Using Social Media For Rand Rigging: 17 Banks Face Fines By South Africa
South Africa’s competition watchdog has accused 17 local and international banks of conspiring to fix the price of the rand over the past 10 years, and recommends fining them 10 percent of their annual in-country turnover, Newsweek reported.
Workers at banks including Barclays Africa, JPMorgan Chase and HSBC primarily used instant messaging to collude on when to start and stop trading in order to change the value of the rand, the Competition Commission said Wednesday in a statement. They manipulated the prices of bids and sometimes created fake bids for profit.
Prosecutors for the Competition Commission said the banks used Bloomberg chat rooms and the Reuters trading platform as part of a conspiracy to rig the exchange rate of the rand.
South Africa launched the investigation in April 2015. Several banks have said they will cooperate with South African authorities. These include Barclays Africa and Citigroup, Bloomberg reported.
This isn’t the first foreign exchange scandal to rock international markets over the past 10 years. Major international banks have had to pay billions of dollars in fines since a global scandal in 2013 over rigging foreign exchange markets. 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.
Now it’s South Africa’s turn to host a scandal, BBC reported.
Banks named in the investigation include Citigroup, Nomura, Standard Bank, Investec, JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse Group, Commerzbank AG, Standard New York Securities Inc, Macquarie Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch , ANZ Banking Group Ltd, Standard Chartered Plc and Barclays Africa (Absa), part of the Barclays Plc, according to Finance Magnates:
The regulator’s 10-percent recommendation” signals that South Africa’s watchdog may be gearing up to open settlement, although it did not indicate whether the fines will be imposed on the global revenues of each bank or just to their domestic arms. Either way, the figure is expected to be a starting point in settlement discussions, with some banks to be asked for more and some less.”
The South African rand lost almost half its value against the U.S. dollar over the past five years as the country struggled through an economic crisis.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) said it takes an “extremely dim view” of the alleged price-fixing, Newsweek reported.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance said the ANC had “prejudged the outcome of the case.” In his State of the Nation address on Feb. 9, President Jacob Zuma said he planned to use the competition authorities as a tool for radical economic transformation.
The left-wing opposition Economic Freedom Fighters said the banks involved should have their trading licenses revoked.
Zuma welcomed the investigation, saying the government was prepared to act against distorted financial markets “to protect our country’s economy,” BBC reported.
He said the financial sector needs new players to diversify, and the government is committed to establishing a state bank.
Relations between the president and the banking sector are already tense after the banks closed the accounts of companies associated with the Guptas, a business family accused of using its close links with Zuma to wield political power, Newsweek reported.
The Commission said that the cases will be brought under anti-trust rules, which limit the class action to South African claimants, according to Finance Magnates. After holding hearings on anti-trust claims, the Competition Tribunal is expected to make a finding. Upon sentencing, affected banks will be able to appeal to South Africa’s Competition Appeal Court.
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