The LIBOR scandal churned on; criminal probes were finally launched by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) while in the U.S., the Justice Department prepared to file charges. Barclays apologized for its part in the rate-rigging scandal, even as it posted profits that beat analysts’ estimates. And Lloyds Banking Group was drawn deeper into the scandal, with parts of the lender receiving subpoenas in the investigation.
Bloomberg reported Friday that the SFO at last swung into action after being told it would be given a budget to pursue the matter, which has stretched from London across the globe. Until politicians called for a criminal probe in the matter, the SFO had declined to become involved, despite information from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and from U.S. agencies.
A person familiar with the case said that although the SFO had the information from the U.S. late in 2011, the agency expressed no interest in the matter. However, in April it got a new director, David Green, and now it seems that things are on the move.
“Now the priority is to come to an assessment whether the available offenses are there for us to prosecute in a criminal court,” David Jones, a spokesman for the SFO, said in the report. If “the answer to that is yes we can, then we start going hell for leather and putting together a formal investigation team.”
Andrew Haynes, a law professor at the University of Wolverhampton in England, summed it up in the report as “partly the difference in culture.” He added, “In America, economic crime is something that’s regarded as desperately serious. In this country it is regarded as a problem, but there’s sometimes a slothful response.”
Meanwhile, in the U.S., the spread of the probe has altered the timeline of charges pending. Originally scheduled to be brought as soon as Sept. 3, Labor Day, now it appears that they will be held until October. It was reported that the U.S. plans to file charges against individuals that focus on allegations of rate fixing activities that are more extensive than the actions that were the subject of the Barclays settlement in June.
Barclays offered an apology for its part in the scandal in a statement that came as the bank posted first-half profits beating analysts’ estimates. In the statement, Chairman Marcus Agius said in part, “We are sorry for what has happened. However, our leadership continues to focus on the delivery of our financial performance targets.”