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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UBS Fined $1.5 Billion on Libor Rigging

Swiss Bank UBS will pay $1.5 billion and two of its former traders will face charges as part of a settlement in the U.K. and U.S. investigations into the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor). The U.S. Department of Justice revealed a criminal complaint that accuses Tom Alexander William Hayes and Roger Darin of conspiracy. Hayes was also charged with wire fraud and price-fixing. Transcripts published in the course of the investigation show rate-fixing was endemic, occurring not only within banks, but also with the complicity of external brokers who arranged the deals. A separate audit, conducted by Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Inspector General Steve A. Linick, found U.S. mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac may have lost more than $3 billion due to the rigging of Libor, a benchmark for $360 trillion in financial products worldwide. Authorities are thought to have been lenient with UBS for cooperating with the probe, suggesting harsher penalties for other guilty banks in the future.

Obama Announces Task Force on Gun Violence

U.S. President Barack Obama announced today the formation of a task force to address the issue of gun violence in the nation. The effort will be led by Vice President Joe Biden, who has a strong record in gun control and received an “F” mark from the National Rifle Association for being “the most anti-gun vice president in American history.” Biden participated in the creation of the 1994 “Brady Bill,” which was supported by former President Ronald Reagan and set up a ban on assault weapons that was allowed to expire in 2004. “This time, the words need to lead to action,” Obama said in a press conference at the White House. He requested a “set of concrete proposals, no later than January” and asked “Congress to make gun control a priority next year.” “Using a gun and using common sense aren’t incompatible ideas,” he added. Children between the ages of five and 14 in the U.S. are 13 times more likely to die from firearm-related injuries than in other developed countries, studies show.

Three State Department Officials Resign Over Benghazi

Three officials at the U.S. Department of State resigned today after the publication of a report concerning the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed the lives of four American staffers, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The document describes “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department” resulting in “grossly inadequate” security measures. The inquiry also concludes no protests were taking place that day in the city, contrary to previous government assertions that the assault was opportunistic. The probe found Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not responsible, establishing responsibility “at the assistant secretary level, which is, in our view, the appropriate place to look for where the decision-making in fact takes place, where — if you like — the rubber hits the road,” according to retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who lead the inquiry. Clinton, who suffered a concussion before she could testify in Congress, accepted the findings of the report.

South Korea Elects First Female President

South Korea elected Park Geun-hye, the daughter of the nation’s longest-ruling dictator, as its new president today. Conservative Park won with 51.6 percent of the votes counted, against 48 percent for her opponent on the left, Moon Jae-in, a human rights lawyer. The president-elect, who lists former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and German Chancellor Angela Merkel as her role models, has vowed to engage in a dialogue with North Korea should it decide to abandon its nuclear plans. “This is a victory for the people’s wish to overcome crises and revive the economy,” Park said in her victory speech. During the campaign, Park argued her status as a single, childless woman, made her ideally suited for the task. “You, the people, are my only family, and to make you happy is the reason I do politics. And if elected, I would govern like a mother dedicated to her family,” she said. Hers is a remarkable achievement in a society that is still heavily controlled by men.

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