The Libor Scandal: History’s Largest Market Fraud?

While the Supreme Court’s health care decision and the 2012 election season have been dominating news in the U.S., in London a banking scandal is unfolding which threatens to engulf much of the British financial and political establishments. The story has barely registered in the U.S. outside of the financial press, but the scandal is set to spread across the Atlantic, and is being discussed as potentially the biggest market manipulation fraud in history.

Barclays bank has been fined $453 million by U.S. and UK regulators, and its American chief executive, Bob Diamond, has resigned after admitting its staff rigged the inter-bank “Libor” rate — a daily measure of the interest rates at which banks lend to one another — over a period of several years. The Libor rate affects interest rates paid to investors and by borrowers on mortgages and other loans. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than $800 trillion in securities and loans are linked to Libor.