Hong Kong's de facto central bank said it is investigating possible misconduct by UBS over its submission of interbank rates, raising the possibility that the bank could face more fines a day after it agreed to pay $1.5 billion for its role in the Libor scandal.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said in a statement on Thursday that it had received information from overseas regulatory authorities about possible misconduct by UBS involving submissions for the Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rate (Hibor) and other reference rates in the region.
On Wednesday, the Swiss bank admitted to fraud and bribery in connection with efforts to rig Libor and other benchmark interest rates and agreed to pay $1.5 billion in fines to regulators in the US, Britain and Switzerland. While the bank will hope that settlement will draw a line under its role in Libor manipulation, it remains at risk of action from regulators elsewhere for possible rate rigging.
Tom Hayes, one of two former UBS AG traders charged by US prosecutors, is portrayed by American regulators as the kingpin of a three-year campaign that succeeded in manipulating global interest rates.
Hayes, 33, was charged with wire fraud and price-fixing, the Department of Justice said in a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday. The trader and Roger Darin, a former short-term interest-rates trader at UBS whose responsibilities included the firm’s yen Libor quotes, were also charged with conspiracy. Yen Libor reflects how much banks charge each other for loans in the Japanese currency.
Hayes colluded with brokers, counterparts at other firms and his colleagues to manipulate the rate, the Justice Department said. Between 2006 and 2009, a UBS trader made at least 800 requests to the firm’s yen Libor rate-setters, about 100 to traders at other banks, and 1,200 to interdealer brokers, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which didn’t identify Hayes by name.
“Many UBS yen derivatives traders and managers were involved in the manipulative conduct and made requests to serve their own trading positions’ interests,” the CFTC said. “But the volume of unlawful requests submitted by one particular senior yen derivatives trader in Tokyo dwarfed them all.”
Besides Hong Kong, an investigation is still ongoing in Singapore into possible manipulation of benchmark interest and foreign exchange rates. A spokesman for the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said on Thursday that banks on rate-setting panels in the city-state, including UBS, are still conducting reviews into their rate-setting processes.
“The reviews are ongoing, and it is premature to speculate on the outcome of these reviews at this stage,” the spokesman said in an emailed statement. In October, UBS disclosed in its third quarter earnings report that it was also involved in a probe into possible manipulation of benchmark rates in Singapore.
“We continue to work closely with various regulatory authorities to resolve issues relating to the setting of certain global benchmark interest rates. As we are currently in active discussions with these authorities, we cannot comment further,” said a spokesman for UBS in Hong Kong.
The MAS ordered members of the Association of Banks in Singapore in July to review how they set their benchmark interbank lending rates, focusing on the Singapore interbank offer rate (Sibor) and the Swap Offer Rate (SOR). That probe was extended in late September when the regulator said banks must also look at how rates for non-deliverable foreign exchange forwards are set. Banks have been told to immediately report any irregularities they uncover to MAS.
Late last month the Hong Kong Association of Banks said it was considering a series of reforms to the Hibor system, including bringing in a formal code of conduct and reducing the number of rates it publishes.
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