ongoing cooperation.

This  prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial  Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency  Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and  proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task  force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies,  regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement  who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil  enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts  across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to  investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and  effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat  discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for  victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force  visit: www.stopfraud.gov.

 

ICAP Brokers Face Felony Charges for Alleged Long-Running Manipulation of LIBOR Interest Rates

Two former derivatives brokers and a former cash broker employed by London-based brokerage firm ICAP were charged as part of the ongoing criminal investigation into the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), the Justice Department announced today.

Darrell Read, who resides in New Zealand, and Daniel Wilkinson and Colin Goodman, both of England, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud in a criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court earlier today.  They each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for each count upon conviction.

“By allegedly participating in a scheme to manipulate benchmark interest rates for financial gain, these defendants undermined the integrity of the global markets,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “They were supposed to be honest brokers, but instead, they put their own financial interests ahead of that larger responsibility.  And as a result, transactions and financial products around the world were compromised, because they were tied to a rate that was distorted due to the brokers’ dishonesty.  These charges underscore the Justice Department’s determination to hold accountable all those whose conduct threatens the integrity of our financial markets.”

“These three men are accused of repeatedly and deliberately spreading false information to banks and investors around the world in order to fraudulently move the market and help their client fleece his counterparties,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “Our criminal investigation of the manipulation of LIBOR by some of the largest banks in the world has led us from New York to London, to Tokyo, and other financial hubs around the globe.  These important charges are just the latest law-enforcement action in the Criminal Division and Antitrust Division’s global LIBOR investigation, and reflect the Department’s continued dedication to detecting, and prosecuting, financial fraudsters who affect U.S. markets, whether they work at a bank, or a brokerage, and whether they carry out their fraud from a desk in the United States, or abroad.”

“The complaint unsealed today charges Colin Goodman, Daniel Wilkinson and Darrell Read for conspiring to manipulate benchmark interest rates that determined the profitability of their client’s trades,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “In exchange for bigger bonus checks, the three defendants undermined financial markets around the world by compromising the integrity of globally used interest rate benchmarks.  The Department continues to demonstrate its commitment to protecting the interest of American citizens in free and fair financial markets.”

“Corporate and securities fraud involving the manipulation of these rates causes a worldwide impact on trading positions and erodes the integrity of the market and confidence in Wall Street,” said Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  “Unraveling such complex financial schemes is difficult and time consuming.  Today’s charges are the result of the hard work of the FBI special agents and forensic accountants who dedicated significant time and resources to investigating this case.”

According to the criminal complaint, LIBOR is an average interest rate, calculated based on submissions from leading banks around the world, reflecting the rates those banks believe they would be charged if borrowing from other banks.  LIBOR is published by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), a trade association based in London.  At the time relevant to the criminal complaint, LIBOR was calculated for 10 currencies at 15 borrowing periods, known as maturities, ranging from overnight to one year.  The published LIBOR “fix” for a given currency at a specific maturity is the result of a calculation based upon submissions from a panel of banks for that currency (the contributor panel) selected by the BBA.

LIBOR serves as the primary benchmark for short-term interest rates globally and is used as a reference rate for many interest rate contracts, mortgages, credit cards, student loans and other consumer lending products.  The Bank of International Settlements estimated that as of the second half of 2009, outstanding interest rate contracts were estimated at approximately $450 trillion.

According to allegations in the criminal complaint filed in this case, between July 2006 and September 2010, Wilkinson was a desk director employed in the London office of ICAP, where he supervised a group of derivatives brokers – including Read – specializing in Yen-based financial products.  Generally, the desk’s clients were derivatives traders at large financial institutions, and the transactions brokered by Wilkinson, Read and others on the desk essentially consisted of bets between traders on the direction in which Yen LIBOR would move.  Between July 2006 and September 2009, the desk’s largest client was a senior trader at UBS (UBS Trader) in Tokyo, to whom Read spoke almost daily.  Because of the large size of the client’s trading positions, even slight moves of a fraction of a percent in Yen LIBOR could generate large profits.  For example, UBS Trader once told Read that a 0.01 percent – or one basis point – movement in the final Yen LIBOR fixing on a specific date could result in $3 million profit for his trading positions.  A significant part of both Read’s and Wilkinson’s compensation was tied to the brokerage fees generated by UBS Trader and paid to ICAP.

Goodman was a cash broker at ICAP’s London office during the relevant time period.  In addition to brokering cash transactions, Goodman distributed a daily email to individuals outside of ICAP, including derivatives traders at several large banks as well as those responsible for providing the BBA with LIBOR submissions at certain banks.  Goodman’s email contained what was termed his “SUGGESTED LIBORS,” purported predictions of where Yen LIBOR ultimately would fix each day across eight specified borrowing periods.  Read and Wilkinson, along with Goodman himself, often referred to Goodman as “lord libor.”

