Global Investigation of Manipulation of Benchmark Foreign Exchange Rates Focuses on Chat Group of Top Bank Traders

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Competition authorities around the world are investigating whether banks manipulated WM/Reuters rates, which are used as a benchmark for foreign exchange (“FX”) rates for trillions of dollars of investment transactions.  Specifically, government authorities are reviewing whether bank dealers (1) used client transactions to move the WM/Reuters rates to a level that would benefit the banks’ own financial positions, and/or (2) colluded with their counterparts at other banks to manipulate these rates.   News sources have reported that authorities have narrowed their focus on a group of top traders from various financial institutions including RBS, UBS, Citigroup and Barclays that took part in chat sessions.  The group was known by various names including “The Cartel,” “The Bandits’ Club,” “The Mafia,” and “One Team, One Dream.”  It is reported that members of the group would discuss their customers’ trades and agree on exactly when they planned to execute them to maximize their chances of moving the WM/Reuters rates.  When the rates moved their way, they would allegedly send written slaps on the back for a job well done.  Entry into the chat room was coveted by non-members interviewed by Bloomberg News, who said they saw it as a golden ticket because of the influence it exerted.  In total, it has been reported that at least 12 FX traders at global banks in London, New York and Tokyo have been suspended amid the regulatory and internal probes into potential FX manipulation.  This investigation will likely remain in the headlines throughout 2014 as competition authorities uncover additional details regarding this potentially unlawful conduct among some of the nation’s largest financial institutions.

 

 

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