nytimes.com 5 Big Banks to Pay Billions and Plead Guilty in Currency and Interest Rate Cases
Adding another entry to Wall Street’s growing rap sheet, five big banks have agreed to pay more than $5 billion and plead guilty to multiple crimes related to manipulating foreign currencies and interest rates, federal and state authorities announced on Wednesday.
The Justice Department forced four of the banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, and the Royal Bank of Scotland — to plead guilty to antitrust violations in the foreign exchange market as part of a scheme that padded the banks’ profits and enriched the traders who carried out the plot. The traders were supposed to be competitors, but much like companies that rigged the price of vitamins and automotive parts, they colluded to manipulate the largest and yet least regulated market in the financial world, where some $5 trillion changes hands every day.
Underscoring the collusive nature of their contact, which often occurred in online chat rooms, one group of traders called themselves “the cartel,” an-invitation only club where stakes were so high that a newcomer was warned “mess this up and sleep with one eye open.” To carry out the scheme, one trader would typically build a huge position in a currency and then unload it at a crucial moment, hoping to move prices. Traders at the other banks agreed to, as New York State’s financial regulator put it, “stay out of each other’s way.”
As part of the criminal deal with the Justice Department, a fifth bank, UBS, will plead guilty to manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, a benchmark that underpins the cost of trillions of dollars in credit cards and other loans.
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