* Fine between the levels paid by Barclays, RBS - Bloomberg
* Potentially the 4th bank to pay out in a global probe
* Rabobank declines to comment
AMSTERDAM, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Dutch group Rabobank is expected to pay over $440 million to settle allegations it manipulated benchmark interest rates, news agency Bloomberg said on Tuesday, potentially making it the fourth bank to be fined in a global regulatory probe.
The second-largest Dutch financial group by assets could agree to a penalty between the 290-million-pound ($438 million) fine slapped on Barclays in June and the $612 million deal struck by Royal Bank of Scotland this month, Bloomberg said, citing one person with knowledge of the probe.
More than a dozen banks and brokerages are being investigated by regulators and anti-trust watchdogs worldwide for manipulating benchmark rates such as Libor and Euribor, which are used to underpin about $550 trillion of financial products from derivatives to mortgages and credit card loans.
America’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission initiated an industry-wide investigation in October 2008 and, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and Britain’s Financial Services Authority, has fined three banks a total of $2.6 billion to date for allowing traders to game rates in a global scam.
Five more financial groups, including interdealer broker ICAP and Deutsche Bank, are expected to reach joint U.S. and UK financial settlements over the next months, although these and other regulators are also expected to pursue banks independently.
Bloomberg said Rabobank’s fine could come as early as May. A spokesman for the unlisted Dutch bank, which releases full-year results on Thursday, declined to comment.
One industry source with knowledge of the probes cautioned their forensic nature made them highly complicated. Asked whether the case against Rabobank could be settled within three months, the source said only: “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Rabobank said in August regulators from the Netherlands, Britain, the United States, the European Union, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland had sent subpoenas and document and information requests about its Libor and Euribor rates.
Libor (the London interbank offered rate) and its euro cousin Euribor are designed to reflect how much banks have to pay to borrow from each other. Any manipulation casts doubt on every contract that has used these rates as a reference point - and the first legal cases have already been brought.
Rabobank has been among a handful of peers sued by private individuals and in class action civil suits in the United States, alleging it rigged dollar Libor, Euribor, Japanese Yen Libor as well as the Tokyo Interbank Offered Rate (Tibor).
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group said last July it had suspended two London-based traders, who formerly worked for Rabobank. A source close to the Japanese group said the suspensions were not related to their work at the Japanese bank.
Switzerland’s UBS has received the largest fine for manipulating interest rates so far - $1.5 billion. Two of its former traders have also become the first individuals to be criminally charged in the scandal last December.