US authorities have charged two Société Générale managers over an alleged scheme to manipulate Libor, making them among the most senior individuals yet to be caught up by the global probe into rate-rigging of the financial benchmark.
Prosecutors accused Danielle Sindzingre, SocGen’s former global head of treasury, and Muriel Bescond, ex-head of its Paris treasury desk, of instructing subordinates to submit “inaccurately low” information about the bank’s borrowing costs.
The two French nationals were indicted in a federal court in New York on Thursday. Prosecutors claimed their actions caused roughly $170m worth of harm to global financial markets.
Several global banks have already paid billions of dollars in fines over manipulating Libor, the interbank borrowing rate that underpins trillions of dollars of debt worldwide.
Authorities have provided evidence of traders in North America, Europe and Asia talking via email and in online chat rooms about their attempts to make money by manipulating rate-setting procedures.
Several former traders have gone to jail, although some convictions have since been quashed and appeals are pending. The difficulties for prosecutors in pursuing cross-border cases, in particular, was underlined last month when US convictions against two British former traders at Rabobank were overturned.
A US appeals court found prosecutors improperly relied on evidence that came from compelled testimony to the UK’s financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority.
Ms Sindzingre, 54, and Ms Bescond, 49, were indicted on five counts covering a period between May 2010 and October 2011. Neither was in court.
Prosecutors said the inaccurate submissions weighed on the final US dollar Libor calculation on “numerous occasions”.
SocGen did not respond to requests for comment. It was not immediately clear which lawyers were representing the defendants.
Kenneth Blanco, acting assistant US attorney in the justice department’s criminal division, said in a statement: “The allegations in today’s indictment suggest complete and total disregard for the integrity of the financial markets and for innocent consumers and everyday people whose personal finances hinge on the interest rates they pay on various loans.”
Ms Sindzingre and Ms Bescond still work at the French bank, according to their LinkedIn profiles — Ms Sindzingre as global co-head of fixed income, credit and currencies, and Ms Bescond as global head of short-term derivatives.
Libor, or the London interbank offered rate, is calculated daily by asking a panel of banks for their hypothetical borrowing costs and working out the average. It underpins debt worldwide from complex derivatives to student loans.