By Simon Miller
The UK prime minister David Cameron has announced an inquiry into the fixing of London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) and Euro Interbank Offered Rate (Euribor).
Speaking in Parliament, the prime minister said the parliamentary inquiry - which will involve both the House of Commons and the House of Lords will be able to act "immediately, be accountable and get to the truth quickly so this never happens again".
The inquiry will have widespread access to special advisers, ministers and papers from the coalition and the previous Labour administrations and will be chaired by Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Treasury select committee.
He added: "The British people want to see two things. They want to see bankers who acted improperly punished and they want to know we have learned the broader lessons."
"This is the right approach because it will be able to start immediately, be accountable and get to the truth quickly so this never happens again," Cameron added.
The prime minister's announcement came as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said it was looking at whether there were criminal prosecutions that could be brought.
In a statement, the SFO said it had been working closely with the Financial Services Authority during its investigation into recently reported issues in relation to LIBOR.
"Now that the investigation into the issue of regulatory misbehaviour has concluded, the SFO are considering whether it is both appropriate and possible to bring criminal prosecutions," the statement said.
The SFO continued: "The issues are complex and the assessment of the evidence the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has gathered will take a short time, but we hope to come to a conclusion within a month. The SFO is aware of investigations in other jurisdictions and working with the relevant authorities."
The chancellor George Osborne is to announce another inquiry into the broader culture in the UK banking industry, a move welcomed by the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA).
BVCA chief executive Mark Florman commented: “Whether it be the manipulation of Libor, mis-selling of interest-swaps to small businesses or the sense that individual customers feel that competition between the major banks is not what it should be, there is now a crisis surrounding the culture of British banking that only a deep but swift independent inquiry can address."
He added: "It cannot be in the interests of banking itself, never mind the economy more broadly, for this to be seen as a sector that has moved from the standards and value of Captain Mainwaring to those closer to Arthur Daley in a generation. Banking should always aspire to be the ally of business and not perceived to be its enemy."
The announcements came just hours after Barclays' chairman Marcus Agius tendered his resignation from the bank after it was fined £59.5m for misconduct relating to Libor and Euribor by the FSA.
In addition, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission handed the bank a $200m (£128m) penalty for "attempted manipulation of and false reporting concerning Libor and Euribor benchmark interest rates", while the bank also agreed to pay a $160m penalty as part of an agreement with the US Justice Department.
In a statement, Agius commented: "Last week's events – evidencing as they do unacceptable standards of behaviour within the bank – have dealt a devastating blow to Barclays reputation. As chairman, I am the ultimate guardian of the bank's reputation. Accordingly, the buck stops with me and I must acknowledge responsibility by standing aside."