Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank in Washington, says the comments from Bernanke stretch credulity, particularly after the Fed fought hard to keep regulatory power over banks in post-financial crisis reforms.

"He is insulting his audience to say there was nothing they could do," Baker said. "That is complete nonsense. If he had called up King and said that he has to fix the Libor, and if he doesn't this all goes public, then King would have no choice."

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