BNP Paribas USA has pleaded guilty to participating in a price-fixing conspiracy in the FX market, the US Justice Department (DoJ) has announced.
According to the one-count information filed last week in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, between September 2011 and July 2013, BNP conspired to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing prices in Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African (CEEMEA) currencies, in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.
The conspiracy involved manipulation of prices on an electronic FX trading platform through the creation of non-bona fide trades, coordination of bids and offers on that platform, agreements on currency prices to quote specific customers, the coordination of activity around fixes and the deliberate triggering of customer orders.
Again, the DoJ has relied upon transcripts of phone conversations and chat room messages, however on this occasion, perhaps because of the bank’s plea, it has not released transcripts.
“The Antitrust Division is committed to uncovering and prosecuting wrongdoing in all corners of the foreign currency exchange market, including this conspiracy affecting multiple emerging market currencies,” says assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim of the DoJ’s Antitrust Division. “The Division’s investigation aims to root out and eradicate the manipulation that has plagued this industry.”
FDIC inspector general Jay Lerner, adds, “This guilty plea holds BNP Paribas accountable for its corrupt price-fixing behaviour which violated the integrity of the financial services industry and undermined competition. We are pleased to work with our law enforcement partners in combating this misconduct.”
As part of its sentence, BNPP USA has agreed to pay a criminal fine of $90 million. Both the government and the bank have agreed to recommend no probation, in light of, among other factors, the bank’s substantial efforts relating to compliance and remediation. BNPP USA also has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing criminal investigation into the FX market, and to report relevant information to the government.
The bank’s guilty plea follows the January 2017 guilty pleas of its former CEEMEA trader Jason Katz, as well as a former CEEMEA trader, Christopher Cummins from Citi New York.
BNPP USA is the sixth major bank to plead guilty as a result of the DoJ’s ongoing investigation into antitrust and fraud crimes in the FX market, the department says.