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Global watchdogs to hear from public on financial benchmarks fix

by FP Staff  Feb 27, 2013 06:30 IST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global regulators will ask the public for more comments before publishing a report on how to fix financial benchmarks after the Libor interest-rate rigging scandal, U.S. derivatives regulators said on Tuesday.

They will then release a report by late spring or the summer that lays out basic guidelines for financial benchmarks, the regulators said at a public hearing.

"This was just a decision this morning," said Jackie Mesa, a director in the Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Commodity Futures Exchange Commission (CFTC).

"Our hope is to put one more consultation out on the principles themselves that will go out either late March or early April," she told reporters.

The report by the CFTC and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), a group of securities regulators, had been expected by March.

Global regulators are rethinking the Libor, which underlies vast amounts of contracts from mortgages to student loans, after the widespread manipulation of the benchmark by more than a dozen banks and brokers came to light.

Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS.L) last month became the third bank to pay fines relating to the global Libor scandal, settling allegations it manipulated the rate to make more profits in its derivatives trading business.

CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler has often said he favors a rate based on actual lending transactions between banks and not on a survey of estimates of where the banks think they can borrow money, as is currently the case.

But the problem with that plan is that banks are hardly lending any money on an unsecured basis to each other anymore after the 2007-2009 financial crisis and the interbank market is not expected to come back to life anytime soon.

That issue was beyond the scope of the present report however, and could well be taken up by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), a global financial risk watchdog, after the CFTC and the IOSCO put out their study.

"What we're doing with the IOSCO report is trying to deliver on one piece of that, being best principles for benchmarks," Gensler told reporters after a public roundtable with market participants in the CFTC's offices.

Thomson Reuters Corp (TRI.TO), parent company of Reuters, has been calculating and distributing Libor rates for the sponsor of the Libor benchmark, the British Bankers' Association.

(Reporting by Douwe Miedema. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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