UK judge rejects Barclays' LIBOR anonymity bid

AP News
Posted: Jan 24, 2013 2:36 PM

LONDON (AP) — A British court has rejected an attempt by Barclays to shield the names of more than 100 present and former employees of the bank allegedly involved in manipulating a key interest rate index or who for other reasons came to the attention of investigators.

Justice Julian Flaux ruled Thursday that granting anonymity would be an "affront to the principle of open justice." He noted that many names, including former CEO Bob Diamond, were already on the public record.

Barclays has admitted that employees, sometimes directed by senior executives, submitted false rates used for calculating the London interbank offered rate. Several global banks every day help compile the LIBOR, which is used to price trillions of dollars in global contracts. The bank has already been fined about $450 million by U.S. and British agencies.

Flaux was ruling as part of a suit that more than a dozen firms have joined, contending that financial products Barclays sold them were affected by the manipulated LIBOR. Flaux described the suit as a test case. Barclays says the complaint is without merit.

The case is expected to go to trial late this year, the judge said.

Flaux said more than 20 people were referred to in notes published by U.S. and British regulators who investigated LIBOR manipulation. The notes quoted people blatantly seeking help in nudging the LIBOR up or down, but did not identify them.

"The public has a legitimate interest in learning who in the banking community is alleged to have been implicated in the manipulation of LIBOR," Flaux said in a written ruling.

"So far as individuals who were not involved in the manipulation and are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing are concerned, the suggestion that they could be prejudiced by being identified seems to me somewhat unreal," he added.

Barclays said in a statement that just because an employee's documents were reviewed "does not mean that such person was involved in any wrongdoing."

Barclays was the first bank to be formally identified as a participant in LIBOR manipulation, but other institutions including Swiss bank UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase and HSBC are known to be targeted by investigators.