In Latest Market Rigging Settlement, Citi Fined $425MM For Manipulating Interest Rates

Another day, another too-big-to-fail bank gets slapped on the wrist after being busted for blatant rigging of the market. The CFTC Order finds that, beginning in January 2007 and continuing through January 2012 (the Relevant Period), Citibank on multiple occasions attempted to manipulate, and made false reports concerning, the U.S. Dollar International Swaps and Derivatives Association Fix (USD ISDAFIX), a global benchmark for interest rate products. Notably, while a handful of European banks have already settled criminal or civil claims tied to Libor rigging, Citi is the first U.S. bank to do so.

The CFTC Order requires Citibank to pay a $250 million civil monetary penalty and to immediately cease and desist from further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act.  Further, Citibank is required take specified steps to implement and strengthen its internal controls and procedures, including measures to detect and deter trading potentially intended to manipulate swap rates such as USD ISDAFIX and to ensure the integrity of interest-rate swap benchmarks.

 

“The CFTC’s order demonstrates that we will vigorously continue to investigate any efforts to manipulate financial benchmarks, and we will take action where possible to protect the integrity of these benchmarks,” said Aitan Goelman, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement. Mr. Goelman further commented, “The terms of this settlement are intended to reflect all aspects of Citibank’s response to the investigation, including the evolving nature of its cooperation.”

 

Citibank’s Unlawful Conduct to Benefit Derivatives Positions

 

As the Order sets forth, Citibank attempted to manipulate USD ISDAFIX by making false USD ISDAFIX submissions.  According to the Order, on multiple occasions during the Relevant Period, Citibank, in its role as a panel bank, submitted a rate or spread higher or lower than the reference rates and spreads disseminated to the panel banks on certain days that Citibank had a derivatives position settling or resetting against the USD ISDAFIX benchmark, in an attempt to benefit that derivatives position.

 

The Order also finds that Citibank, on multiple occasions, attempted to manipulate USD ISDAFIX by bidding, offering, and executing transactions in targeted interest rate products, including swap spreads and U.S. Treasuries at or near the critical 11:00 a.m. fixing with the intent to affect the reference rates and spreads captured in the snapshot sent to submitting banks, and thereby to affect the published USD ISDAFIX.  As captured in electronic communications, Citibank traders boasted about “pushing out the isdafixing” or “push[ing]” the market, described USD ISDAFIX as being “suprising[ly] easy to push,” and explained the best way to “influence the set.”

 

The Order describes multiple examples involving these strategies for attempted manipulation and false reporting by Citibank during the Relevant Period.

Additionally, Citi faces fine for manipulating Yen Libor...

  • *CFTC ORDERS CITIBANK & JAPANESE AFFILIATES TO PAY $175M PENALTY

Citi issued the following statement:

These settlements represent a significant step for Citi in resolving its legacy benchmark rate investigations. In addition to adopting industry-wide reforms related to participation in benchmark rates, Citi has made substantial investments in its systems, controls and monitoring processes to better guard against inappropriate behavior.  

 

Our greatest priority is to ensure that we conduct business in keeping with the highest ethical standards. We continue to fully cooperate with pending investigations conducted by other agencies related to benchmark rate submissions.”

As they proudly note in the press release, with today's actions, CFTC has imposed over $5.08 billion in penalties in 17 actions against banks and brokers to address rigging and manipulation in ISDAFIX, FX, and LIBOR benchmarks.

"Cost of doing business" is what we call that... you decide - basedon the spike in Citi's stock - whether the market thinks this is a let-off or a real punishment...

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