Europe hits five banks with $1.2 billion fine over currency trading cartel

NEWS 16.05.2019 17:32

Five global banks have been slapped with a €1.07 billion fine in Europe for running cartels that coordinated currency trading. The European Commission announced Thursday that it will hit JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays, RBS, and Japan's MUFG with the penalties following an investigation into collusion in the foreign exchange market.

The biggest fines were handed to Citi and RBS, which will owe about €310.8 million and €249.2 million, respectively.

UBS, the whistleblower in the case, was not fined.

The Commission said traders exchanged sensitive information and coordinated their activities in chatrooms on Bloomberg terminals. That gave the traders access to privileged information that helped them decide what currencies to buy and sell, and when.

The currency market is a massive part of the global financial system, with trading averaging more than $5 trillion per day, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

“Companies and people depend on banks to exchange money to carry out transactions in foreign countries,” Margrethe Vestager, the Commission’s antitrust chief, said in a statement. “Foreign exchange spot trading activities are one of the largest markets in the world.”

The chat rooms, which had names such as “Three way banana split” and “Essex Express ‘n the Jimmy,” were active between 2007 and 2013.

JPMorgan, Citi, Barclays and RBS settled a similar inquiry with the US Department of Justice in 2015. The banks agreed to pay fines of more than $2.5 billion.

Citi and Barclays declined to comment Thursday.

JPMorgan said in a statement that it was “pleased to resolve this historical matter, which relates to the conduct of one former employee.”

“We have since made significant control improvements,” a spokesperson said.

MUFG said it is “committed to ensuring integrity and compliance with the regulatory authorities” and had “taken a number of measures to prevent this occurring again.”

RBS said the fine is “a further reminder of how badly the bank lost its way in the past” and that its “culture and controls have changed fundamentally” in the past decade.