The World’s Largest Banking Institutions Fined Over $3 Billion for Foreign Market Collusion

By: Jonathan Burr

On Wednesday, November 12th six of the world’s largest banking institutions were imposed with a $4.3 billion penalty by international trade watchdogs.[1] The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Office of Comptroller of Currency (OCC), Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) conducted an international investigation that lasted for 13 months.[2] The investigation focused on whether the large worldwide banking firms colluded with counterparts at other firms in order to rig foreign exchange (“forex”) benchmarks.[3] The investigation revealed that UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), HSBC Holdings, JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Bank of America colluded with counterparts in other institutions over instant messaging by sharing information about their client orders. The sharing of client information allowed these banking firms to manipulate the market by combining orders to cause the benchmark rate to fluctuate in the bank’s favor.[4] However, these settlements may not be the end.

Other regulators are still investigating the misconduct. Currently, the United States Justice Department is investigating for criminal misconduct and the Federal Reserve and Department of Financial Services in New York did not participate in the settlement and may extract their own penalties for currency manipulation.[5] In addition, other international regulators in London are still conducting their investigation.[6]

Jonathan Burr is a 3L at The Pennsylvania State University–The Dickinson School of Law, and a Senior Editor on the Journal of Law and International Affairs. 


[1] Soergel, Andrew, Banks Slammed With Record-Breaking Fine, U.S. NEWS (Nov. 12, 2014)

[2] Ring, Suzi, Six Banks to Pay $4.3 Billion in First Wave of Currency-Rigging Penalties, BLOOMBERG (Nov. 12, 2014),

[3] See Picardo, Elvis, How the Forex “Fix” May Be Rigged, Investopedia, September 02, 2014 available at, The foreign exchange benchmark, also known as the WM/Reuters Benchmark rates, are used to value trillions of dollars held in investments by pension funds and money manages worldwide. These rates are set daily at 4 p.m. in London and are an average of buy and sell orders conducted during a minute window. Additionally, these benchmark rates are very important because 21 of the world’s major currencies are calculated on all trades in the one-minute period.

[4] See supra n. 2 (The penalties are as follows: Citigroup $1.02 billion, JPMorgan Chase $996 million, UBS $800 million, RBS $634 million, HSBC Holdings $618 million, Bank of America $250 million).

[5] Bray, Chad, Big Banks Are Fined $4.25 Billion in Inquiry Into Currency-Rigging, NY TIMES (November 12, 2014),

[6] Id.

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