Regulators are questioning how interest rates are set across the globe—not just LIBOR and EURIBOR, but also various in-country rates such as TIBOR (Tokyo), STIBOR (Stockholm), SIBOR (Singapore) and HIBOR (Hong Kong).
The revelation that the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) was rigged, and has been for some time, has led to questions in other countries about their own benchmarks. As investigations proceed, September talks are planned on whether to scrap LIBOR altogether for a standard that is less prone to manipulation.
Bloomberg reported Thursday that from Sweden to South Korea, regulators are investigating key benchmark interest rates to determine whether the banks contributing their borrowing costs also played with the numbers.
The European Central Bank (ECB) is taking action as well, to try to restore faith in EURIBOR, the euro benchmark, according to unnamed sources in a Reuters report. A total of 43 banks are involved in setting EURIBOR.
Interbank rates in individual countries can be easier to manipulate, since fewer banks are involved in setting the benchmark. “Collusion typically occurs in markets with just a few players,” said Rosa Abrantes-Metz in the report. Abrantes-Metz, an economist with the consulting firm Global Economics Group and an associate professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, added, “All else being equal, the smaller the group, the easier it is to collude.”
STIBOR is set by only five banks after the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) removed itself from the panel on April 30. According to the biannual Financial Stability Report by the Swedish central bank, Riksbank, published June 1, “Many market participants state in the Riksbank’s latest risk survey that there are problems with the STIBOR.”
The report added, ”This refers to incentives for the banks to set the STIBOR at fair levels, the opinion that too few banks determine the STIBOR and the insufficient transparency of the STIBOR and its framework.”
Norway’s NIBOR is set by six banks; Denmark’s CIBOR (Copenhagen) is set by eight. The Japanese Bankers Association sets TIBOR from 16 banks for yen and 15 for euroyen. In South Korea, which is already probing how its three-month CD rate is set, 10 brokerages send quotes twice a day to the Korea Financial Investment Association. HIBOR is set based on 20 submissions daily.
At least 34 traders are also under investigation in the main LIBOR scandal. Michael Zrihen at Credit Agricole, Didier Sander at HSBC and Christian Bittar at Deutsche Bank, according to an unidentified source, are being investigated for their ties to ex-Barclays trader Philippe Moryoussef. Societe Generale is also under scrutiny.