The Rigging Triangle Exposed: The JPMorgan-British Petroleum-Bank Of England Cartel Full Frontal

Tyler Durden's picture




 

The name Dick Usher is familiar to regular readers: he was the head of spot foreign exchange for JPMorgan, and the bank's alleged chief FX market manipulator, who was promptly fired after it was revealed that JPM was the bank coordinating the biggest FX rigging scheme in history, as initially revealed in "Another JPMorganite Busted For "Bandits' Club" Market Manipulation." Subsequent revelations - which would have been impossible without the tremendous reporting of Bloomberg's Liam Vaughan - showed that JPM was not alone: as recent legal actions confirmed, virtually every single bank was also a keen FX rigging participant. However, the undisputed ringleader was always America's largest bank, which would make sense: having a virtually unlimited balance sheet, JPM could outlast practically any margin call, and make money while its far smaller peers were closed out of trades... and existence.

But while the past year revealed that FX rigging was a just as pervasive, if not even more profitable industry for banks than the great Libor-fixing scandal (for details see "How To Rig FX Like A Pro "Bandit", And Make Millions In The Process"), the conventional wisdom was that it involved almost exclusively bankers at the largest global banks including JPM, Goldman, Deutsche, Barclays, RBS, HSBC, and UBS.

Now, courtesy of some more brilliant reporting by Vaughan, we can finally link banks with the other two facets of what has emerged to be an unprecedented FX-rigging "triangle" cartel: private sector companies that have no direct banking operations yet who have intimate prop trading exposure, as well as central banks themselves.

By "banks" we, of course, refer to the ringleader itself: JP Morgan, and its former head of spot forex trading in London, Dick Usher. As for the company that benefited from its heretofore secret participation in the biggest FX rigging scandal in history, it is none other than British Petroleum.

We learn about all this thanks to a story that begins with, of all thing, a story about freshwater fishing at a lake in Essex called "Wharf Pool."

As Bloomberg reports, "an hour away by train, in London’s financial district, the lake’s owners ply their trade. Wharf Pool was purchased for about 250,000 pounds ($388,000) in 2012 by Richard Usher, the former JPMorgan Chase & Co. trader at the center of a global investigation into corruption in the foreign-exchange market, and Andrew White, a currency trader at oil company BP Plc. "

The plot thickens: was there more than a passing connection between the head FX trader at JPM and White "who’s known in the market as Tubby, is one of half a dozen spot currency traders working for British Petroleum (BP) in London. He and his colleagues, most of them ex-bankers, decide which firms will carry out their foreign-exchange transactions. That makes them prized clients for banks seeking a slice of the business and a glimpse into potentially market-moving trades. Passing on information was a way to curry favor."

In short, a typical Over The Counter relationship between a banker and a buyside client, one which is largely unregulated and where the bank hopes to be able to frontrun the client's orders by providing the client with confidential market moving information, thus generating more business with the client in the future. In this case, however, the buyside client was not a typical hedge fund, but the FX trading group at one of the world's largest energy companies: a group which trades enormous amounts of FX every single day, both with intent to hedge, and to generate a profit.

The trading unit’s primary role is to manage the firm’s exposure to financial risks, including fluctuations in interest rates and foreign exchange, according to the company’s website. Unlike at most corporations, it also is run as a profit center, which means that in addition to hedging risks, traders can place their own bets on the direction of markets. The company doesn’t break out how much money the treasury unit makes

Basically, BP's energy operations were just a balance sheet funding cover: what its FX traders did in the front office was trade for a profit pure and simple, just like any prop trading desk or hedge fund anywhere else in the world. And it did so in collusion with a small group of market rigging individuals all located at the biggest, market-moving banks around the globe.

A quick reminder on the "Cartel":

The four banks in the Cartel controlled about 45 percent of the global spot-currency market, according to a survey by Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc, so information about their plans was valuable. Some days they worked together to push around the 4 p.m. fix, settlements with the banks show.

 

The Cartel chat room was started by Usher as early as 2009, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Usher had risen quickly to the top of his profession. After joining HBOS Plc in 2001, he was hired by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in 2003 and a year later collected an industry award on his employer’s behalf.... The four members of the chat room ribbed each other like high school buddies. Usher was referred to as Feston because he resembled an overweight version of British chef Heston Blumenthal, according to people who have seen the chats. Matt Gardiner, a UBS trader based in Zurich, was called Fossil because he was a few years older than the others. Rohan Ramchandani, Citigroup’s cricket-loving head of spot trading, was called Ruggy, while Chris Ashton, the last one to join, was dubbed Robocop.

