Five banks to pay record $5.7bn fines over key rates manipulation – US regulator

RIA Novosti / Vladimir Astapkovich
The world’s five biggest banks have been fined a total of $5.7 billion for manipulating foreign exchange markets. It’s the biggest combined bank settlement in history.

READ MORE: Swiss UBS first to pay $545mn fine over forex rigging

Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, JPMorgan, UBS and Citigroup were hit with penalties from UK and US authorities Wednesday.

Four of them agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges for rigging benchmark interest rates, the US Department of Justice said.

All the banks have agreed to a three-year period of corporate probation, which, if approved by the court, will be overseen by the court and require regular reporting to authorities as well as cessation of all criminal activity.

The new penalties bring the total fines in the foreign exchange scandal to almost $10 billion, one of the most expensive in banking history.

Traders from Citigroup, JP Morgan, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland used coded language while in an invitation-only electronic chat room. They used this to manipulate the price of US dollars and euro between December 2007 and January 2013.

“The charged conspiracy fixed the US dollar – euro exchange rate, affecting currencies that are at the heart of international commerce and undermining the integrity and the competitiveness of foreign currency exchange markets which account for hundreds of billions of dollars worth of transactions every day,” said Assistant Attorney General Baer.

Each of the 4 banks agreed to pay a criminal fine proportional to its involvement in the conspiracy, according to the DOJ statement. Citicorp, thus, will pay a fine of $925 million, Barclays $650 million. JP Morgan has agreed to pay $550 million and RBS $395 million.

Barclays of the UK faced the biggest fine of $2.4 billion as it did not join in an earlier November settlement with British and some US authorities due to complications with the regulator in New York. The lender also agreed to fire eight employees, according to the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS).

“Put simply, Barclays employees helped rig the foreign exchange market. They engaged in a brazen ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ scheme to rip off their clients," said New York State Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky in a statement. "While today's action concerns misconduct in spot trading, there is additional work ahead."

The Swiss bank UBS was the first bank to plead guilty and agreed to pay a $545 million fine for the manipulation of the $5 trillion-a-day forex market. The bank initially reported the forex rigging to the US Department of Justice.