By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deliberate manipulation of market prices such as has taken place in bank-to-bank loan rates poses significant risks to financial stability and must be monitored by authorities, the Treasury's Office of Financial Research said on Friday.
The newly minted department within the Treasury, headed by former Morgan Stanley chief economist Richard Berner, was created to address gaps in financial and economic data that might be useful to regulators and other policymakers. Its first ever annual report, totaling 143 pages, contained a cursory nod to the recent Libor scandal, but offered little detail on how to fix the problem.
"This type of manipulation -- resulting from an opaque and closed process that allows a small number of firms to have significant influence -- poses significant risks to market integrity and investor trust, and will require continuing regulatory focus," the OFR said in a statement.
A Treasury official declined to comment further on the matter.
More than a dozen banks are under investigation by authorities in Europe, Japan and the United States over the suspected rigging of the London interbank offered rate, a key interest rate used in contracts worth trillions of dollars globally.
Some 16 banks contributed to the setting of dollar Libor rates in 2008, the period at the center of investigations.
Barclays has been at the center of the storm since U.S. and British authorities fined it more than $450 million last month for its part in manipulating Libor.
(Editing by Andrea Ricci)