Now we can add BP too, a BP which doesn't even hide the prop-trading nature of its FX "hedging" group, which is located two blocks away from, wait for it, JPMorgan!

The two dozen traders in BP’s treasury trading unit are housed above a Porsche showroom on the second and third floors of the company’s office in Canary Wharf, an area of reclaimed docklands three miles east of the City of London, the historic financial district. The building, two blocks from JPMorgan’s, was completed in 2003 on the cusp of an oil boom. Lights in meeting rooms flick from green to white when someone enters, in keeping with the company’s corporate colors.

And while until today the last sentence would be pure conjecture, thanks to Bloomberg's release of exchanges between JPM and BP revealing the extent to which the "cartel" would stoop in order to make money for its members on a daily, risk-free basis, it is not a fact.

From Bloomberg:

Copies of messages sent to BP traders over the course of a year were provided to Bloomberg News by a person with access to the online conversations. The person, who redacted the names of banks sending the messages and dates of conversations, said they came from firms whose senior foreign-exchange traders belonged to a chat room called “The Cartel” that was set up by Usher and included dealers at JPMorgan, Citigroup Inc., Barclays Plc and UBS Group AG.

 

The information offered an insight into currency moves minutes, sometimes hours before they happened. The messages could drag the U.K.’s biggest energy company into a scandal that has enveloped 11 banks and led to more than 30 traders from London to Singapore losing or being suspended from their jobs. Last month six banks were fined $4.3 billion for passing along information about their clients and working together to rig foreign-exchange markets.

Presenting BP: collusive, insider trading hedge fund extraordinaire. All comparisons and similarities to Enron are purely coincidental.

With revenue of almost $400 billion last year and operations in about 80 countries, BP trades large quantities of currency each day. Traders at the company regularly received valuable information from counterparts at some of the world’s biggest banks -- including tips about forthcoming trades, details of confidential client business and discussions of stop-losses, the trigger points for a flurry of buying or selling -- according to four traders with direct knowledge of the practice.

Of course, in any non-banana republic, whose regulatory and enforcement divisions were not captured by the same megacorp that is in question here, this would have been the basis for a massive lawsuit, one which would ultimately seek to break apart the company's "profitable" FX trading division from its core energy business. But not in this republic: after all, between one of the world's biggest banks and one of the world's biggest corporations, and a corrupt, crony government it should be clear to everyone by now just who calls the shots.

BP of course is quick to note that it did nothing illegal: after all the last thing the company needs is its own Enron-type scandal, where an ancillary business manages to drag down the entire company. Sure enough it has promptly denied everything:

BP said in a statement that it conducted an internal review after regulators began probing currency markets. “BP’s FX desk has relationships as a customer with 26 relationship banks, including JPMorgan, Citibank and Barclays,” the London-based company said. “BP has a robust framework of compliance requirements and internal controls which are constantly reviewed, and maintains an open dialogue with the appropriate regulators.”

 

The firm, the third-largest publicly traded company in the U.K., hasn’t been investigated by regulators looking into currency manipulation, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Chris Hamilton, a spokesman for the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, declined to comment, as did representatives of JPMorgan, Barclays, Citigroup and UBS.

So how does one explain the joint equity interest in - for example - the little fishing lake ?

“BP’s Code of Conduct includes mandatory requirements for employees to disclose potential conflicts of interests internally,” the company said in response to a question about the commercial relationship between Usher and White through the fishing lake. “Following such disclosure, steps are taken to manage and monitor these appropriately. It is our policy not to comment on individuals.”

In other words, one can't.  Which is how BP likes it. Which is also why Bloomberg was quite cautious with how it phrases BP's involvement into something that could promptly turn out to be Britain's own Enron:

While there’s no evidence that any BP traders were members of the Cartel, Usher participated in at least one chat room with White, according to a person who has examined conversations that included both men. It couldn’t be determined from the messages reviewed by Bloomberg News who sent the information to BP or whether BP employees acted on any of the tips.

They did, and this is how we know: "Traders at BP haven’t been accused of any wrongdoing. Last year, within hours of regulators announcing probes, the chats between BP and the banks were shut down, people with knowledge of the matter said. Soon after, a compliance officer was placed on the desk for the first time, one of them said."

