UBS Gets Probation For Rigging $5 Trillion-A-Day FX Market

UBS was “confounded” last week when the Justice Department decided to void a 2012 agreement under which the bank would escape prosecution for its role in manipulating the world’s most important benchmark rate in exchange for ratting out its FX rigging co-conspirators. 

As a reminder, the DoJ is set to extract guilty pleas from a number of TBTF bank logos sometime in the supposedly near future (reportedly later today). The settlements were supposed to have been announced last week but because that didn’t give banks enough time to negotiate all of the fine print and SEC waivers that will serve to strip the agreements of any and all meaning, the announcements had to be postponed.

As we’ve outlined on several occasions this month, JP Morgan, Citi, Barclays, and RBS will almost certainly be allowed to skirt punishments that should by law accompany their guilty pleas including provisions that make it more cumbersome to raise capital and limit participation in private placements. Those inconveniences, the banks say, would pose a systemic risk and so must be avoided at all costs if they agree to admit to rigging forex markets. 

For UBS, whose assistance was supposedly key to the FX rigging investigation, the squealing rat reputation isn’t completely for naught after all because as you can see from the below, the bank will pay just $342 million to the Fed for rigging FX markets “engaging in unsound business practices” (and nothing to the DoJ), $203 million to the Justice Department in connection with rigging LIBOR, and plead guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Via WSJ:

UBS will plead guilty to wire fraud and pay a fresh $203 million fine related to the Libor case. In addition, the bank will pay a $342 million penalty to the U.S. Federal Reserve, for “engaging in unsound business practices” related to its foreign-exchange business.

 

The Wall Street Journal previously reported that U.S. prosecutors took into account UBS’s promise not to break the law in its 2012 nonprosecution agreement for Libor, and believed misconduct by bank’s employees trading in foreign currencies violated those terms.

So while UBS may still be confused as to why rigging forex markets counts as a violation of an agreement that originally came about because the bank manipulated LIBOR with the same other banks with which it conspired on the currency shenanigans, one thing is clear: $545 million is a great deal.

Here’s Reuters:

The Swiss bank's payment is part of what is expected to be a combined $5 billion settlement by five of the world's biggest banks with U.S. and British authorities over alleged manipulation of the $5-trillion-a-day forex market…

 

The bank said the new fines, which were much lower than expected, would not affect its earnings. The bank's shares rose over 2 percent in early trade in a relief rally.

 

“It couldn’t have been better ... Most of it was already priced in but something around $1 billion was expected, including the Libor fee,” Andreas Brun, an analyst with Zuercher Kantonalbank, said.

Just in case the above isn’t clear enough…

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And the punchline:

The bank is now under a three year "probation" period with the DOJ.

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