The criminal investigation into former traders at Royal Bank of Scotland over the Libor scandal is set to drag on well into next year, dashing hopes that the government-controlled lender can swiftly put past scandals behind it.
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office launched a criminal probe over two years ago into whether the key London interbank offered rate benchmark was manipulated.
The SFO has recently written to the financial regulator asking it to postpone publishing civil findings against at least two former RBS traders, according to people familiar with the situation.
Legal experts told the Financial Times this indicated that the SFO was still weighing whether to bring criminal charges against the individuals. Publication of regulatory findings could be deemed to be inappropriate before any jury trial.
In at least one case, the SFO has said it may not make a decision over charging until March 2015. A third trader was questioned by the SFO over a year ago but not informed of any charging decision, nor of any request to postpone regulatory proceedings against him.
The Financial Conduct Authority – which has its own parallel probe into alleged Libor-rigging – wanted to fine at least one of the traders £1m, the people said.
RBS, which is 81 per cent-owned by the taxpayer, paid £390m to the FCA and US authorities in February 2013 to settle allegations that it attempted to manipulate Libor. It paid a further $531m in December to settle an investigation by the European Commission.
The potential for further criminal proceedings related to Libor manipulation shows the long shadow the scandal has cast over banks. It has prompted further criminal probes into alleged rigging of other benchmarks, such as foreign exchange.
As part of its Libor investigation the SFO has separate teams working on different banks and currency benchmarks. It has charged 12 people and the first defendant is to face a jury trial in January – the first in the world to decide whether an individual rigged Libor.
The SFO’s charges have concentrated on an alleged conspiracy to rig the yen Libor rate and a separate alleged conspiracy to manipulate the dollar equivalent. None of the defendants charged so far has been a former RBS trader.
A distinct SFO team was scrutinising whether traders at RBS also manipulated Libor, people familiar with the investigation told the FT. Another team is examining Lloyds Banking Group , another taxpayer-supported lender.
The SFO has requested that the FCA stay the publication of warning notices (anonymous notices of intent by the regulator to fine individuals) pertaining to Paul White, a former submitter at RBS, and Andrew Hamilton, a former Swiss-franc derivatives trader.
One of the traders had contested the move, people familiar with the situation said. The issue could have to be heard by the Regulatory Decisions Committee, which oversees determinations taken by the FCA, they added.
A third ex-RBS trader, Brent Davies, who went on to be a broker at ICAP, has been interviewed by the SFO and remains under investigation, according to people familiar with the probe. The SFO has not indicated to any of the three individuals that they face charges.
Lawyers for the individuals declined to comment, as did the SFO, the FCA and the bank.
Get alerts on Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC when a new story is published