Second Foreign Currency Exchange Dealer Pleads Guilty to Antitrust Conspiracy
A foreign currency exchange (FX) dealer became the second person to plead guilty to conspiring to fix prices in the FX market, the Justice Department announced today.
According to the one-count information filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Christopher Cummins was a dealer of Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African (CEEMEA) currencies on the FX desk of a New York-based financial institution. From approximately January 2007 until July 2013, Cummins and FX dealers at competing institutions conspired to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing prices in CEEMEA currencies, in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1. As part of this conspiracy, Cummins and his co-conspirators manipulated prices on an electronic FX trading platform through the creation of non-bona fide trades, coordinated the placement of bids and offers on that platform and agreed on currency prices they would quote specific customers, among other conduct. Under his plea agreement, Cummins has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation into the FX market.
“Collusion by FX dealers for the purpose of fixing foreign currency exchange rates is no different than collusion regarding traditional products and services that the Antitrust Division routinely prosecutes,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The exchange rate manipulation pursued by the charged CEEMEA FX dealers and their co-conspirators, like any other form of price fixing, was intended to stymie free competition that promotes market integrity and fair pricing.”
“The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC OIG) is dedicated to ensuring integrity in the financial services industry,” said Inspector General Jay N. Lerner of the FDIC OIG. “This is the second guilty plea in this price-fixing case and attests to the value of cooperative working relationships among law enforcement.”
In addition to the guilty plea by Cummins, another FX dealer pleaded guilty on January 4, 2017, to fixing prices of CEEMEA currencies, three individuals were charged on Jan. 10, 2017 for conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for the euro – U.S. dollar currency pair, and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division charged two FX executives with fraud, on July 20, 2016, for conspiring to defraud a client of their bank through a front running scheme. These individual charges follow guilty pleas by major banks. On May 20, 2015, Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays PLC and The Royal Bank of Scotland plc pleaded guilty at the parent level and agreed to pay collectively more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines for their participation in an antitrust conspiracy to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the FX market.
This antitrust investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office with the assistance of the FDIC OIG and the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section also provided substantial assistance in this matter.
A violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1, carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for a Sherman Act violation may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum.
The charge was brought in connection with the President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The president established the task force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.
For more information about the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov. Anyone with information concerning price fixing or other anticompetitive conduct in the FX marketplace should contact the New York Office of the Antitrust Division at (212) 335-8000, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at (888) 647-3258 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.