The European Union has fined five major banks for rigging the foreign exchange (forex) market.
Two cartels formed by traders at Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup, JPMorgan, and MUFG have been fined a total of €1.07 billion ($1.2 billion) for manipulating the exchange market for a range of currencies between 2007 and 2013.
A sixth bank, UBS, was not fined despite being a member of both cartels, because it had alerted the EU of the anti-competitive practices.
One cartel of traders from Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan, UBS, and RBS operated between 2007 and 2013, and the other involving traders from Barclays, RBS, UBS, and MUFG, ran from 2009 to 2012. The former was fined €811 million ($906 million) and the latter €257 million ($287 million).
According to the FT, the traders used chatroom’s to share information about customers and trading activities in order to manipulate the spot markets for the euro, pound, Swiss franc, yen, the Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian crowns, and the US, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand dollars. According to Reuters, some of the traders would meet on their daily commute from Essex.
“The Commission will not tolerate collusive behaviour in any sector of the financial markets,” said European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a prepared statement. The EU has announced there is a further investigation ongoing against Credit Suisse, but has not provided details.
Civil lawsuits are now expected to be launched in Europe in the wake of US class actions that have resulted in a $2.3 billion settlement with 15 banks for manipulating the forex markets.
In 2014, US and UK regulators fined a number of banks, including HSBC, UBS, JP Morgan, and Citi, $2.6 billion for conspiring to manipulate forex rates. Meanwhile in 2012, several banks including UBS and Barclays were fined a total of $22 billion for rigging the London Interbank Lending Rate (Libor).
Since 2008, there have also been multi million-dollar fines for banks laundering Iranian money and running illegal interest-hedging schemes. In the latter case, HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, and RBS were among the banks involved in a scandal that affected thousands of small businesses.
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