BY Richard Summerfield
Five of the world’s largest banking groups have been handed fines totalling $5.7bn for their role in manipulating the foreign exchange market.
For the banks - JPMorgan, Barclays, Citigroup, RBS and UBS - the fines continue to stack up as the latest scandal to hit the banking sector once again makes headlines.
According to regulators, forex traders from the banks met in online chatroom groups, named ‘the Cartel’ and another ‘Mafia’, and colluded to set rates that cheated customers while adding to their own profits. "They acted as partners - rather than competitors - in an effort to push the exchange rate in directions favourable to their banks but detrimental to many others," said US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
The fines, meted out by the US Department of Justice, and separately by the US Federal Reserve, bring total penalties related to rate rigging of the foreign exchange markets to nearly $9bn, according to the Justice Department. Indeed, in November 2014 a number of the same banks agreed to pay $4.25bn to resolve foreign exchange investigations by a raft of regulators.
Four of the five banks under investigation by the DoJ plead guilty – namely Barclays, RBS, Citigroup and JP Morgan. However UBS was granted immunity for being the first to report the manipulation of the $5 trillion a day forex. A sixth bank - Bank of America - was separately fined $205m by the Fed. Announcing the settlements, Ms Lynch said: “The penalty they will pay is fitting, it’s commensurate with the pervasive harm that was done. It should deter competitors from chasing profits without regard to fairness to law or public welfare."
Barclays has been the hardest hit institution; in total, the bank has been fined $2.4bn – the highest amount any bank has paid for the scandal. US banks JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup will pay $900m and $1.2bn in fines respectively. Citigroup’s fine included a $925m antitrust settlement. The firm called the scandal "an embarrassment to our firm, and stands in stark contrast to Citi's values”. RBS agreed to pay around $660m. UBS agreed to pay more than $500m in fines, some of which was earmarked for Libor crimes and the rest for currency manipulation.