Barclays and RBS fined again over role in exchange rate rigging

Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are among five banks who have been fined for a second time in as many months over their role in a massive currency rigging cartel, authorities have revealed.

Switzerland’s competition watchdog handed out fines totalling 90 million Swiss francs (£71.3 million) to Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and MUFG Bank, alongside their two British contemporaries, saying they uncovered “several anti-competitive practices”.

Barclays was fined 27 million Swiss francs, Citigroup 28.5 million Swiss francs, JPMorgan 9.5 million Swiss francs, MUFG Bank 1.5 million Swiss francs and RBS 22.5 million Swiss francs.

The settlements end investigations in the country into two cartels formed by the banks – and UBS, which blew the whistle and avoided a fine – to manipulate the foreign exchange currencies.

But the fines were dwarfed by those handed out by the European Union in May for the same manipulation, where a combined 1.1 billion euros (£950 million) was imposed.

The rigging of the rates involved traders exchanging information in online chat rooms between 2007 and 2013 in cartels they called the Three Way Banana Split and Essex Express.

UK banking authority the Financial Conduct Authority held its own investigation into the scandal and handed out fines of £1.3 billion in 2014 over regulation breaches, whereas the EU and Swiss authorities were investigating the impact on competition.

Lawyers acting for banking clients are looking at potential litigation against the banks, because the rigged rates – which were agreed and set in advance through the cartels – were subsequently used to set benchmarks in day-to-day transactions by other businesses.