Swiss regulator to fine banks $91m over foreign exchange cartel

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Four British and US banks will be fined about SFr90m ($91m) this week by Switzerland’s competition authority for colluding to rig foreign exchange markets, weeks after the EU handed out €1bn of penalties for similar misconduct.

Weko, as the Swiss regulator is known, found that traders at Barclays, JPMorgan, Citigroup and Royal Bank of Scotland worked together in a cartel-style arrangement to manipulate currency prices for their own gain, according to people briefed on the decision.

Staff also traded ahead of their own customers and failed to accurately represent to clients how they were determining prices, the people said. The four banks declined to comment. A spokesman for Weko also declined to comment.

UBS escaped a fine because it blew the whistle on the other banks in the group, while Credit Suisse is fighting the allegations and refused to settle, the people said. The two Swiss banks also declined to comment on the probe.

Last month the EU fined Barclays, Citi, RBS, JPMorgan and Japan’s MUFG €1bn after its own five-year investigation into manipulation of the $5tn-a-day forex market. UBS also escaped a fine in that probe for alerting authorities to the misconduct, and Credit Suisse is similarly fighting the EU’s case.

Since allegations of benchmark currency rate manipulation first surfaced in 2013 more than a dozen financial institutions have paid almost $12bn in fines around the world.

Weko, which is led by president Andreas Heinemann and director Patrik Ducrey, opened a probe into the banks in 2014 and said the fines could total as much as 10 per cent of the turnover generated in the relevant market in Switzerland over a set period of time.

The Swiss foreign exchange market is much smaller than those in London, New York and across Europe with just over $200bn of transactions a day.