FX Rigging Probe Emerges Back in South Africa as Regulator Seeks Fines

The Banking Association South Africa (Basa) on Thursday implored the public to not make harsh comments or brash decisions following the Competition Commission's decision to refer a case of alleged collusion against 17 banks to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution.

A finding by the South African antitrust regulator that more than a dozen local and global banks colluded to rig foreign-currency trades will bolster government accusations that the nation's biggest lenders are monopolizing the financial system and failing to address racial inequality.

The banks are Bank of America Merrill Lynch International Limited, BNP Paribas, JP Morgan Chase & Co, JP Morgan Chase Bank NA, Investec Ltd, Standard New York Securities Inc, HSBC Bank Plc, Standard Chartered Bank, Credit Suisse Group; Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd, Commerzbank AG; Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited, Nomura International Plc, Macquarie Bank Limited, ABSA Bank Limited (ABSA), Barclays Capital Inc, Barclays Bank plc (Respondents).

Following a string of similar lawsuits in the United States and UK, the Competition Commission believes the banks in question acted in concert to manipulate either prices for bids, offers or spreads for spot trades involving the rand and the USA dollar.

The Competition Commission on Wednesday said banks including Investec Ltd. Five of the world's largest banks including Barclays and JPMorgan Chase were fined $5.7 billion for rate rigging in the U.S.in 2015.

Some South Africans on Twitter have been using the hashtag #BanksCollusion to urge national media to intensify their reporting.

It said a messaging chat room called "ZAR Domination", was used to coordinate trading activities when giving quotes to customers who buy or sell currencies. They reached agreements to refrain from trading, taking turns in transacting and by either pulling or holding trading activities on the Reuters currency trading platform. They manipulated the prices of bids and sometimes created fake bids for profit.

Standard Bank is yet to respond to the allegations. "And it was clear from President Zuma's State of the Nation Address last week that he intends using the competition authorities as a tool of his populist and destructive agenda of "radical economic transformation", the party's Michael Cardo said.

Banks working with Commission ABSA said it will continue to co-operate with the Commission during the prosecution of this matter, adding that no fines were brought against the bank.

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