Hong Kong investigating UBS over interbank rates

HONG KONG/SINGAPORE Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:09am GMT

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HONG KONG/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Hong Kong's de facto central bank said it is investigating possible misconduct by UBS over its submission of interbank rates, raising the possibility that the bank could face more fines a day after it agreed to pay $1.5 billion (922.3 million pounds) for its role in the Libor scandal.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said in a statement on Thursday that it had received information from overseas regulatory authorities about possible misconduct by UBS involving submissions for the Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rate (Hibor) and other reference rates in the region.

On Wednesday, the Swiss bank admitted to fraud and bribery in connection with efforts to rig Libor and other benchmark interest rates and agreed to pay $1.5 billion in fines to regulators in the United States, Britain and Switzerland.

While the bank will hope that settlement will draw a line under its role in Libor manipulation, it remains at risk of action from regulators elsewhere for possible rate rigging.

Besides Hong Kong, an investigation is still ongoing in Singapore into possible manipulation of benchmark interest and foreign exchange rates.

A spokesman for the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said on Thursday that banks on rate-setting panels in the city-state, including UBS, are still conducting reviews into their rate-setting processes.

"The reviews are ongoing, and it is premature to speculate on the outcome of these reviews at this stage," the spokesman said in an emailed statement.

In October, UBS disclosed in its third quarter earnings report that it was also involved in a probe into possible manipulation of benchmark rates in Singapore.

"We continue to work closely with various regulatory authorities to resolve issues relating to the setting of certain global benchmark interest rates. As we are currently in active discussions with these authorities, we cannot comment further," said a spokesman for UBS in Hong Kong.

The MAS ordered members of the Association of Banks in Singapore in July to review how they set their benchmark interbank lending rates, focusing on the Singapore interbank offer rate (Sibor) and the Swap Offer Rate (SOR).

That probe was extended in late September when the regulator said banks must also look at how rates for non-deliverable foreign exchange forwards are set.

Banks have been told to immediately report any irregularities they uncover to MAS.

Late last month the Hong Kong Association of Banks said it was considering a series of reforms to the Hibor system, including bringing in a formal code of conduct and reducing the number of rates it publishes.

(Reporting by Vikram Subhedar and Rachel Armstrong; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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