The US branch of French bank BNP Paribas (BNPP) has been fined $90m by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) for conspiring to rig foreign currency markets.
BNPP USA admitted that between September 2011 and July 2013 it conspired to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing prices in central and eastern European, Middle Eastern and African (CEEMEA) currencies.
The conspiracy involved manipulation of prices on an electronic foreign currency trading platform through the creation of false trades and coordination of bids, and agreements on currency prices to quote to specific customers, said the DoJ.
Sixth bank to admit charges
BNPP USA is the sixth major bank to plead guilty as a result of the department’s ongoing investigation into antitrust and fraud crimes in the foreign exchange market.
In May 2015, four major banks – Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and The Royal Bank of Scotland – pleaded guilty and agreed to pay collectively more than $2.5bn in criminal fines for their part in an antitrust conspiracy to manipulate the price of US dollars and euros in the foreign exchange market.
A fifth bank, UBS, pleaded guilty to manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and other interest rates and agreed to pay a $203m criminal penalty after breaching its 2012 non-prosecution agreement as part of the LIBOR investigation.
‘Corrupt price-fixing behaviour’
“This guilty plea holds BNP Paribas accountable for its corrupt price-fixing behaviour which violated the integrity of the financial services industry and undermined competition,” said Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) inspector general Jay N. Lerner.
Assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s antitrust division added, “The Antitrust Division is committed to uncovering and prosecuting wrongdoing in all corners of the foreign currency exchange market, including this conspiracy affecting multiple emerging market currencies.
“The division’s investigation aims to root out and eradicate the manipulation that has plagued this industry.”