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Anti-competitiveness Swiss regulator fines banks over improper forex trading

trader with umbrella

Ten currencies, including the Japanese yen, were traded in the banks' foreign exchange spot markets.

(Keystone)

The Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) has fined five international banks for their involvement in the formation of cartels that manipulated the foreign exchange market. 

COMCO fined Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and the MUFG Bank a total of CHF90 million ($90.6 million) for “anti-competitive arrangements between banks in foreign exchange spot trading”. 

The fines represent the conclusion of “amicable settlements” wrote COMCO in a press releaseexternal link on Thursday. The investigation first began in 2013. 

“Traders of several internationally active banks have partially coordinated their conduct in two separate cartels in foreign exchange spot markets regarding certain G10-currencies (USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, AUD, NZD, CAD, CHF, NOK, SEK),” noted COMCO. 

One cartel, called “Three-way banana split”, involved traders from Barclays, UBS, Citigroup, JPMorgan, RBS and UBS. Traders from Barclays, MUFG Bank, RBS and UBS participated in the “Essex express” cartel. 

UBS was not fined as it revealed the cartels to the competition authorities first. Several of the other banks benefitted from reduced fines by coming forward. Barclays was fined CHF27 million, Citigroup CHF28.5 million, JPMorgan CHF9.5 million, MUFG Bank CHF1.5 million and RBS CHF22.5 million. 

An investigation against Credit Suisse is continuing, while probes into Julius Baer and the Zurich cantonal bank have closed, COMCO said. The decision is not yet final and can still be referred to the Federal Administrative Court. 

The COMCO decision comes after Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan, MUFG and Royal Bank of Scotland were fined a combined €1.07 billion (CHF1.2 billion) by the European Union last month for rigging the multi-trillion-dollar foreign exchange market.


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