UPDATE 1-Barclays' Diamond turns to top lawyer for Libor scandal

Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:59pm EDT

By Steve Slater and Aruna Viswanatha

LONDON/WASHINGTON, July 12 (Reuters) - Barclays' embattled former chief executive Bob Diamond is being represented by top white-collar defense lawyer Andrew Levander in a widening scandal over the manipulation of benchmark interest rates, Levander's law firm confirmed on Thursday.

More than a dozen current and former employees of several large banks under investigation have hired defense lawyers over the past year, but Levander's role is one of the most high-profile.

Levander, a partner at Dechert LLP, is one of the biggest names in the defense bar in the United States. He is currently also representing former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine in investigations into the collapse of the failed commodities brokerage he ran, MF Global.

He has also represented outside directors of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain and hedge-fund manager and philanthropist Ezra Merkin, who was sued over money lost in the Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff.

Levander, who is known for his trademark bow ties, had a prime seat by Corzine when the former CEO was grilled multiple times at congressional hearings in Washington late last year.

Diamond, too, has emerged as a central figure in the unfolding interest rate scandal, having been pushed out less than one week after Barclays agreed in June to pay $453 million to settle charges that it manipulated Libor.

Libor is the London interbank offered rate, which is compiled from estimates by large international banks of how much they believe they have to pay to borrow from each other.

British lawmakers on Tuesday accused him of misleading a parliamentary inquiry into the Libor scandal, an allegation that Diamond denied.

"Dechert has been representing Mr. Diamond on this matter from the onset of the Libor investigation in 2010," a spokeswoman for the firm said in a statement.

Another Dechert partner, Cheryl Krause, is also representing Diamond, and sat behind him at the U.K. parliamentary inquiry last week.

A spokesman for Barclays Plc declined to comment.

No individuals have yet been charged in the sprawling Libor probe, which involves several global banks and enforcement authorities.

Diamond had been CEO since the start of 2011, and been at Barclays for 16 years.

Libor is used for $550 trillion of interest rate derivatives contracts, as well as influencing rates on mortgages, student loans and credit cards.

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