Banks win 'rate-rigging' dismissals

A group of banks including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have won dismissal of most of the claims in private lawsuits that they rigged a key interest rate.

US District Judge Naomi Buchwald, sitting in New York, dismissed antitrust claims brought against the banks by a group of plaintiffs that included the City of Baltimore and some pension funds.
The plaintiffs claimed that they had suffered losses because the banks had manipulated the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor.

The judge said that while the banks had already paid billions of dollars in penalties to government regulatory agencies, private plaintiffs had to satisfy many requirements which governments did not.
Libor is the critical rate banks use to borrow from each other. The rate indirectly affects the cost of loans that people pay when they take them out. It provides the basis for trillions in contracts around the world, including bonds and consumer loans - such as when people buy a home or car.

It is a self-policing system and relies on information that world banks submit to a British banking authority.

Cities and municipal agencies in the US have filed a flurry of lawsuits against some of the banks that set the Libor. They have sought damages for losses they say they suffered as a result of an artificially low rate, which depressed the value of bonds and other investments pegged to the key interest rate.

Last year a US watchdog found that government-controlled mortgage giant Freddie Mac and its larger sibling Fannie Mae together may have lost more than three billion dollars (£2bn) on their investments from banks' rate-rigging.

Last week Freddie Mac sued JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and 12 other big international banks in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, claiming the lenders rigged the key interest rate, causing the lender to incur huge losses.

Two big British banks and Switzerland's largest have been fined hundreds of millions of dollars by US and British regulators for manipulating Libor.

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