Watchdog in Euribor talks with Erste, Raiffeisen

VIENNA Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:48pm GMT

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VIENNA Jan 29 (Reuters) - Erste Group and Raiffeisen - Austria's two top independent banks - are being investigated about suspected fixing of the Euribor interest rate by the financial watchdog, which said there was no sign of wrongdoing.

"When the discussion came up in the summer that there could also have been manipulation of Euribor, we at once began an investigation of the two Austrian banks," a spokesman for the FMA regulator said on Tuesday, adding the probe was ongoing.

Erste said it would decide about its future participation in the Euribor panel after the FMA's audit was complete, and would give an update with its 2012 results announcement on Feb. 28.

Raiffeisen said its own investigation had found no evidence of manipulation, and it did not expect regulatory measures against it.

The European Commission review into Euribor, which is used to price swathes of financial products, was triggered after it emerged in 2011 a number of banks had manipulated other such benchmarks in the past for their own gain.

A scandal over Euribor's larger counterpart, Libor, last year toppled the leadership of British bank Barclays, and cost Swiss bank UBS $1.5 billion in fines. Other banks are bracing for fines and possible criminal charges.

Along with some other European banks, Raiffeisen pulled out of Euribor earlier this month, damaging the credibility of the benchmark, which is set by gauging how much banks pay to borrow from their peers.

(Reporting by Angelika Gruber; writing by Georgina Prodhan)

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