Meet The (First) Seven Banks Who Rigged The FX Market

Several years ago, anyone who suggested there was a massive Libor manipulation conspiracy was branded as, what else, a tin-foil fringe lunatic: after all "how can so many people possibly collude in complete secrecy?" And then it was revealed that for years, there was a massive Libor manipulation conspiracy.

Now, even though it has been extensively leaked in advance, we are about to get the next market rigging "conspiracy theory" become fact, after countless traders working for major banks and conspiring in secret chatrooms such as "The Cartel" and the "Bandits" are about to cost their employers billions in settlement charges as regulators after regulator and country after country charges the world's biggest, and most criminal banks, with billions for manipulating their currency for years.

As the WSJ reports, "Regulators in the U.S. and U.K. are nearing a deal with as many as seven large banks to resolve allegations of misconduct in the currencies market, with a settlement likely in the next two weeks, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

Regulators including the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority and the U.S.’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are planning to impose a total of well over £1 billion ($1.58 billion) in penalties against the banks as part of a roughly 18-month investigation into potential manipulation of the foreign-exchange market, one person said.

 

The goal is to announce a settlement by the middle of next week, but the timing could slip into the following week, the person said. The list of banks could change, the person added."

In other words, expect even more billions in "one-time, non-recurring" legal charges such as the following chart of Bank of America's "one-time, non-recurring" legal charges demonstrates.

So which banks were on the other side of your money-losing FX trades over the past decade. The answer:

  • Barclays PLC
  • HSBC Holdings PLC
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC
  • UBS AG
  • Citigroup
  • J.P. Morgan Chase
  • Bank of America Corp. Bank of America

i.e., the world's Too Big To Prosecute institutions: the banks that the US Department of "Justice" would not pursue due to fears of systemic impact.

And, of course, since the banks are in control of the very regulators and enforcers who are supposed to police them (see Taibbi's latest for further proof), this happened: While the initial focus of the investigation was on the potential manipulation of a specific foreign-exchange benchmark, the coming settlements are likely to involve banks admitting misconduct in a narrower area, according to the people familiar with the settlement talks.

Some numbers:

The U.K.’s portion of the foreign-exchange penalties is expected to be between £200 million to £300 million per bank, for a total of roughly £1.2 billion, one person said. That would represent by far the FCA’s biggest-ever haul in any investigation.

It also means that since legal settlements are the highest IRRing investment for the banking cartel, the profits over time from rigging FX have been between 10 and 50 times higher.

The best news, however, is that not a single banker will go to prison that millions of FX traders will soon be due their pro rata portion of the settlement: it should amount to a little over a dollar.