BARCLAYS chairman Marcus Agius plans to resign after the bank was fined a record £290m for submitting false London and euro interbank offered rates, a person briefed on the matter said last night.
An announcement may come as soon as today, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the move had not been made public. Mr Agius has been chairman of Britain's second-largest bank by assets since January 2007.
He is the most senior executive to offer to step down following probes by global regulators into whether lenders colluded to manipulate the London interbank offered rate. CEO Robert Diamond is also under pressure from legislators after the London-based bank was fined last month by UK and US regulators for "systematically" trying to rig global interest rates.
"Politicians will see this as him taking a bullet for Bob Diamond," said Christopher Wheeler, a banking analyst at Mediobanc. "They realised they needed to do something, and Agius was chairman during the time they got fined for - but will it be enough?"
Both Mr Diamond and Mr Agius have been called to appear this week before British legislators on the Treasury select committee in the wake of the fine. The inquiry will focus on possible criminal sanctions against people who breach future regulations on the rate, said a Treasury spokesman, who declined to be named.
Prime Minister David Cameron last week called for accountability to go "all the way to the top".
Mr Diamond is under intense pressure to resign from Barclays, where he ran the investment banking arm Barclays Capital when the interest rate rigging occurred in 2005-09. Appearing before a parliamentary committee last year, Mr Diamond said it was time for bankers to stop apologising.
"The review into the regulation of Libor will also look at criminal sanctions that should be in place," said Treasury Minister Mark Hoban.
The news that Barclays traders tried to fix Libor rates rocked the City of London financial district. It also wiped billions off Barclays' market value in a week when British banks were separately sanctioned for mis-selling interest-rate insurance. Barclays shares fell as much as 18% on Friday, and are down 32% this year.
Banks may face billions of dollars in costs from litigation.
The two scandals have fuelled public distrust of an industry resented for its role in the 2008 financial crisis and for big bonuses for top executives - prompting ministers to signal a regulatory crackdown.
The Libor debacle centres on traders submitting false information on Barclays' borrowing rates to make the bank look more secure or, in some cases, to turn a profit.
British regulator the Financial Services Authority lacks the power to impose criminal prosecutions for manipulating Libor but has said it is in talks with Britain's Serious Fraud Office over the case.
British Justice Secretary Ken Clarke on Saturday called for criminal prosecutions of bankers and urged stronger rules despite opposition from the financial sector.
Bloomberg, Reuters, Sapa-AFP