Regulators in the US, Britain and Switzerland ordered five banks to pay about €2.6bn in fines in the first wave of penalties since authorities began a global probe into the rigging of key foreign-exchange benchmarks last year.
Switzerland’s UBS was ordered to pay the most at €640m — £234m (€297m) by Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), $290m (€232m) by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and 134 million Swiss francs (€111m) by the Swiss regulator Finma.
Citigroup will pay $668m, followed by JPMorgan Chase at $662m. Royal Bank of Scotland was fined about £399m, and HSBC £389m. Barclays, which had been in settlement talks, said it wasn’t ready for a deal.
Banks and individuals still face further penalties from other agencies as a result of dealers colluding with counterparts at other firms to rig benchmarks used by fund managers to determine what they pay for foreign currency.
The US Justice Department and Britain’s Serious Fraud Office are also leading criminal probes into the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market.
“The traders put their own interest ahead of their customers, they manipulated the market — or attempted to manipulate the market — and abused the trust of the public,” said FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley.
Finma said it has started enforcement proceedings against 11 UBS employees. By delaying, Barclays won’t now receive the 30% reduction in its penalty the FCA awarded the other banks settling. The FCA isn’t planning to fine Deutsche Bank, the second biggest player in foreign exchange.
“Barclays is the only bank we are currently investigating from an enforcement perspective,” Tracey McDermott, the FCA’s director of enforcement, said. About 30 other banks, including Deutsche Bank, will still have to overhaul their practices.
Lawyers said the settlement leaves unanswered how clients will be compensated.“The fines alone are not sufficient, and there is plenty more work for the regulator to do to ensure that those customers affected are properly compensated,” said Stevie Loughrey, a lawyer at Carter-Ruck. The fines “will offer no comfort whatsoever to those bank customers who have suffered significant losses”.
Separately, the Bank of England dismissed its chief foreign exchange dealer, Martin Mallett, who has worked at the bank for almost 30 years. He was faulted in a report by Anthony Grabiner for failing to alert his superiors that currency traders were sharing information about client orders.
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