Bankers charged in euro rate-rigging case

Nearly a dozen former top bankers have been charged with colluding to rig a key euro benchmark borrowing rate. But almost half the defendants didn’t appear in court.

A group of former bankers on Monday became the first to be formally charged with manipulating the Euro Interbank Offered Rate (Euribor) – a daily reference rate compiled from estimates that Eurozone banks give of their cost of borrowing.

The case involves former employees of Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Societe Generale, and includes former middle managers, traders and rate submitters of six nationalities.

However, nearly half of the defendants were no-shows in the London court, with just six of the total 11 suspects appearing for the preliminary hearing. A first hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.

Lawyers for the absentees, four of them German and one French, cited different reasons for their clients’ nonattendance, including ongoing investigations in Germany.

The six who did appear – Christian Bittar, Colin Bermingham, Philippe Moryoussef, Sisse Bohart, Achim Kraemer and Carlo Palombo – were released on conditional bail. Bittar, a Singapore-based star trader who was once one of Deutsche Bank’s most profitable money markets managers, was set a bail of 1 million British pounds (1.34 million euros, $1.45 million). None of the others was ordered to pay more than 150,000.

The case is the latest legal effort to hold accountable dozens of bankers involved in a global rate-fixing scheme, which also involved the Euribor’s British counterpart, the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor). The benchmark rates are used to set terms for $450 trillion (414 trillion euros) in securities worldwide.

Global investigations into the money-making scheme, which was first revealed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, have so far culminated in banks and brokerages paying some $9 billion in regulatory settlements, and more than 30 individuals being charged.

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