Funny thing about the Libor scandal: Even when there doesn't seem to be a lot going on, the cost to banks just keeps on rising.

The latest estimates are found in a Wall Street Journal piece published Monday on all the lawyers piling up like brains-hungry zombies to file lawsuits against banks accused of manipulating Libor. The plaintiffs include small banks, like Berkshire Bank of New York, that claim they missed out on some sweet lending cash because rates were manipulated too low. They include state and local governments and other municipalities that say they lost money on interest-rate swaps because of Libor rigging. They include hedge funds and other investors who claim they were duped in trades with Libor manipulators.

The high-end estimate of the potential cost to the 16 banks being investigated in the Libor probe has risen to $176 billion, the WSJ writes, citing a July report by Australian firm Macquarie Research. Actually, the report (via zerohedge) suggested the banks might end up paying $88 billion in fines and settlements as a result of $176 billion in investor losses, but who's counting? Other estimates are a lot lower, including a Keefe, Bruyette & Woods estimate of $35 billion last month and a Morgan Stanley estimate of less than $8 billion.

I am no expert on the law, or anything else, but I will take the over on this bet. And it will probably take much higher numbers to get the attention of the banks, which have $35 billion rattling around in that drawer in the kitchen full of dead batteries and rubber bands.

Some of these estimates of legal liabilities are entirely separate from the regulatory fines, which will almost certainly also total in the billions -- though for individual banks, they will be the equivalent of slaps on the wrist. The next big event in the scandal could be a settlement by the Royal Bank of Scotland. That bank's involvement in messing around with Libor could be even bigger than that of Barclays, one British member of Parliament said last week.

Barclays kicked off the Libor scandal proper by agreeing to pay $450 million to settle charges it was stone-cold manipulating Libor higher and lower, day and night, for years. It's wild to think that another bank might have been screwing Libor harder than Barclays, but there's an ex-RBS trader suing the bank for wrongful termination, who claims it was bank policy that "anyone can change Libor," apparently inspired by the old Radiohead song "Anyone Can Play Guitar."

And that's not to mention Citigroup, which according to one report was the biggest Libor manipulator of all during the financial crisis.

The Libor scandal, and its costs, have only just begun.

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  • BARCLAYS

    The UK bank has been at the centre of a very public storm since U.S. and British authorities fined it more than $450 million last month for its part in manipulating Libor. The ensuing backlash cost chief executive Bob Diamond and chairman Marcus Agius their jobs. The pair have appeared before a parliamentary committee to testify about what went on at the bank, in a scandal which has drawn in British central bankers and government ministers.

  • BANK OF AMERICA

    Bank of America is among the banks being investigated, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters last year. The bank did not comment in its 2011 annual report. It is one of 11 banks accused of conspiring to manipulate Libor in two lawsuits filed by discount brokerage and money manager Charles Schwab.

  • BTMU

    The Swiss Competition Commission said in February that Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ was among those it was investigating on suspicion of conspiring to manipulate rates. The Japanese bank did not comment on any probes in its 2011 annual report. This month, the group suspended two London-based traders as a result of a probe into manipulating interbank lending rates, but the bank said that was not to do with their conduct at BTMU. They had previously worked at Dutch lender Rabobank.

  • CITI

    Citigroup said its subsidiaries had received requests for information and documents as part of investigations in various jurisdictions. The U.S. bank said it was cooperating. The bank is also subject to a number of private lawsuits filed in the U.S. against banks that served on the Libor panel. In December, Japan's financial regulator said it would penalise the Japan securities units of Citigroup and UBS after finding that an individual who worked at UBS and then moved to Citi had, along with his boss at Citi, attempted to influence the Tokyo interbank offered rate (Tibor).

  • CREDIT SUISSE

    Credit Suisse is one of 12 banks being investigated by the Swiss Competition Commission about alleged collusive behaviour among traders to influence the bid ask spread for derivatives tied to Libor and Tibor as well as the rates themselves. Credit Suisse said it was cooperating fully.

  • DEUTSCHE BANK

    The German bank said it was cooperating with investigations in the United States and Europe in connection with setting rates between 2005 and 2011. It has had civil actions filed against it in the United States related to the setting of Libor. Germany's market regulator has launched a probe into the bank over suspected manipulation of interbank lending rates, sources have said. Results are expected in mid-July. German magazine Der Spiegel reported, citing no sources, that two Deutsche Bank employees have been suspended after external auditors examined whether staff were involved in manipulating rates.

  • LLOYDS

    Lloyds said it was cooperating with investigations. It has also been named in private lawsuits in the U.S. related to the setting of Libor. It said it 2011 annual report that it could not predict the ultimate outcome of investigations or lawsuits. In May, the bank said two derivatives traders had been suspended following an investigation into possible interest rate manipulation.

  • HSBC

    HSBC has said it received demands from regulators for information in connection with Libor investigations and it was cooperating. It has also been named in lawsuits related to Libor in the United States. HSBC said in its 2011 annual report that it could not predict the outcome of the investigations and lawsuits.

  • HBOS

    The bank, now a subsidiary of Lloyds, said it was cooperating with investigations. It has also been named in private U.S. lawsuits related to the setting of Libor. HBOS said it in its 2011 annual report it was not possible to predict the scope, outcome or impact of the investigations and lawsuits.

  • JPMORGAN

    JPMorgan said it was cooperating with regulators and government bodies investigating the setting of Libor, Euribor and Tibor rates, mainly in 2007 and 2008. It has also been named as a defendant in private U.S. lawsuits over Libor.

  • RABOBANK

    Rabobank said it was cooperating with investigations into possible manipulation of Libor rates. It has also been named as a defendant in a number of civil lawsuits in the United States. Rabobank said it was confident the claims would be held unfounded and was conducting its defence as such.

  • RBC

    Canada's largest bank did not make any comment in its 2011 annual report on its involvement in regulatory probes into possible manipulation of interbank lending rates.

  • RBS

    Royal Bank of Scotland said it was cooperating with investigators, who had requested information. RBS said members of its group had been named as defendants in a number of lawsuits in the United States. The bank said it had substantial defences to these claims. Following a newspaper report last month that it faced a 150 million pound fine, RBS said there could not be any certainty as to the timing or amount of any fine or settlement.

  • UBS

    The Swiss bank said it had been granted leniency or immunity from potential violations by some authorities, including the U.S. Justice Department and Swiss Competition Commission, in return for its cooperation in the Libor manipulation probe. It did not specify what information it was providing. In December, Japan's financial regulator said it would penalise the Japan securities units of Citigroup and UBS after finding that an individual who worked at UBS and then moved to Citi had attempted to influence Tibor. It has also been the subject of U.S. lawsuits.

  • WEST LB

    The German bank was among those being investigated, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters in March last year. The bank made no mention of the probes in its 2011 annual report. In July last year it was dropped, at its request, from the panel of banks contributing to daily fixings of Libor for U.S. dollars.

  • NORINCHUCKIN

    The Japanese bank did not mention the investigations into possible Libor manipulation in its 2011 annual report. In April last year it was one of 12 banks sued by Vienna-based asset manager FTC Capital, accused of conspiring to manipulate Libor.