Barclays turns to Sullivan as backlash over Libor scandal intensifies

Record fines for Barclays over the rigging of interest rates could pave the way for a wave of commercial litigation in the UK and the US.

Sullivan & Cromwell has taken the lead role for the British Bank in its cross-border settlement with the authorities.

From a panel comprising of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Shearman & Sterling and Sullivan & Cromwell, Barclays turned to the latter’s US-based team of criminal defence and investigations partner Steven Peikin, litigation managing partner David Braff, litigation partner Jeffrey Scott and special counsel Matthew Fitzwater.

Meanwhile, the bank has remained tightlipped on the future of general counsel Mark Harding, on whose watch the compliance failures happened.

Mark Harding
Mark Harding

The probe into the British bank’s “attempted manipulation” of the London interbank offered rate (Libor) by making false reports to boost its derivatives trading positions, has opened the door for a raft of class action claims in the US.

The Lawyer understands that every major law firm is involved in the case, either instructed by one of 20 banks – including Lloyds TSB, HSBC and RBS named in US lawsuits – or a dozen regulators in various countries.

Yesterday Barclays was fined £59m by the Financial Services Authority, $200m by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and £160m by the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

Despite Barclays co-operating with the investigation for a 30 per cent discount and agreeing to settle at an early stage, the total fines of $450m (£290m) are a record high.

However, the cost of spin-off litigation related to the Libor misconduct is likely to dwarf that total figure.

Chief executive Bob Diamond has accepted a “collective responsibility” and the bank admitted misconduct over five years, involving a number of employees who were “motivated by profit” to try to influence the Libor and Euribor setting process.

The FSA said that the bank was reducing its Libor submissions during the financial crisis because of negative media reports. It said Barclays also failed to have adequate systems and controls in place.

Tracey McDermott, acting director of enforcement and financial crime of the FSA said: “Barclays’ misconduct was serious, widespread and extended over a number of years. The integrity of benchmark reference rates such as Libor and Euribor is of fundamental importance to both UK and international financial markets.  Firms making submissions must not use those submissions as tools to promote their own interests.

“The FSA continues to pursue a number of other significant cross-border investigations in this area and the action we’ve taken against Barclays should leave firms in no doubt about the serious consequences of this type of failure.”