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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Metals, Currency Rigging Worse Than Libor, Bafin's Koenig Says - Bloomberg

By Karin Matussek and Oliver Suess Jan 16, 2014 7:00 PM ET 

Germany’s top financial regulator said possible manipulation of currency rates and prices for precious metals is worse than the Libor-rigging scandal, which has already led to fines of about $6 billion.

The allegations about the currency and precious metals markets are “particularly serious, because such reference values are based -- unlike Libor and Euribor -- typically on transactions in liquid markets and not on estimates of the banks,” Elke Koenig, the president of Bafin, said in a speech in Frankfurt yesterday.

Koenig is the first global finance regulator to comment publicly on the investigations as probes into the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, expand into other benchmarks. Joaquin Almunia, the European Union’s antitrust chief, said this week that its preliminary probe into possible foreign-exchange manipulation covers similar practices as in the regulator’s probe into Libor-rigging.

Bonn-based Bafin said earlier this week it is investigating currency trading, joining regulators in the U.K., U.S. and Switzerland, who are examining whether traders at the world’s largest banks colluded to manipulate the WM/Reuters rates, used by money managers to determine the value of holdings in different currencies.

‘Public Reaction’

At least a dozen firms have been contacted by authorities and more than 13 traders have been suspended, fired or put on leave in the currency case. Regulators are examining how traders, who communicated in instant-message groups, exchanged information on client orders and agreed how to trade at the time of the fix, five people with knowledge of the probes said last month.

“That the issue is causing such a public reaction is understandable,” Koenig said. “The financial sector is dependent on the common trust that it is efficient and at the same time, honest. The central benchmark rates seemed to be beyond any doubt, and now there is the allegation they may have been manipulated.”

Bafin interviewed employees of Deutsche Bank AG as part of a probe of potential manipulation of gold and silver prices, a person with knowledge of the matter has said in December. The U.K. finance regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, is also reviewing gold benchmarks as part of its wider investigation into how rates are set.

Firms including Barclays Plc (BARC) and UBS AG (UBSN) have been fined for manipulating Libor and related rates. The European Union fined six firms, including Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale SA (GLE), a record 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in December for rate-rigging. Ten people have also been charged in parallel U.S. and U.K. criminal investigations into the matter.

To contact the reporters on this story: Karin Matussek in Berlin at; Oliver Suess in Munich at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at

SOURCE bloomberg