Securities fraud class action filed against Barclays

Posted on: July 17th, 2012 by Steve Larson
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A class action lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, on behalf of all persons who purchased the sponsored American Depository Receipts (“ADRs”) of Barclays PLC between July 10, 2007 and June 27, 2012, inclusive (the “class period”).  Barclays, two subsidiaries and the company’s former Chairman and Chief Executive were named as defendants.

The complaint alleges that during the class period, Barclays issued materially false and misleading statements and omitted to state material facts that rendered their affirmative statements misleading as they related to the company’s financial performance, financial condition and internal operational controls. As a result of these materially false and misleading statements, the price of the company’s securities was artificially inflated during the class period. As the truth of the company’s materially false and misleading statements entered the market, the company’s stock plummeted.

The London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is a tool to measure risk within the banking system as a whole and it may be more surgically applied to test a particular bank’s creditworthiness. When a bank lends to a customer (in this case another bank), it fixes the interest rate and other terms premised on an assessment of the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. The greater the risk, the higher the rate the bank will charge to assume the risk. The opposite is true: the lower the credit risk, the lower the rate the bank will charge to take on the risk.

The Complaint alleges that Defendants did not act fairly, transparently, and try in good faith to fix LIBOR rates at levels that accurately reflected the inherent and actual risk in the market place. Defendants, instead, admittedly participated in an illegal scheme to manipulate the LIBOR interest rates for the benefit of Barclays’ traders and to make Barclays appear financially healthier than it was during the class period.

The Complaint further alleges that apart from participating in an illegal scheme to manipulate LIBOR rates in a way that would allow Defendants and other bankers to exploit borrowers and make even more money, the Defendants made material misstatements to the company’s shareholders about the company’s purported compliance with their principles and operational risk management processes and repeatedly told shareholders that Barclays was a model corporate citizen even though at all relevant times it was flouting the law.

On June 27, 2012, Barclays was found by US and UK regulators to have manipulated or “fixed” its LIBOR rate submissions. Barclays’ top management essentially admitted to the bank’s malfeasance. In an open letter to the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, Defendant Bob Diamond, chief executive of Barclays, explained that the authorities had highlighted two issues: First, a number of individual traders had attempted to influence the bank’s interest rate submissions in order to boost their own trading desk’s profits – operating purely for their own benefit; Diamond said this conduct was wholly inappropriate. Second, during the recent credit crisis, Barclays reduced its LIBOR submissions to protect the reputation of the bank from negative speculation, which arose as a result of Barclays’ higher rate submissions in comparison to other banks – i.e. the bank wanted to make itself look financially stronger relative to other banks in order to keep its borrowing costs down and market reputation up.

These revelations caused the company’s ADRs initially to fall by 12%, from $12.33 per share to $10.84 per share on over 22 million shares traded and then an additional 5% on over 14 million shares traded.