Exclusive: Push For Libor Settlement

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Leading investors in large international banks are pushing for regulators to agree an industry-wide settlement in the Libor-fixing scandal amid concerns that a drip-feed of fines could prompt a Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) -style purge of top executives.

Major shareholders tell me that they are keen to initiate discussions with financial regulators to highlight their fears that a repetition of events at Barclays could leave some of the world's biggest banks rudderless at a time of profound regulatory change and the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone.

It's unclear whether regulators would be responsive to such a request, or whether they even have the means to be, given that the multiple Libor-fixing probes being undertaken involve so many different national regulatory bodies in Europe (Chicago Options: ^REURUSD - news) , the US and Asia.

Following Barclays' £290m fine by regulators in the UK and US two weeks ago, the bank's chairman, chief executive and chief operating officer all resigned, leaving the British lender with a management vacuum that will almost certainly take months to fill.

Tracey McDermott, the acting head of enforcement at the Financial Services Authority , has said that Barclays will be followed by enforcement actions against other banks.

JP Morgan, Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS.L - news) and UBS (NYSEArca: DJCI - news) are among about 16 other banks which are being investigated for attempting to manipulate Libor, the principal interbank lending mechanism, in what is increasingly resembling a vast global conspiracy.

Barclays was among the banks which co-operated with authorities, resulting in reduced fines from regulators.

However, what it expected to be a first-mover advantage backfired spectacularly when its Libor settlement became a lightning for public and political anger about the market abuses endemic within the banking industry.

Investors believe that an industry-wide settlement will be necessary if other banks are to avoid a clear-out of their top executives, although one mitigating factor which might assist those who get fined for Libor-rigging is likely to be the fact that many of them have changed their top management since the periods under investigation.

"A drip-feed of Libor-related fines would be hugely damaging to investors with large exposures to international banks," one leading shareholder told me.

Of course, it's the view of many that banks which are found guilty of such an important offence as manipulating the rate of Libor should sack those responsible and that they should face further punishment under the law.

Investors believe that while that may be true, the dearth of senior candidates to run complex global businesses like major banks means the value of their investments will be severely depressed.

Jerry del Missier, the Barclays executive responsible for passing on an instruction to the bank's traders to submit artificially-low rates, will appear in front of the Treasury Select Committee next Monday.