2016 is shaping up as the year when countless conspiracy theories will be confirmed to be non-conspiracy fact: from central bank rigging of capital markets, to political rigging of elections, to media rigging of public sentiment, and now, commercial bank rigging of both silver and gold. In short, "tinfoil hat-wearing nutjobs living in their parents basement" were right all along.
In early October, we reported that "In A Major Victory For Gold And Silver Traders, Manipulation Lawsuit Against Gold-Fixing Banks Ordered To Proceed," however one bank was exempt: Deutsche Bank. The reason why was known since April, when we first reported that Deutsche Bank had agreed to settle the class action lawsuit filed in July 2014 accusing a consortium of banks of plotting to manipulate gold and silver. Among the charges that Deutsche Bank effectively refused to contest were the following:
- employment of a manipulative device claims
- bid-rigging, and unjust enrichment.
- price fixing and unlawful restraint
- price manipulation claims
- aiding and abetting and principal-agent claims.
An affidavit filed in October shed more light on the settlement process:
The negotiations with Deutsche Bank over the material terms of the Settlement took place over several months starting in December 2015 and continuing until the Deutsche Bank Settlement Agreement was executed on September 6, 2016.
Following initial phone calls with Deutsche Bank’s counsel in December 2015, Lowey and Grant & Eisenhofer engaged in lengthy negotiations with Deutsche Bank’s counsel over the material terms of the settlement, including the amount of the settlement consideration, the scope of the cooperation to be provided by the Deutsche Bank Defendants, the scope of the releases, and the circumstances under which the parties would have the right to terminate the settlement.
During the course of the negotiations, Class Counsel presented what we perceived to be the strengths and weaknesses of the claims and defenses, as well as Deutsche Bank’s litigation exposure.
In February 2016, we reached an agreement with Deutsche Bank on the amount of the settlement, subject to the negotiation of other material terms of the deal. For example, given that this is the first settlement in the case, it was our view that the cooperation provisions of the deal were extremely important to our ability to maximize the overall recovery for the class against the Non-Settling Defendants. The negotiations as to the scope of the cooperation provisions continued for several months.
On April 13, 2016, counsel for Deutsche Bank and Class Counsel signed a Binding Settlement Term Sheet (“Term Sheet”). The Term Sheet set forth the terms on which the parties agreed, subject to the negotiation of a full Settlement Agreement, to settle Plaintiffs’ claims against Deutsche Bank. At the time the Term Sheet was executed, Class Counsel was well-informed about the legal risks, factual uncertainties, potential damages, and other aspects of the strengths and weaknesses of the claims and defenses asserted.
By letter dated April 13, 2016, the Parties reported to the Court via ECF that the Term Sheet had been executed, and advised the Court that the Term Sheet would be superseded by a formal settlement agreement. ECF No. 116.
The parties negotiated the Deutsche Bank Settlement Agreement over the course of the next several months. The negotiations over the terms of the Deutsche Bank Settlement Agreement included various material terms over which the parties had substantial disagreement, requiring significant give and take on both sides. To that end, drafts of the Deutsche Bank Settlement Agreement went back and forth between the parties, and numerous contested issues were raised, negotiated and resolved, including without limitation, continuing negotiations over the scope of Deutsche Bank’s cooperation (see ¶ 4(A)-(G)), the scope of the releases (see ¶ 12 (A)-(C)), and the circumstances under which the parties could terminate the Settlement (see ¶ 21).
Thus, the Deutsche Bank Settlement Agreement, which was executed (along with the Supplemental Agreement) on September 6, 2016, was the culmination of arm’s-length settlement negotiations that had extended over many months.
The Deutsche Bank Settlement was not the product of collusion. Before any financial numbers were discussed in the settlement negotiations and before any demand or counter-offer was ever made, we were well informed about the legal risks, factual uncertainties, potential damages, and other aspects of the strengths and weaknesses of the claims against Deutsche Bank.
The Deutsche Bank Settlement involves a structure and terms that are common in class action settlements in this District. The consideration that Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay is within the range of that which may be found to be fair, reasonable, and adequate at final approval.
There was just one thing missing: the settlement amount. Then, on October 17, the first part of the answer was revealed when according to court filings, Deutsche Bank had agreed to pay $38 million to settle the silver manipulation litigation.
The settlement, which was disclosed in papers filed in Manhattan federal court, concludes one of many recent lawsuits in which investors have accused banks of conspiring to rig the precious metal markets. However, until Deutsche Bank's payment of $38 million to settle silver manipulation allegations, there was never any formal closure.
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Then, last night, two months after the silver settlement, Deutsche Bank agreed to pay another $60 million to settle the other side of the antitrust litigation: that of rigging gold.
As Reuters first reported, the preliminary settlement was filed on Friday with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and requires a judge's approval. As part of the settelement, Deutsche Bank has denied any wrongdoing, and with the two settlements, and some $98 million out of pocket, it is clear of any future liability regarding precious metals manipulation.
The case is one of many in the Manhattan court in which investors accused banks of conspiring to rig rates and prices in financial and commodities markets.
As we reported previously, in an Oct. 3 decision, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan said investors could pursue much of their lawsuit against the other four banks named in the anti-trust lawsuit which include Barclays, Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC and Societe Generale.
In October, Vincent Briganti, a lawyer for the investors, said the silver settlement deal provides "substantial monetary compensation plus cooperation from Deutsche Bank in the continued prosecution of this important case against the non-settling defendants." He has yet to comment on the gold settlement. Alas, as a result of the settlement, yet another discovery process has been scuttled, preventing the public from having a glimpse into what really went on in precious metal "markets."
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So who gets to benefit from the settlement? This is what the lawyer said on the silver settlement disclosed in early October:
We have reason to believe that there are at least hundreds of geographically dispersed persons and entities that fall within the Settlement Class definition. The Settlement Class includes traders of COMEX Silver Futures contracts, anyone who traded in physical silver based on the Silver Fix, and traders in various silver derivatives.
The same will likely be applicable to gold traders following Friday's monetary settlement.
The other beneficiary, of course, is the class of investors, people and "conspiracy theorists" who claimed all along that gold and silver were subject to rigging in various forms throughout the years. Well, you were right. However, we wouldn't hold much hope for getting any substantial monetary rewards. By the time the settlement is done, there will likely be at best a few hundred dollars left per claimant.
The good news is that this formal closure will open the door for other, similar lawsuits - for both silver and gold manipulation - now that the seal has been broken.