The EU has fined 5 banks for a total of 1.07 billion Euros for participating in currency fixing cartels. The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was involved in both the decisions. The first decision, called the Forex – Three Way Bana Split imposed a total fine of 811.2 million Euros on Barclays, RBS, Citigroup, and JPMorgan. The second decision reached by the European Commission is on the so-called Forex-Essex Express. That decision levied a fine to the tune of 257.7 million Euros on RBS, MUFG Bank and Barclays.
NatWest Markets covers both fines in provisions
NatWest Markets will pay the fine along with the Royal Bank of Scotland, who said the NatWest Markets existing provisions fully covered the total sum to be paid. RBS does say that NatWest Markets is fully cooperating with all inquiries and responding to both governmental and regulatory authorities with regards to similar matters. This would include competition authorities as well as financial.
The amount any future fines, penalties, litigation risks, and other collateral consequences are for the time being uncertain. The fines that have been meted out today are for illegal chat room activity which happened in two chatrooms between 2007 and 2013 and allowed the traders to coordinate their trades on forex spot trading.
Chatrooms used between traders
The two separate fines are named after the chatrooms used by the traders of the institutions to collaborate and fix the currency markets so that their companies would profit. The periods in question for the first, larger fine were called variously “Three Way Banan Split”, “Two and a Half Men”, and “Only Marge”. The chat meetings took place between traders of Barclays, RBS, UBS, Citigroup, and JP Morgan starting on the 18th of December 2007 and finishing on the 31 January almost a full 5 years later in 2013.
The other fine was due to traders meeting and rigging currencies in chatrooms that were called variously “Essex Express ‘n the Jimmy” and “Semi Grumpy Old men”. This included UBS, Barclays, RBS, and MUFG (at the time still known as the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi). The time periods in question for this particular infringement was from the 14th of December 2009 right up until the 31st of July in 2012.
Despite only participating in the one cartel, CitiGroup was hit with the largest fine, which is currently 311 million Euros, while Japan’s MUFG Bank was only fined 70 million Euros.
The currencies that the traders were fixing int he chatrooms were the Pound, the Euro, the major dollar currencies (US, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand) as well as the three Scandinavian crowns (Danish, Swedish and Norwegian).