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BFCSA: UK SFO ends foreign exchange fraud inquiry with no charges brought - Serious Fraud Office closes investigation

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Shades of things to come....ASIC just playing the game to take the heat off RC demands

 

SFO ends foreign exchange fraud inquiry with no charges brought - Serious Fraud Office closes investigation into rigging of forex market despite ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect fraud

Wednesday 16 March 2016

 

Jill Treanor

 

http://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/mar/15/sfo-serious-fraud-office-foreign-exchange-inquiry-forex-rigging

 

A long-running investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into rigging of the £3.5tn-a-day foreign exchange markets has ended without any charges being issued against banks or individuals. The SFO said that after reviewing more than a half a million documents it had concluded there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.

“While there were reasonable grounds to suspect the commission of offences involving serious or complex fraud, a detailed review of the available evidence led us to the conclusion that the alleged conduct, even if proven and taken at its highest, would not meet the evidential test required to mount a prosecution for an offence contrary to English law,” the SFO said. “It has further been concluded that this evidential position could not be remedied by continuing the investigation.”

The prosecutor did not disclose how much the investigation had cost or whether banks or individuals had been the subject of its investigation, which was sparked when the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) provided it with information in July 2014. This year the SFO asked the government for an extra £21m to help it keep pursuing complex cases, such as those centred on foreign exchange, after it had received £10m last June.

Alison McHaffie, a regulatory partner with CMS law firm, said the decision to drop the case showed “the difficult job the SFO has in demonstrating criminal activity by individuals for this type of type of market misconduct and without a change in the law on corporate criminal responsibility. “This means it is always easier to impose regulatory fines against the firms themselves rather than criminal prosecutions.”

At the time it launched the forex investigation in 2014, more than 20 individuals had either been suspended or fired from financial institutions during the global investigation into currency rigging. The Bank of England also became embroiled in the scandal, and has previously released minutes of meetings held over six years until 2013 between bank officials and a group of foreign exchange traders.

Since then, the FCA and regulators in the US have levied record fines of more than £6bn on banks for rigging foreign exchange markets and published pages of electronic messages showing that the individuals involved called themselves the “A-team”, “the players” and “the three musketeers”. The regulators published conversations between traders, some of whom used the name “1 team, 1 dream”, and reported that one had said: “How can I make free money with no fcking [sic] heads up.”

When a string of fines was announced in March 2015, Loretta Lynch, the US attorney general, had accused bank traders of behaving with “breathtaking flagrancy”. She extracted guilty pleas from Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup and JP Morgan.

The SFO said it was continuing to liaise with the US Department of Justice over its investigation and it was grateful for help from the FCA, the Competition and Markets Authority and the City of London police, as well as the DoJ and Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

The foreign exchange rigging scandal erupted at a time when the reputation of the banking industry was being hammered by revelations that traders had been manipulating Libor, a benchmark interest rate used to price £3.5tn of financial products and loans.

That benchmark has since been overhauled as a result of the criticism that erupted as further multimillion-pound fines were levied against banks.  Barclays was the first bank to be fined for Libor fixing when it was hit with a £290m fine in June 2012, which triggered the resignation of the chief executive, Bob Diamond – who was not accused of wrongdoing – and wave of other penalties on a wide range of banks, including RBS and the Swiss bank UBS.

 

The investigation into Libor rigging by the SFO has secured the conviction of Tom Hayes – who is serving 11 years – while six individuals have been cleared by jury. The Libor rigging scandal also spurred George Osborne into changing how the fines levied by the City regulator were used. They had previously gone back to the FCA and its predecessor, the Financial Services Authority, but he changed the rules to ensure that the cash – minus costs – went to the Treasury.

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