You may want to pay attention to the unfolding scandal swirling around one of the world's oldest and most important financial benchmarks. It's called the London Interbank Offered Rate and its level can directly impact the interest rate you pay on an adjustable rate mortgage and other consumer loans.
The London Interbank Offered Rate (commonly known as LIBOR) is supposed to be the collective best guesses of 18 of the world's largest global banks. They determine the interest that borrowers should be charged on any given day for short-term loans. LIBOR is set daily in London by the British Bankers' Association (BBA), which eliminates the highest and lowest rates supplied by the member banks and then calculates an average from the remainder.
Since LIBOR is a benchmark rate, other loans are calculated on the basis of that rate. Most of the multi-trillion dollar derivatives markets, for example, are based on LIBOR, as are various commercial mortgages, commercial loans and consumer loans, including adjustable rate mortgages.
Some time ago, I made readers aware that there was an ongoing, global investigation into the setting of interest rates by regulators in the U.S., Europe and Asia. This global governmental task force has been examining the complex trades throughout the financial capitals of the world for more than a five-year period.
Recently, the U.K. Financial Services Authority, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S.
Regulators stressed that this was only the first of several findings that will involve some of the biggest banks overseas and in our country as well.
Some may wonder if justice is truly served by fining one bank $451 million. Although it is a lot of money, is it anywhere close to the true cost of this alleged manipulation of trillions of dollars in loans benchmarked to this all important rate? It is my understanding that many of the same characters that were responsible for the global financial crisis are also involved in this scandal.
If so, how many times will these financial thugs escape justice by simply shelling out our money to avoid the consequences of their actions? Let's face it, in the end; these fines are being paid by taxpayer money. It is the world's governments, through the central banks, that have been pumping billions into these banks' coffers.
These same banks have used the money to speculate in derivatives and other markets. Now we are told they were rigging the markets as well in order to make even more profits. So, do they really care that they are fined a billion or two of those profits if they get caught in a scandal like this? Hell no! If these allegations prove true, and the authorities haul in more of the same perps that brought us the financial crisis and its ongoing consequences, I, for one, expect criminal charges to be brought against these banksters and their henchman. We should all demand nothing less.
Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative and portfolio manager with Berkshire Money Management, managing over $200 million for investors in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of this commentary is or should be considered investment advice or a promotion of Berkshire Money Management.