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ASIC starts legal proceedings against Westpac over alleged rate rigging

Another major Australian bank was taken to task for itsalleged involvement in manipulating the nation's benchmark interest rate as theAustralian Securities and Investments Commission commenced civil penaltyproceedings against WestpacBanking Corp.

ASIC said April 5 that it started legal proceedings againstWestpac for "unconscionable conduct and market manipulation" inregard to the bank's involvement in setting the bank bill swap rate in the periodfrom April 6, 2010, to June 6, 2012.

Westpac is the second major bank facing a court action afterAustralia & New ZealandBanking Group Ltd. was slapped with the same legal in March for itsalleged manipulation of the benchmark interest rate.

ASIC claims that Westpac traded in a manner intended tocreate an artificial price for bank bills on 16 occasions between April 6, 2010,and June 6, 2012. The Australian bank allegedly moved the BBSW higher or loweron days that the lender had a large number of products priced or valued offBBSW.

The regulator is seeking penalties against Westpac and anorder requiring the bank to implement a compliance program.

Westpac said the same day that it rejected the allegationsmade by ASIC, adding that it does not believe that it has acted unlawfully inrelation to the instances detailed by the regulator. The bank added that itwill vigorously defend ASIC's allegations in court.

ASIC began its investigation into rate manipulation in 2012 after someglobal banks were found to have manipulated LIBOR.