While regulators in New York and internationally are ramping up their investigations of currency manipulation, more and more banks are distancing themselves from traders that may have taken part in the rigging of the $5 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market.
And who can blame them? Financial institutions including Barclays PLC (ADR) (NYSE:BCS) (LON:BARC)’s have already paid out more than $6 billion in fines related to manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and other benchmark interest rates. Regulators in Britain, the United States, Germany, Switzerland and Hong Kong have all begun investigations into currency manipulation in the last year, and just yesterday the chief executive of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, Martin Wheatley, described this potential manipulation of international markets as “every bit as bad as they have been with Libor.”
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At the risk of understatement, Libor was really bad and at least ten traders in both Britain and the United States are facing criminal charges for their participation in the Libor affair. The first of those cases is likely to be heard in the UK in the latter stages of this year or in early 2015.
The usual suspects?
As a result, more than a dozen foreign exchange traders at some of the world’s largest banks, including Barclays PLC (ADR) (NYSE:BCS) (LON:BARC), Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), have been placed on leave amid questions about whether they colluded to manipulate benchmark currency rates.
HSBC Holdings plc (ADR) (NYSE:HSBC) has also suspended traders in the last weeks, while earlier this week Lloyds Banking Group PLC (ADR) (NYSE:LYG) (LON:LLOY) placed a senior currency trader on leave as part of its own internal investigation, according to sources close to the matter.
Deutsche Bank joins currency manipulators
Well, those banks were joined today by Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) (ETR:DBK), the largest trader of currencies, with about 15.2 percent of the market, who took it a step further. Deutsche Bank had already suspended a number of traders in January but this week went the extra step of firing three of its employees. This apparently includes the head of Deutsche Bank’s emerging markets foreign exchange trading desk in New York and two traders according to an unnamed source in reporting by Reuters yesterday.
Today, Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE:DB) (ETR:DBK) declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing individual employees. The bank did however say that it was cooperating with investigators and that it would “take disciplinary action with regards to individuals if merited.”