LONDON (Reuters) - More than a dozen employees at Lloyds Banking Group will be spared criminal trial for their part in the alleged rigging of the Libor benchmark, after Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) closed its investigation due to lack of evidence.
“Having thoroughly investigated and having reviewed the information available to it, the SFO has concluded there was insufficient evidence to take the matter further in respect of these individuals and banks,” the SFO said in a statement on Wednesday.
The prosecutor, which tackles cases of high-level fraud and corruption in British business, said it had written to the banks and the individuals involved to tell them they were no longer suspects. It has also contacted witnesses to inform them of its decision to close the probe.
Lloyds declined to comment.
The lender paid 218 million pounds ($287.98 million) in 2014 to settle allegations that some of its staff colluded to set the London interbank offered rate (Libor), against which rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of contracts and loans are set across the world.
Some of the world’s most powerful financial institutions have paid around $9 billion to settle allegations of rate rigging. Deutsche Bank paid $2.5 billion in 2015 while Barclays paid $453 million in 2012.
The SFO declined to give details on the number of suspects subject to the criminal investigation but at the time of the bank’s 2014 settlement, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority had said 16 individuals at Lloyds, seven of them managers, were directly involved in or aware of the various forms of Libor manipulation.
The FCA also found that staff employed by Bank of Scotland, which Lloyds later acquired, manipulated Libor submissions to avoid negative media comment and alter market perceptions of its financial strength.
Lloyds was rescued by a 20.5-billion-pound government bailout during the financial crisis but returned to full private ownership last year.
($1 = 0.7570 pounds)
Reporting by Sinead Cruise; editing by Louise Heavens