GM Swiss lawmakers back watchdog, over UBS Libor probe

Swiss lawmakers backed financial regulator FINMA on Thursday over its handling of an investigation into UBS's attempted manipulation of Libor interest rates, including the standing aside of a top official who was formerly at UBS.

FINMA excused Mark Branson, its head of banking supervision, from all Libor matters concerning UBS last summer, to avoid any impression of a conflict of interest.

Branson's position raised political concerns because he was chief executive of UBS Securities Japan at the time when Swiss bank admitted some traders in Tokyo had sought to rig rates.

He left UBS after 12 years to become head of FINMA's banks division in 2010.

"The parliamentary commission has found that FINMA exercised their regulatory role appropriately and observed the rules of recusal for Mark Branson," a special session of lawmakers said in a statement on Thursday.

A special session of lawmakers heard testimony from FINMA head Patrick Raaflaub on Wednesday, called after UBS accepted a $1.5 billion fine in December as part of a global probe into how its staff orchestrated the manipulation of rates including yen Libor.

FINMA didn't comment on the decision, and a spokesman for Branson said he would not be commenting.

FINMA's Libor investigations and coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) and other officials involved were led by general counsel Urs Zulauf, a veteran of the regulator who has since said he is leaving his post.

(Reporting By Katharina Bart; Editing by Greg Mahlich)