No getting around guilt this time
According to plea agreements to be filed in the District of Connecticut, between December 2007 and January 2013, euro-dollar traders at Citicorp, JPMorgan, Barclays and RBS – self-described members of “The Cartel” – used an exclusive electronic chat room and coded language to manipulate benchmark exchange rates. Those rates are set through, among other ways, two major daily “fixes,” the 1:15 p.m. European Central Bank fix and the 4:00 p.m. World Markets/Reuters fix. Third parties collect trading data at these times to calculate and publish a daily “fix rate,” which in turn is used to price orders for many large customers. “The Cartel” traders coordinated their trading of U.S. dollars and euros to manipulate the benchmark rates set at the 1:15 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. fixes in an effort to increase their profits.
As detailed in the plea agreements, these traders also used their exclusive electronic chats to manipulate the euro-dollar exchange rate in other ways. Members of “The Cartel” manipulated the euro-dollar exchange rate by agreeing to withhold bids or offers for euros or dollars to avoid moving the exchange rate in a direction adverse to open positions held by co-conspirators. By agreeing not to buy or sell at certain times, the traders protected each other’s trading positions by withholding supply of or demand for currency and suppressing competition in the FX market.
Citicorp, Barclays, JPMorgan and RBS each have agreed to plead guilty to a one-count felony charge of conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the FX spot market in the United States and elsewhere. Each bank has agreed to pay a criminal fine proportional to its involvement in the conspiracy:
Citicorp, which was involved from as early as December 2007 until at least January 2013,has agreed to pay a fine of $925 million;
Barclays, which was involved from as early as December 2007 until July 2011, and then from December 2011 until August 2012, has agreed to pay a fine of $650 million;
JPMorgan, which was involved from at least as early as July 2010 until January 2013, has agreed to pay a fine of $550 million; and
- RBS, which was involved from at least as early as December 2007 until at least April 2010, has agreed to pay a fine of $395 million.
Barclays has further agreed that its FX trading and sales practices and its FX collusive conduct constitute federal crimes that violated a principal term of its June 2012 non-prosecution agreement resolving the department’s investigation of the manipulation of LIBOR and other benchmark interests rates. Barclays has agreed to pay an additional $60 million criminal penalty based on its violation of the non-prosecution agreement.
In addition, according to court documents to be filed, the Justice Department has determined that UBS’s deceptive currency trading and sales practices in conducting certain FX market transactions, as well as its collusive conduct in certain FX markets, violated its December 2012 non-prosecution agreement resolving the LIBOR investigation. The department has declared UBS in breach of the agreement, and UBS has agreed to plead guilty to a one-count felony charge of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to manipulate LIBOR and other benchmark interest rates. UBS has also agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $203 million.
* UBS AG