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Britain switches running of Libor rate after scandal

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Britain acted on Tuesday to switch management of the prized Libor exchange rate and restore confidence in it after revelations of market rigging besmirched the reputation of the City of London financial centre.

The British Treasury said that the Libor rate, which plays a pivotal role in many areas of international finance, would be supervised by stock exchange operator NYSE Euronext.

Supervision would still be based in London, but the switch was intended to restore the "credibility" of the global benchmark, the Treasury said Tuesday.

"NYSE Euronext is to be the new Libor administrator," the Treasury said.

This came after the British Bankers' Association was forced to give up its role following the Libor scandal.

The announcement followed a tendering process that was launched in late February to find a new administrator for the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) via an independent committee.

Committe chairwoman chair Baroness Hogg said: "This change will play a vital role in restoring the international credibility of Libor."

Britain's banking sector was rocked last year by revelations that Barclays bank tried to manipulate the rate, which is used as a benchmark for global financial contracts worth about $300 trillion.

Libor is calculated daily, using estimates from banks of their own interbank rates. However, the system has been found to be open to abuse, with some traders lying about borrowing costs to boost trading positions or make their bank seem more secure.

In the wake of the scandal, the government launched the Wheatley Review, which called in September for the BBA to lose its key role.

"The appointment of a proposed new administrator is a major step forward in the reform of Libor," the Treasury said.

"With the transfer of responsibility from the BBA Libor Ltd to the new administrator, one of the principal recommendations of the Wheatley Review, which was set up last year in the wake of the findings of Libor manipulation, will have been implemented."

Finbarr Hutcheson, chief executive officer of NYSE Liffe, welcomed the decision.

"We look forward to working with BBA Libor Ltd in completing the smooth transition to NYSE Euronext Rate Administration Limited, and continuing the process of restoring credibility, trust and integrity in Libor as a key global benchmark."

The Financial Times newspaper, citing unnamed sources, reported that NYSE Euronext had beaten various groups to the Libor role, including Bloomberg, the London Stock Exchange and research group Markit.

The Libor scandal erupted last year when Barclays was fined £290 million ($470 million, 363 million euros) by British and US regulators for attempted manipulation of Libor and Euribor interbank rates between 2005 and 2009.

Royal Bank of Scotland and Swiss lender UBS have since also received heavy fines over alleged rigging of Libor -- a flagship instrument used all over the world, affecting what banks, businesses and individuals pay to borrow money. Euribor is the eurozone equivalent.

"The government is committed to developing a safer and strong banking sector," added Financial Secretary to the Treasury Greg Clark on Tuesday.

"We want a financial sector that serves the interests of business and helps to drive economic growth.

"That is why since the Libor scandal last summer we have worked hard to reform this major international benchmark."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130709/britain-switches-running-libor-rate-after-scandal