Financial regulators are leveling a record $2.5 billion in fines against Deutsche Bank over allegations stemming from the Libor scandal, which saw individuals at some of the world’s largest banks manipulating interest rate benchmarks for financial gain.
The German bank will also have to fire seven employees, including several directors and two vice presidents located in London and Frankfurt. These terminations come in addition to the 10 Deutsche employees previously sacked over Libor wrongdoing.
The mandatory firings reflect an ongoing emphasis on holding individuals accountable for banking misdeeds on the part of New York’s top financial watchdog, Benjamin Lawsky. In a statement, Lawsky said, “We must remember that markets do not just manipulate themselves: It takes deliberate wrongdoing by individuals.”
The Libor scandal has been characterized as one of the largest financial scams in modern history. Dozens of individuals at multiple global banks colluded for at least seven years to rig the prices of benchmark interest rates including Libor, the London Interbank Offered Rate. As the rate at which major banks lend to each other, Libor undergirds more than $300 trillion in contracts like student loans and mortgages.
According to the settlement, employees at Deutsche and other banks were unabashed in jimmying the benchmarks. Bankers who collectively set the rate in London would regularly message each other with requests to bump the rate up or down to maximize their own profits.
The settlement with New York's Department of Financial Services (DFS) quotes one banker writing, “I’m begging u, don’t forget me… pleassssssssssssssseeeeeeeeee… I’m on my knees…” in an effort to peruade a Barclays banker to push the rate up.
The settlement comes at a difficult time for Deutsche, as it tries to spin off its postal banking arm Postbank and downsize its investment bank. An ongoing investigation by U.S. prosecutors into foreign exchange manipulation is still looming over the bank, as well as a settlement with German regulators.
The $2.5 billion fine, which ranks as the largest levied against any bank in the widespread Libor inquiry, will be split among the DFS, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Department of Justice and the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority.
The bank pleaded guilty to wire fraud as part of the settlement, which also includes allegations into manipulation of Japanese yen Libor and the Euribor, which is set by European Union banks. British investigators charged that Deutsche failed to comply fully with the investigation.
Under the terms of the settlement, the bank will install an independent monitor. American regulators maintained that it wasn’t just individual bankers but management who were privy to Libor manipulation. Department managers are quoted discussing how rates were rigged. In 2009, the head of money market derivatives suggested that rate-setting banks were lying.
A managing director retorted, “there is a philosophical saying: one greek says: ‘all greeks are lying’ who do u trust?”