REGULATION

Ex-JP Morgan, Barclays and Citi traders charged with FX price fixing

Trading ‘Cartel’ charged with rigging FX spot market face up to 10 years in prison.

By Hayley McDowell hayley.mcdowell@strategic-i.com January 11, 2017 10:40 AM GMT

Three former FX traders at major investment banks have been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for US dollars and euros in the FX spot market.

Richard Usher, former managing director at JP Morgan and head of G11 FX trading at Royal Bank of Scotland, Rochan Ramchandani, former head of G10 FX spot trading at Citi and Christopher Ashton, former head of FX spot at Barclays, have all been charged with the offences.

The three are alleged to have manipulated the exchange rate for the hundreds of billions of dollars traded on FX markets to gain an advantage over their counterparts.

Between 2007 and 2013, Usher, Ramchandani and Ashton were part of a group of traders known as the ‘Cartel’, who communicated via telephone calls or electronic messages, according to prosecutors.

Barrister for Ashton, Sara George, told The TRADE her client "complied fully with what he understood to be the legal and compliance requirements for [Barclays].

"He was never given any legal advice, guidance or instruction by Barclays in relation to US law. The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) conducted a thorough and independent investigation... involving in excess of half a million documents.

"A detailed review of the evidence led the SFO to the conclusion that the alleged conduct, even if proven and taken at its highest, would not meet the evidential test required to mount a prosecution for an offence contrary to English law."

Recently, combined fines of $2.5 billion were handed out to Barclays, Citi, JP Morgan and Royal Bank of Scotland in 2015 for fixing prices on the FX spot market.

Principal deputy associate attorney general, Bill Baer, said: “We previously secured criminal convictions of the financial institutions involved in the misconduct. Today we seek to hold accountable the individuals who conspired on their behalf.”

The three traders face a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, which can be doubled, or twice the loss suffered by the victims.

Deputy attorney general Sally Yates, concluded: “Whether a crime is committed on the street corner or in the corner office, no one gets a free pass simply because they were working for a corporation when they broke the law.”