Every morning, from his desk by the bathroom at the far end of Royal Bank of Scotland’s trading floor overlooking London’s Liverpool Street station, Paul White punched a series of numbers into his computer.
Bloomberg reports that White, who joined RBS in 1984, was one of the employees responsible for the firm’s submissions to the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, the global benchmark for more than $300 trillion of contracts, from mortgages and student loans to interest-rate swaps. Behind him sat Neil Danziger, a derivatives trader at the bank since 2002. On the morning of March 27, 2008, Tan Chi Min, Danziger’s boss in Tokyo, told him to make sure the next day’s submission in yen would increase.
'We need to bump it way up high, highest among all if possible', Tan, known by colleagues as 'Jimmy', wrote in an instant message to Danziger, according to a transcript made public by a Singapore court and reviewed by Bloomberg before being sealed by a judge at RBS’s request.
The trader typically would have swiveled in his chair, tapped White on the shoulder and relayed the request, people who worked on the trading floor said. Instead, as White was away that day, Danziger input the rate himself.
The next morning RBS said it paid 0.97 percent to borrow in yen for three months, up from 0.94 percent the previous day. The Edinburgh-based bank was the only one of 16 surveyed to raise its rate. If it had lowered its submission in line with others, the cost of borrowing in yen would have fallen one-fifth of a basis point, or 0.002 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Even that small a move could mean a gain of $250,000 on a position of $50bn.
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