The complaint alleges that Read, Wilkinson and Goodman, together with UBS Trader, executed a sustained and systematic scheme to move Yen LIBOR in a direction favorable to UBS Trader’s trading positions.

According to the criminal complaint, the primary strategy employed by Read, Wilkinson and Goodman to execute the scheme was to use Goodman’s “SUGGESTED LIBORS” email to disseminate misinformation to Yen LIBOR panel banks in hopes that the banks would rely on the misinformation when making their own respective Yen LIBOR submissions to the BBA for inclusion in the published fix.  Rather than providing good faith predictions as to where Yen LIBOR would fix, Goodman instead often used his daily email to set forth predictions which benefitted UBS Trader’s trading positions.

Beginning in or about June 2007, Goodman was paid a bonus through the desk Wilkinson supervised, allegedly intended, at least in part, to reward Goodman for his role in their effort to influence and manipulate the published Yen LIBOR fix.

As a second strategy, Read and Wilkinson allegedly further agreed to contact interest rate derivatives traders and submitters employed at Yen LIBOR panel banks in an effort to cause them to make false and misleading submissions to the BBA at UBS Trader’s behest.

As alleged in the charging document, Read, Wilkinson, Goodman, UBS Trader, and other co-conspirators often executed their scheme through electronic chats and email exchanges.  For example, on June 28, 2007, in an email message, Read told Wilkinson: “DAN THIS IS GETTING SERIOUS [UBS TRADER] IS NOT HAPPY WITH THE WAY THINGS ARE PROGRESSING . . . CAN YOU PLEASE GET HOLD OF COLIN AND GET HIM TO SEND OUT 6 MOS LIBOR AT 0.865 AND TO GET HIS BANKS SETTING IT HIGH. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT BECAUSE [UBS TRADER] IS QUESTIONING MY (AND OUR) WORTH.”

The complaint alleges that the defendants were aware of the effects that Goodman’s false and fraudulent “SUGGESTED LIBORS” had on submissions by Yen LIBOR panel banks.  For example, on Nov. 20, 2008, Read asked UBS Trader, “you have a really big fix tonight I believe? if Colin sends out 6m at a more realistic level than 1.10 [%] i reckon [the two panel banks] will parrot him, it might mean 6m coming down a bit.” On the following day, Nov. 21, 2008, Goodman moved his suggestion for 6-month Yen LIBOR down by nine basis points.  The two other banks mirrored Goodman’s suggestion, moving their 6-month Yen LIBOR submissions down by nine basis points.

According to allegations in the complaint, Read counseled UBS Trader how to most effectively manipulate Yen LIBOR.  For example, UBS Trader told Read in a July 22, 2009, electronic chat that “11th aug is the big date…i still have lots of 6m fixings till the 10th.”   Read responded to UBS Trader, “if you drop [UBS’s] 6m dramatically on the 11th mate, it will look v fishy… .  I’d be v careful how you play it, there might be cause for a drop as you cross into a new month but a couple of weeks in might get people questioning you.”  UBS Trader replied, “don’t worry will stagger the drops…ie 5bp then 5bp,” and Read told UBS Trader, “ok mate, don’t want you getting into [expletive].”  UBS Trader again assured Read that UBS and two additional panel banks would stagger their drops in coordination, and Read concluded, “great the plan is hatched and sounds sensible.”

A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted.

The investigation is being conducted by special agents, forensic accountants, and intelligence analysts of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  The prosecution is being handled by Deputy Chief William Stellmach and Trial Attorney Sandra L. Moser of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorneys Eric Schleef and Kristina Srica of the Antitrust Division.  Trial Attorneys Alexander Berlin and Thomas B.W. Hall, Law Clerk Andrew Tyler, and Paralegal Specialist Kevin Sitarski of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, along with Assistant Chief Elizabeth Prewitt and Trial Attorney Richard Powers of the Antitrust Division, and former Trial Attorney Luke Marsh have also provided valuable assistance.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs has provided assistance in this matter as well.

The broader investigation relating to LIBOR and other benchmark rates has required, and has greatly benefited from, a diligent and wide-ranging cooperative effort among various enforcement agencies both in the United States and abroad.  The Justice Department acknowledges and expresses its deep appreciation for this assistance.  In particular, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Enforcement referred this matter to the Department and, along with the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, has played a major role in the investigation.  The Securities and Exchange Commission has also provided valuable assistance for which the Department is grateful.  The Department also expresses its appreciation to the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office for its assistance and ongoing cooperation.  Various agencies and enforcement authorities from other nations are also participating in different aspects of the broader investigation, and the Department is grateful for their cooperation and assistance as well.

Finally, the Department acknowledges ICAP’s continuing cooperation in the Department’s ongoing investigation.

This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources.  The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.