Thursday 12 December 2019

Euribor deal exposes weak self-regulation in financial sector

Rabobank headquarters in Utrecht

Rabobank’s headquarters in Utrecht.

Self-regulation in the Dutch financial sector is not up to the task of handling the Euribor and Libor fraud scandals, experts have told the Volkskrant.

The criticism follows the revelation that five current and former Rabobank staff agreed to pay fines of between €750 and €3,000 for their role in manipulating the Euribor rate, the internal interest rate used by European banks. It is the only known case so far of individual bankers in the Netherlands being penalised for their part in the scandal.

Marcel Pheijffer, professor of accountancy at Nyenrode Business University, said the penalties could and should have been much stronger. He compared the treatment of the Dutch-based staff with those in other countries such as the USA, where two former Rabobank traders were given two-year jail sentences.

The maximum sanction available to the Dutch Securities Institute (DSI), the finance sector’s internal regulator, is a €25,000 fine and disqualification from working in the sector.

Pheijffer particularly criticised the DSI for agreeing a settlement with the five Rabobank workers, three of whom held senior positions, on the basis that they were unaware of the fraud. A disciplinary investigation later established that they did know about it, but the DSI was unable to apply sanctions because the case had been settled.

‘The staff who agreed a settlement came out of it pretty well,’ he said. ‘The sanctions could have been much higher and, given the amount of manipulation, they should have been.’

The academic argued that disciplinary cases should be dealt with by an independent judicial panel working with a professional body rather than in-house. ‘From a social point of view that’s more credible by definition,’ he said.

Harald Bentink, professor of banking and finance at Tilburg University, said the maximum penalty of €25,000 was too low. ‘It doesn’t have a deterrent effect,’ he said. ‘Stronger measures are needed, and certainly much higher fines.’

The DSI and Rabobank declined to comment on the individual cases. Two years ago the bank agreed to pay €774 million in a settlement with the Dutch national bank (DNB) and prosecution services in the Netherlands, the US and the UK.

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