A historic event took place moments ago when Mark Johnson, the global head of cash FX at HSBC was arrested at JFK airport for his role in a “conspiracy to rig currency benchmarks”, and specifically for frontrunning customer orders. He is the first person charged by the US in the ongoing FX rigging probe.
As Bloomberg reports
, a “senior manager at HSBC Holdings Plc was arrested in New York for his role in a conspiracy to rig currency benchmarks, according to two people familiar with the matter, becoming the first person to be charged in the Justice Department’s three-year investigation into foreign-exchange rigging at global banks.”
From Johnson’s bio:
Johnson is global head of foreign exchange cash trading at HSBC, based in London. Prior to joining HSBC in 2010, he was founding managing partner and chief investment officer at Johnson Stewart Partners. Before that, he was global head of trading at Deutsche Bank.
Mark Johnson, HSBC’s global head of foreign exchange cash trading in London, was taken into custody at John F. Kennedy International Airport Tuesday and is scheduled to appear before a judge in federal court in Brooklyn Wednesday morning, said the people, who asked not to be named because the case hasn’t been made public. He’s charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the people said.
According to Bloomberg, Johnson’s arrest comes more than a year after five global banks pleaded guilty to charges related to the rigging of currency benchmarks. HSBC, which wasn’t part of those criminal cases, in November 2014 agreed to pay $618 million in penalties to U.S. and British regulators to resolve currency manipulation allegations. HSBC, which still faces investigations by the Justice Department and other authorities for the conduct, has set aside $1.3 billion for possible settlements, according to an August filing.
Rob Sherman, an HSBC spokesman, and Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve banned former UBS Group AG trader Matthew Gardiner from the banking industry for life for his role rigging currency benchmarks. Gardiner used electronic chat rooms, with names including The Cartel and The Mafia, to facilitate the rigging of foreign-exchange benchmarks and to disclose confidential customer information to traders at other banks, the Fed said in astatement Tuesday. That matter is separate from the one involving Johnson, the people said.
Recall that DOJ unwillingness to prosecute HSBC was the ultimate catalyst that prompted former AG Eric Holder to admit thatsome banks are “too big to prosecute
.” Perhaps with this arrest things are slowly starting to change.
Now, if frontrunning clients is officially an arrest-worthy offense, we can’t wait for the DOJ to unleash a crackdown on criminal HFT algos whose only purpose in “life” is to do just that.