FBI arrests senior HSBC banker accused of rigging multibillion-dollar deal
Rupert Neate in New York and Jill Treanor in London, 20 July 2016
Mark Johnson and a colleague allegedly defrauded clients and ‘manipulated the foreign exchange market to benefit themselves and their bank’
A senior HSBC banker has been arrested by the FBI as he attempted to board a transatlantic flight and charged him with fraudulently rigging a multibillion-dollar currency exchange deal.
Mark Johnson, a British citizen and HSBC’s global head of foreign exchange trading, and a colleague are accused of “defrauding clients” and alleged to have “corruptly manipulated the foreign exchange market to benefit themselves and their bank”.
He was arrested on Tuesday night shortly before he was due to fly to London from New York’s JFK airport, and was due to be formally charged by a judge at Brooklyn federal court later on Wednesday. He was later released on bail.
A second Briton, Stuart Scott, who was HSBC’s European head of foreign exchange trading in London until December 2014, is accused of the same crimes. A warrant was issued for Scott’s arrest.
They are the first people to be charged in connection with the US government’s long-running investigation into bankers’ alleged rigging of the $5.3tn (£4tn) per day forex market.
“The defendants allegedly betrayed their client’s confidence, and corruptly manipulated the foreign exchange market to benefit themselves and their bank,” said the US assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell. “This case demonstrates the [US Department of Justice’s] criminal division’s commitment to hold corporate executives, including at the world’s largest and most sophisticated institutions, responsible for their crimes.”
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Osborne to target foreign exchange manipulation in City clean-up
Kamal Ahmed, 02 June 2014
The obscure and complicated foreign exchange market is to be the next target of Treasury action, I have been told.
The chancellor is working with Whitehall officials and the international Financial Stability Board (FSB) on new regulations which will be imposed on the market. At the moment, foreign exchange (known in City shorthand as “forex”) is largely unregulated and left to the bank traders who execute deals on behalf of global companies. Companies use forex deals to move money between different currencies and a large part of the market is dealt through London.
One senior official I have spoken to agreed that the public would be “very surprised” that such a major market was clearly open to abuse. The Treasury is likely to announce a set of measures to “clean up the market”, probably in the next fortnight.
The prices in forex are set by traders who are doing the deals. Traders are able to pick a selection of the trades they have been asked to execute, meaning they can choose those most advantageous to their bank. The prices are set at the 4pm “fix”, a daily City benchmark against which currencies are priced. I have written a short “How It Works” at the end of this blog on the allegation that forex is manipulated.
Regulators around the world including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in London and the US Department of Justice are investigating allegations of forex manipulation. It has been reported that at least 15 banks are involved and nine are thought to have suspended or fired traders. No allegations have been proved and no admissions of fault made.
Martin Wheatley, the head of the FCA, said the allegations, if substantiated, could be “every bit as bad as Libor”, referring to the revelations three years ago that the market which governs how banks lend to each other was regularly fixed.
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Almost everyone condemns naked short selling. But not the British Treasury
George Monbiot , 15 February 2011
You think you’ve seen the worst of it; you haven’t. Last week I wrote about how the British government, while imposing extra taxes and devastating cuts on ordinary mortals, has quietly engineered a new tax exemption for the banks and corporations, which also encourages these businesses to shift some of their operations overseas. I thought that was as bad as it got. I was wrong.
On the day I wrote that column the Conservatives were doing something just as repulsive, and far more dangerous. On Wednesday George Osborne told the House of Commons “we will make sure we learn every lesson that needs to be learned – so that this [the financial crisis] never happens again”. Two days before, his government demonstrated that nothing has been learned at all. Let me first explain the context.
Most people obtain shares or bonds or other securities in the hope that their value will rise. Short sellers hope their price will fall. They might borrow, for instance, 10,000 shares and sell them for £1 a piece. Then they pray that the value collapses. If they’re in luck, and the share price halves, for instance, they can buy the same number as they sold for 50p each. They return the shares to the broker who lent them, and pocket £5,000 (minus fees).
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