Five Banks Plead Guilty To Criminal Charges, Will Pay 5 Billion In Fines

banks-guiltyAuthorities announced today that five of the world’s largest banks have agreed to pay about $5.6 billion and plead guilty to multiple crimes related to manipulating foreign currencies and interest rates.
Starting as early as Dec 2007, currency traders at several multinational banks formed a group dubbed ‘The Cartel’. “It is perhaps fitting that those traders chose that name, as it aptly describes the brazenly illegal behavior they were engaging in on a near-daily basis.”

Federal prosecutors said Euro-U.S dollar traders at Citicorp, JPMorgan, Barclays and RBS — self-described members of the cartel — used an exclusive electronic chat room and coded language to manipulate benchmark exchange rates of the two currencies in ways that benefited their own trading positions.

From The New York Times:

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, prosecutors said.

The Department of Justice, the Federal Reserve, and other U.S. and European authorities and regulators said corporate units of those banks acknowledged their traders rigged foreign exchange prices of U.S. dollars and euros for several years starting in December 2007.

Of course, no one is going to prison, and some of the banks have already said they don’t expect the fines to impact operations much.

Just a nice little slap on the wrist, and the fraud business will continue as usual.