The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued five Orders filing and settling charges against Citibank N.A. (Citibank), HSBC Bank plc (HSBC), JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. (JPMorgan), The Royal Bank of Scotland plc (RBS) and UBS AG(UBS) (collectively, the Banks) for attempted manipulation of, and for aiding and abetting other banks’ attempts to manipulate, global foreign exchange (FX) benchmark rates to benefit the positions of certain traders.
The Orders collectively impose over $1.4 billion in civil monetary penalties, specifically: $310 million each for Citibank and JPMorgan, $290 million each for RBS and UBS, and $275 million for HSBC.
The Orders also require the Banks to cease and desist from further violations, and take specified steps to implement and strengthen their internal controls and procedures, including the supervision of their FX traders, to ensure the integrity of their participation in the fixing of foreign exchange benchmark rates and internal and external communications by traders. The relevant period of conduct varies across the Banks, with conduct commencing for certain banks in 2009, and for each bank, continuing into 2012.
Aitan Goelman, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement, stated: “The setting of a benchmark rate is not simply another opportunity for banks to earn a profit. Countless individuals and companies around the world rely on these rates to settle financial contracts, and this reliance is premised on faith in the fundamental integrity of these benchmarks. The market only works if people have confidence that the process of setting these benchmarks is fair, not corrupted by manipulation by some of the biggest banks in the world.”
According to the Orders, one of the primary benchmarks that the FX traders attempted to manipulate was the World Markets/Reuters Closing Spot Rates (WM/R Rates). The WM/R Rates, the most widely referenced FX benchmark rates in the United States and globally, are used to establish the relative values of different currencies, which reflect the rates at which one currency is exchanged for another currency. FX benchmark rates, such as the WM/R Rates, are used for pricing of cross-currency swaps, foreign exchange swaps, spot transactions, forwards, options, futures and other financial derivative instruments. The most actively traded currency pairs are the Euro/U.S. Dollar, U.S. Dollar/Japanese Yen, and British Pound Sterling/U.S. Dollar. Accordingly, the integrity of the WM/R Rates and other FX benchmarks is critical to the integrity of the markets in the United States and around the world.