Don’t minimize the importance of the Libor (London interbank offered rate) scandal, says former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
"This is about as big as it gets in the financial world,” he tells Yahoo. “This goes to the heart of every piece of debt that's issued to consumers -- your auto loan, your credit card.”
The interest rates for those loans is often based on Libor.
Banks apparently colluded to distort Libor to juice their trading profits and exaggerate their financial health. Regulators apparently knew this but didn’t act.
“The collusion to set Libor is about as big a scandal as you can get in finance,” Spitzer says. “The failure of regulators, if they knew about it, to respond would be about as big as you could get on a regulatory scandal.”
Spitzer says it’s unclear whether Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner did anything wrong as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank during the crisis.
Geithner sent a letter to British regulators identifying problems with Libor. “If there was no follow-up, then there are serious questions,” Spitzer says.
If Geithner did follow up but then got sidetracked by the financial crisis, “one can understand,” he says.
It’s unlikely the scandal will resonate much with a public that is largely unaware of what Libor is. In addition, when banks kept Libor artificially low, they also kept consumer loan rates artificially low, helping many people.
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