South Korean banks facing rate-rigging probe

18 July 2012

Several leading banks in South Korea are being investigated under suspicion of manipulating interest rates.

The Asian country's Fair Trade Commission is looking into the operations of four financiers - Shinhan, Woori, Hana and Kookmin - amid speculation these companies have colluded to rig certificates of deposit (CD) in the nation.

These documents are used as the benchmark to set lending rates in South Korea, but the regulatory body believes these banks and several brokerage firms may have falsely set this figure so it favours them in various deals.

Similarities can be seen in this case to the ongoing Libor rigging investigations involving a number of major financiers in both Europe and the US, which have already seen Barclays hit with a fine of $455 million.

And Taurus Investment analyst Andy Lee has warned that South Korean firms also face "significant" penalties if any evidence of complicity is found.

"Even if there was no collusion, it's highly likely that the government's motive behind the investigation is to lower household lending rates by inducing a fall in CD rates," he added.

By Claire Archer

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