Over the past several months, as we followed HSBC's currency scandal involving trader Mark Johnson who netted his firm $8 million in illicit profits by front-running a $3.5 billion client order, we frequently noted that Johnson was nothing more than a convenient scapegoat for a global financial industry that is rife with similar front-running scams that go unnoticed.
That said, to our complete 'shock' the NY Post today highlights another front-running scam allegedly perpetrated by Wall Street's finest at the expense of their clients. According to new documents published in a class action lawsuit filed by a number pension funds and wealthy individual investors, some of Wall Street's largest primary dealers in the U.S. Treasury market habitually, and illegally, shared client orders via online chat rooms to order to game Treasury auctions.
Wall Street banks secretly shared client information in online chat rooms in order to rig auctions for the $14 trillion US Treasurys market, according to an explosive lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday.
The move wrongly fattened the banks’ profits and picked profits from clients, the suit claims.
The new accusations, leveled by several pension funds and wealthy individual investors, are contained in an expanded class-action suit originally filed in July 2015 — and include an unusual twist: Some of the evidence came from confidential informants and one of the banks sued in the earlier action.
That bank is now cooperating with the plaintiffs in the massive civil action, and is providing an in-depth look into how Wall Street allegedly conspired to rig Treasury bond trades.
As our readers are undoubtedly aware, typically, the Treasury holds an auction, then banks submit their bids for US debt based on how much they think those bonds are worth. The Treasury then doles out the bonds proportionately to the bidders at the same price. The bank that asked for the best price gets the most bonds.
Traders at the Wall Street banks shared the prices that their clients had sought to buy the bonds, giving each of the banks in the alleged cartel a clearer picture of what they thought the market was, and a better chance at getting a bigger share of the bonds to sell, according to the complaint.
So, which banks would participate in such a scheme? Surely none of the marquee names on wall street, right?
The amended suit tightens its focus on a select number of banks, naming Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, the Royal Bank of Scotland, BNP Paribas, and UBS, among others, as the firms behind the rigging, which they allege occurred from Jan. 1, 2007, to mid-2015.
The funds continue to allege the banks mined their own customers’ bids for Treasury bonds to get a bigger share of the auction, and sell the bonds for more profit.
Probes on the auction practices are being conducted by the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal, state and overseas regulators, sources said. No regulator has accused any bank of wrongdoing.
Of course, we're sure this is all just another big misunderstanding by a DOJ that is just trying to "criminalize behavior that is normal."