Banks facing prosecution in South Africa for rand manipulation

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A raft of international banks face prosecution in South Africa over claims they manipulated the rand during the global forex trading scandal, which has already seen billions of dollars of fines imposed on the industry by regulators around the world.South Africa’s Competition Commission said on Wednesday it had recommended that a total of 17 banks — including JP Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, HSBC, Credit Suisse and Barclays — be prosecuted following an investigation into rand manipulation that it began in April 2015.

The watchdog said it was now seeking an order from the Tribunal declaring that the institutions have contravened South Africa’s Competition Act.

It is also seeking to impose penalties on the banks equal to 10 per cent of their annual turnover.

Evidence that global banks had been colluding to fix the price of currencies first emerged in 2013, leading to many top traders being fired and a number of high-profile investigations across the world resulting in billion-dollar fines levied against the world’s largest financial institutions.

The commission said that it had found that from at least 2007, the banks had a general agreement to collude on prices for trades involving the US dollar/rand currency pair.

It said it had found evidence that the banks manipulated prices through agreements to refrain from trading, as well as creating “fictitious” bids and offers at particular times.

The commission said the “collusive activities” took place on the Reuters currency trading platform, as well as through Bloomberg chatrooms and phone conversations.

“The referral of this matter to the Tribunal marks a key milestone in this case as it now affords the banks an opportunity to answer for themselves,” said commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele.

The full list of banks named by the Competition Commission are: Bank of America Merrill Lynch International Limited, BNP Paribas, JP Morgan Chase & Co, JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A, Investec, Standard New York Securities, HSBC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Credit Suisse Group, Standard Bank of South Africa, Commerzbank, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Nomura International, Macquarie Bank, ABSA Bank, Barclays Capital and Barclays.

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