Not exactly something one would do if one was, for lack of a better term, innocent.

And while we hold our breath until UK's justice (don't laugh please) system assigns blame - by which we mean a $19.95 one time settlement with a promise by BP it will never do it again - here is a glimpse at the full extent of just how this rigging took place:

In the clubby, lightly regulated world of foreign exchange, traders passed around tips to their circle of trusted contacts like candy. The victims: mutual-fund investors, pensioners and day traders who took the other side of a transaction at a lower price than they would have if they had the same information.

 

...

 

In an undated message seen by Bloomberg News, a trader at a bank told BP he would be buying U.S. dollars against Australian dollars at the WM/Reuters fix at 4 p.m. in London, the one-minute window during which traders around the world exchange billions of dollars of currency on behalf of pension funds and asset managers. The message was received at BP about 30 minutes before the fix. By tipping his hand, the sender was telling BP about a potential fall in the Australian currency

 

At about 3 p.m. in London on a different afternoon, BP traders were informed that banks were selling dollars against the yen at 4 p.m. In a third message, this one arriving as the oil company’s traders drank their first coffee of the morning, a trader at a bank said he had just sold a quantity of an emerging-market currency, to whom and the price he received.

 

The settlements the banks reached with regulators reveal that in the minutes before 4 p.m. the traders would meet on chat rooms to discuss their positions and how they planned to execute them. Sometimes they also agreed to work together to push exchange rates around to boost their profits –- something they called “double-teaming.”

All of the above would be, if proven, criminal but in line with expectations: after all when given a carte blanche to do anything they want, humans will do just that, even if it means trample every regulation known to man. In fact, the bigger one's balance sheet, the greater one's percevied (and realized) leeway of sneaking between the legal cracks, facilitated by the number of politicians and regulators that have been coopted and outright purchased courtesy of said big balance sheet.

However, the true punchline is this: "[Usher] joined JPMorgan as head of spot foreign exchange in 2010, where he became a member of the now-defunct Bank of England’s Chief Dealers Sub Group, a collection of about a dozen currency traders and central bank officials who met at restaurants and bank offices to discuss industry developments."

In other words, all of this rigging, all of the FX manipulation, all of the criminal abuse of naive, innocent market participants took place with the Bank of England's own seal of approval. Which, of course, is why the BofE itself had to scapegoat its own sacrificial lamb to avoid any further connection to this criminal cartel - something it did in early November when it fired its Chief FX dealer, Martin Mallett, who on November 12 "was dismissed by the Bank of England yesterday for “serious misconduct relating to failure to adhere to the Bank’s internal policies,” according to a statement by the central bank today."

And just like that all loose ends have been cut off, although if we were Mr. Mallett, we would certainly keep away from loose nail guns, hot tubs or airplanes for the next several months.

In the meantime, after the mandatory pause of 3-6 months, all rigging, all manipulation, and all criminal abuse with blessing from the central bank itself will quietly return, because until the great (and as increasingly more predict, very violent) reset finally comes, nothing can possibly change in a system as corrupt as this one.

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Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:20 | 5605618 stant
stant's picture

It's rigged bitchez. Save yourselves

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:24 | 5605636 Latina Lover
Latina Lover's picture

After the multi Trillion dollar bankster bailouts in 2008 and 2009,  and LIBOR scandals, what else do you need to know that the markets are rigged in favor of insiders?  How many banksters went to jail, criminals like John Corzine?  That is your answer.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:32 | 5605666 whotookmyalias
whotookmyalias's picture

Pretty sad that disclosures, which in past generations would have resulted in public outcry, protests, and lynchings are just shrugged off by those of us who either "already knew" or aren't surprised.  

 

Nice unbiased watchdogging by the press, eh?

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:36 | 5605682 Headbanger
Headbanger's picture

Tylers....   FULL MONTY..

Fixed it..

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:45 | 5605736 max2205
max2205's picture

I see a $550 fine coming 

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:55 | 5605753 nope-1004
nope-1004's picture

It has to be rigged, because insolvency without liquidity is bankruptcy.  And since no bankruptcy has occurred since 2008, it's kinda obvious the entire market is an insider rigged game, only delaying of the inevitable.

 

 

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 15:07 | 5605828 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Bingo.  All this does is cause the "insiders" to steal as much as they can even faster because they know the system is doomed and no one will be going to jail.

Keep records, they will be needed for retribution.

