EU regulators offer banks chance to avoid fines in benchmark probe: sources

The European Commission wants to conclude its probe into the fixing of lending benchmarks Euribor and Libor this year and has offered several banks under suspicion the possibility of a settlement to avoid fines, sources familiar with the investigation said.

A bank suspected of rigging a benchmark could settle the case against it by committing to change the procedures for making its contribution, for example, said the sources.

If the banks were to agree to such a settlement, it would allow the EU's antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia to wrap up his investigation as soon as this year.

"Almunia wants decisions on the cases by the end of the year," said one of the sources.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, writing by John O'Donnell)