Deutsche Bank gets prosecution witness status in rate probe

FRANKFURT Sun Jul 15, 2012 9:43am EDT

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) may escape with a lighter penalty than other banks in Europe if investigators impose fines in the wake of an interest rate-rigging scandal, two sources familiar with the bank told Reuters on Sunday.

They said Deutsche Bank has applied to cooperate with authorities in their investigation under the leniency programs of the European Union and in Switzerland, but that it did not mean the bank was admitting any guilt.

"The bank last year obtained the status of being a witness for the prosecution in the EU and in Switzerland," one source said.

"As a result of that, the bank could get a lighter penalty if a punishment is imposed," another said.

German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday that Deutsche Bank's application under the leniency programme had been approved.

Deutsche Bank declined comment to Reuters.

Under the leniency programs of the EU, companies may get total immunity from fines or a reduction of fines which the anti-trust authorities would have otherwise imposed on them if they hand over evidence on anti-competitive agreements or those involved in a concerted practice.

A global investigation into manipulation of interbank lending rates widened two weeks ago with Britain's fraud squad taking up the case and sources telling Reuters that Germany's markets regulator had launched a probe into Deutsche Bank.

Sources told Reuters early this month that Germany's BaFin regulator had initiated a "special investigation" into Deutsche Bank, a process which is more severe than a routine investigation initiated by a third party.

BaFin had previously declined to comment specifically on whether it was probing Deutsche Bank but said it was in looking into suspected manipulation of Libor rates by banks.

Deutsche Bank said earlier this year it was cooperating with authorities investigating accusations of manipulation of Libor, the only German bank to make such a disclosure so far. These inquiries relate to periods between 2005 and 2011.

(Reporting By Philip Halstrick; Additional Reporting by Stefanie Huber; Writing by Marilyn Gerlach; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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