HKMA questions banks as foreign exchange market probe widens to Asia

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 6:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 7:08pm

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is looking into allegations of price-rigging in the US$5.3 trillion-a-day global foreign exchange market as probes into possible currency rate manipulation widen from Europe and the United States to Asia.

The authority said on Wednesday that it had spoken to foreign regulators and was speaking to banks about allegations that traders manipulated fixings, or snapshots of where currencies are trading at a particular time in the 24-hour-a-day global market.

Switzerland, Britain and the United States have already opened investigations.

The HKMA is aware of the allegations. We have been in communications with the relevant overseas regulators and following up with individual banks
Hong Kong Monetary Authority

“The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is aware of the allegations. We have been in communications with the relevant overseas regulators and following up with individual banks,” the de facto central bank said in a statement.

Switzerland’s competition commission WEKO and its financial markets regulator FINMA said earlier this month that they had opened investigations into potential manipulation of foreign exchange markets by banks. They did not name the banks under investigation.

Last week, a source familiar with the matter said the United States was also involved in the probe. Until now, no Asian authority has confirmed it is also involved in the investigations.

Also last week, the Royal Bank of Scotland handed Britain’s financial regulator instant messages sent by a former currency trader to counterparts at other banks,

According to one banking source at one of the biggest foreign exchange banks in the world, “every bank” has handed data and other information over.

“It’s a two-way flow of information,” said a source at a US bank, also one of the world’s major foreign exchange institutions.

Media reports this week suggest the investigations centre on senior traders at big banks who were part of electronic chatrooms with names such as “The Cartel” and “The Bandits’ Club”.

Senior traders at certain banks involved in this process are alleged to have shared information with each other ahead of the fixings, such as the size and nature of their clients’ orders, in order to manipulate the fixing rate and make money.

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority has declined to comment, as did Royal Bank of Scotland and JP Morgan, while Citigroup’s chief financial officer John Gerspach declined to comment during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.