Banking

BofA, others ordered to defend suit claiming interest rate rigging

JEF FEELEY AND JENNY SURANE

Bloomberg News

Bank of America is among banks that must face investor claims that they rigged a benchmark used in the sales of interest-rate derivatives and other financial instruments, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled Monday.
Bank of America is among banks that must face investor claims that they rigged a benchmark used in the sales of interest-rate derivatives and other financial instruments, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled Monday. AP

Bank of America, Barclays Plc and a dozen more banks must face investor claims that they rigged a benchmark used in the sales of interest-rate derivatives and other financial instruments.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan Monday rebuffed the banks’ request to throw out antitrust lawsuits accusing the institutions of colluding to set ISDAfix, affecting trillions of dollars of financial instruments. The rate is used to set prices on interest-rate swap transactions, commercial real-estate mortgages and other securities.

An Alaska pension fund and other investors raised “plausible allegations that a conspiracy among the defendants existed,” Furman said in a 36-page ruling. He allowed antitrust and breach-of-contract contract claims to proceed to trial, while throwing out other allegations.

Starting in 2009, the banks used electronic chat rooms and other means of private communication to set ISDAfix, typically submitting identical rate quotes, investors said in their suit. They are seeking billions in losses tied to the alleged rate-fixing scheme.

Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Charlotte-based Bank of America, didn’t immediately return a call and an e-mail Monday seeking comment on Furman’s ruling. Kerrie Cohen, a Barclays spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Investors also named as defendants Citigroup, Deutsche Bank AG, BNP Paribas SA, HSBC Holdings Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Credit Suisse Group AG, UBS AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Nomura Holdings Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Representatives of JPMorgan and RBS didn’t respond to requests for comment. The other banks declined to comment.

ICAP Plc, which administered and brokered transactions that established the benchmark rate, is also named as a defendant. Guy Taylor, an ICAP spokesman, declined to comment on Monday’s ruling.

Some of the banks also have been accused of rigging other benchmarks, such as the London interbank offered rate, which is also used to value loans and securities around the world.

Last year, Barclays agreed to pay $120 million to a group of cities and other investors that bought Libor-based derivatives from the bank, to settle claims the London-based bank participated in a scheme to manipulate the benchmark to increase its profits.

Citigroup this year agreed to pay $23 million to settle claims it conspired to manipulate the yen Libor benchmark. The New York-based bank also agreed to cooperate with investors suing other banks over the rate-rigging claims.

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