 

The current "let the majority eat cake" monetary experiment has in fact been done before.  It will turn out the same this time around, only on a much larger scale.  Get long security and commodity companies and short blood pudding.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 15:08 | 5605843 Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill's picture

Hey I like blood(black)pudding.

Have some consideration here.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 15:24 | 5605918 Almost Solvent
Almost Solvent's picture

Maybe someday we can all enjoy haggis courtesy of bankers & politicians  

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 15:31 | 5605958 Handful of Dust
Handful of Dust's picture

I take back all those nasty things I said about Ms 40 cents the other day. She deserves to be mad, very, very phucken mad [even she has no clue why].

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 15:40 | 5606006 Stackers
Stackers's picture

"Double teamed" ........ is that like getting DP'd by BP ?

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 16:05 | 5606164 0b1knob
0b1knob's picture

OHMYGAWD!  Look what is happening to 30 day copper futures.

http://www.kitcometals.com/charts/copper_historical_large.html

 

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 16:11 | 5606196 aPlayer
aPlayer's picture

The article didn't disclose anything new. This shit has been going on for centuries.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 17:32 | 5606634 Jeff the Terrible
Tue, 12/30/2014 - 19:25 | 5607126 Liberal
Liberal's picture

Hi guyzzz! Has anyone seen The Interview yet? As a staunch liberal, I think we should all go see it and discuss the movie here, not this boring finance stuff. It's patriotic, you know?

Let's all take a stand against North Dakota!

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 23:26 | 5607904 Transformer
Transformer's picture

Hey, I saw the movie, what has North Dakota got to do with it?

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 23:38 | 5607939 old naughty
old naughty's picture

...and to those not wondering (whether everything is rigged),

this is hardly a surprise, no?

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 08:27 | 5608473 Tall Tom
Tall Tom's picture

Liberal is just posting the typical disjointed thinking of Liberals.

 

His posts are SATIRE. (It is for HUMOR.)

 

North Dakota fracks and alledgedly poisons groundwater. All staunch liberals believe that it is their duty to run other people's lives and save the planet.

 

And if you believe that Liberal is liberal then the joke is on you.

 

(Which means that your post his funnier than his...)

 

 

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 10:36 | 5608763 gmrpeabody
gmrpeabody's picture

roflmao...

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 07:22 | 5608407 Dugald
Dugald's picture

Hang 'em

Nah, that's too good for them, let them slide slowly down a sharp stake......!

 

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 17:31 | 5606635 Jeff the Terrible
Tue, 12/30/2014 - 16:17 | 5606216 motorollin
Tue, 12/30/2014 - 17:11 | 5606528 MalteseFalcon
MalteseFalcon's picture

Just blame Putin.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 19:03 | 5607033 Van Halen
Van Halen's picture

What was that huge drop in copper all about?

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 01:33 | 5608141 old naughty
Tue, 12/30/2014 - 17:17 | 5606570 booboo
booboo's picture

The guys in the powdered wigs will offer leniency in exchange for some photo's of the innocent traders lil fartling. It's just how things work over there.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 19:21 | 5607119 logicalman
logicalman's picture

Bacon, Eggs, Black Pudding, Fried Tomato

White plastic bread.

Black coffee you need both hands to stir.

What a way to start the day!

Only manage it Sat & Sun - with variations, of course, except for the coffee.

Need to find something to do to burn it all off, then - good excuse for bike riding or hiking.

If you want to eat well in England, eat breakfast 3 times a day!

 

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 19:58 | 5607279 Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill's picture

You forgot the bubble and squeak.

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 07:24 | 5608412 Dugald
Dugald's picture

You forgot the bubble and squeak.

n' Fried bread...

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 22:35 | 5607769 DaveyJones
DaveyJones's picture

along those lines, compare the number of guys that went to jail (at least a 1000) in the S&L scandal versus today. The S&L scandal is kindergarten crime today. That tells us two things: your government is exponentially corrupt (and desperate) now and the two criminal teams (bank and podium) are working together in a pathetic, felonious and failing attempt to keep the musical chairs ringing. 

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 05:53 | 5608330 tumblemore
tumblemore's picture

The banking mafia and their pets in Washington broke the S&L to steal their business.

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 11:45 | 5608982 Chupacabra-322
Chupacabra-322's picture

@ nope-1004,

So, the markets rigged huh? You remember when I posted the following?

