Another shoe drops in the FX fraud manipulation conspiracy

FX is quite literally, a rigged game.  Not like the stock market, well not exactly.  FX has been, a game of ‘how many numbers am I holding behind my back?’ and the guess is always wrong!  As we explain in Splitting Pennies Understanding Forex – FX is rigged.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity!  One just needs to understand it.

From Law 360:

French bank BNP Paribas was fined $350 million by the New York State Department of
Financial Services
 for lax oversight in its foreign-exchange business that
allowed “nearly unfettered misconduct” by more than a dozen employees involved
in exchange rate manipulation, officials announced Wednesday.

From 2007 through 2013, a trader on the bank’s New York desk, identified in the
consent order as Jason Katz, ran a number of schemes with more than a dozen
BNPP traders and salespeople on key foreign exchange trading desks to
manipulate prices and spreads in several currencies, including the South
African rand, Hungarian forint and Turkish lira, officials said.

He called his group of traders a “cartel” and they communicated in a
chat room called “ZAR Domination,” a reference to the rand’s trading
symbol, according to the consent order. The group would push up the price of
the illiquid rand during New York business hours when the South African market
was closed, moving the currency in whichever way they chose, and thus
depressing competition, officials said.

Katz also enlisted colleagues at other banks to widen spreads for orders in
rands, increasing bank profits and limiting competition at the customer’
expense, the order says. Some of the traders engaged in illegal coordination
and shared confidential customer information, officials said. As part of a
cooperation agreement with prosecutors, Katz pled guilty in Manhattan federal court in
January to one count of conspiracy to restrain trade in violation of the
Sherman Act.

“Participants in the foreign exchange market rely on a transparent and fair
market to ensure competitive prices for their trades for all participants,”
Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said in a statement. “Here the
bank paid little or no attention to the supervision of its foreign exchange
trading business, allowing BNPP traders and others to violate New York state
law over the course of many years and repeatedly abused the trust of their
customers.”

BNP Paribas, which employs nearly 190,000 people and has total assets of more
than €2.1 trillion (approximately $2.36 trillion), said in a statement that the
$350 million fine will be covered by existing provisions. It said it had
implemented a group-wide remediation initiative and cooperated fully in the
investigation.

“The conduct which led to this settlement occurred during the period from 2007
to 2013. Since this time, BNP Paribas has proactively implemented extensive
measures to strengthen its systems of control and compliance,” the bank said in
its statement. “The group has increased resources and staff dedicated to these
functions, conducted extensive staff training and launched a new code of
conduct which applies to all staff.”

Three BNPP employees were fired, seven more resigned and several others were
disciplined for misconduct or supervisory shortcomings in relation to the
probe, the order says.

Katz’s attorney, Michael Tremonte of Sher Tremonte LLP, did not respond Wednesday to a call seeking
comment.

But really, what’s another $350 Million in the grand scheme of things for BNP?  Just another day’s profits in the FX market.

This probe isn’t new; regulators have been looking into FX rigging for years.  And practically, the fine won’t make any customers whole – it will just shore up the coffers for the NY State department of financial services.  With inflation out of control, they need the money.  

For a detailed breakdown of this virtual monopoly ‘they’ have on the global financial system, checkout Splitting Pennies Understanding Forex.

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