Copy & Paste and begin educating others. For starters "We" collectively must begin starving the Beast. Peaceful Non Compliance / Non Participation into the Criminal Fraud UNITED STATES, CORP. INC. System of Debt Bondage & Enslavement.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INC.
Non-profit Delaware Corporation
Incorporation Date: 4/19/89
File No. 2193946

The corporation is registered in the state of Delaware.

STOP CONSENTING (Black's Laws Dictionary) either by Silence or Contracting with the Criminal Fraud.

-Stop paying Taxes.
-Stop buying their GMO Poison. Fast foods, sodas, Sucralose etc...
-Take your $ out of the Criminal TBTFBANKSTERS CIA drug money laundering Banks & transfer it to your Local Credit Union,
-Buy Local.
-Stop Voting or revoke your voters registration cards.
-Stay out of their Criminal Fraud Maritime / Admiralty Courts.
-Stop Contracting (CONSENT) via signature with the State.
-Educate, educate, educate.
-Home School. Stop the Indoctrination.

And, most importantly.

It's been proven time & time again on ZH the markets are manipulated. It's one huge Global Ponzi Scheme.

-Cash out. It's eventually going to collapse. Cripple the Criminal Fraud System as much as it's Crippled you.

-Store your wealth. Purchase food, precious metals, barter items. You'll need them.

-Have a Barter Skill. Mine is Physical Therapy.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:52 | 5605759 TeamDepends
TeamDepends's picture

Hang 'em high boys! (nothing less will do)

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:54 | 5605764 KnuckleDragger-X
KnuckleDragger-X's picture

A $550....deferred... fine.....

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 15:08 | 5605834 youngman
youngman's picture

And they have to donate it to some Democratic party fund...

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 16:00 | 5606118 Amish Hacker
Amish Hacker's picture

...without admitting any wrong-doing.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 17:12 | 5606541 Milestones
Milestones's picture

Nah, this is the fine for the first D.U.I. in Merica. Thems just misunderstood folks. Shucks sake.           Milestones

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:39 | 5605698 NoDebt
NoDebt's picture

It's official- Enron was WAY ahead of their time.  They really were the smartest guys in the room afterall.  Except they went to jail (oops- ONE little oversight).

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:46 | 5605739 madcows
madcows's picture

the only thing enron did wrong is that they forgot to buy off the authorities.  See, JP Morgan just financed a few key congressional campaigns, and Voila.  Not only do they not get jail time or forced liquidation, but instead, they get federal bailouts...  Apparently being crooked DOES pay.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:53 | 5605766 logicalman
logicalman's picture

Being crooked would appear to be the only thing that really pays.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:54 | 5605771 KnuckleDragger-X
KnuckleDragger-X's picture

Enron's problem was 1) they weren't big enough, 2) they weren't a bank or Wall St firm....

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 16:08 | 5606175 Moon Pie
Moon Pie's picture

Enron's blunder was they didn't buy a fishing pond, it would appear.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 17:25 | 5606606 Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day's picture

is it any surprise then that their is a crack house....i mean whore house....i mean a bank on every NYC street corner

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 07:26 | 5608414 Lumberjack
Lumberjack's picture

Enron had a trading office in London. After they failed, most went to work at UPC and continued the same bullshit TO THIS DAY, while changing their name and having literally thousands of shell and shelf LLC's etc. associated with UPC. 

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 07:41 | 5608425 Lumberjack
Lumberjack's picture
'It was terrible, but life goes on' – Enron UK staff meet after 10 years

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/it-was-terrible-but-life...

 

...PricewaterhouseCoopers sold off Enron's European arm in pieces rather than as a going concern and some of its subsidiaries remain operational.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 15:38 | 5605993 Fed-up with bei...
Fed-up with being Sick and Tired's picture

Ken Lay was pardoned, right?

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 18:48 | 5606960 lunaticfringe
lunaticfringe's picture

He got the special hand of God pardon.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 23:59 | 5607982 forexskin
forexskin's picture

He got the special hand of God pardon.

somewhere on a tropical island with, wait for it, hookers and blow and a good nose job (prolly hair implants too)

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 08:35 | 5608482 Tall Tom
Tall Tom's picture

Kenneth Lay died* shortly after he was convicted.

 

*Unless the Bush Administration faked his death, gave him a new identity, and whisked him off to a resort island....which is a damned good possibility.

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 14:43 | 5605729 madcows
madcows's picture

the msm is too busy fomenting racial tensions.

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