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Categorized | Currencies

RBS suspends two forex traders

Posted on October 31, 2013

Royal Bank of Scotland has suspended two traders in its foreign exchange division according to two people familiar with the situation, in another sign that the global probe by regulators into the suspected manipulation of the currency market is rapidly gaining traction.

Some of the world’s largest banks, including UBS, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and RBS, have confirmed they are co-operating with regulators in investigations into the world’s largest financial market, where $5.3tn changes hands each day.

    The two traders would be the first RBS employees to be suspended in the widening probe that echoes the Libor interbank lending manipulation scandal.

    The bank, which declined to comment on the suspensions, confirmed this month that it has received requests for information from regulators. “Our ongoing inquiry into this matter continues and we are co-operating fully with the FCA and our other regulators,” the bank said two weeks ago.

    Last month, people close to the situation said that RBS had turned over records of emails and instant messages to the UK regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, sent to and from a former trader. This trader, Richard Usher, left RBS in 2010 and is understand to have be given leave from his current position as European head of forex spot trading at JPMorgan.

    Rohan Ramchandani, head of European spot trading at Citi, went on leave this week, while Matt Gardiner, a former senior currencies trader at Barclays and UBS, was suspended by Standard Chartered this week.

    None of these traders have been accused of any wrongdoing.

    Mr Usher’s instant message group included bankers at Barclays and Citigroup, people close to the situation said.

    UBS said this week it had taken action against some of its employees after the Swiss regulator, Finma, said it was investigating suspected manipulation of the foreign exchange market at a number of Swiss banks.

    At least six authorities globally – the European Commission, Finma, Switzerland’s competition authority Weko, the FCA, the Department of Justice in the US and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority – are looking at allegations that bankers colluded to move the currencies market.

    HSBC, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Credit Suisse have also launched internal probes or received requests for information from regulators, said people familiar with the situation.

    Banks are scouring through years’ worth of instant messages and emails to search for instances of wrongdoing.

    News about the probes has rattled traders in an area that has been one of the bigger profit drivers of investment banks’ trading units in past years but which has been challenged this year as low volatility in currencies cuts opportunities for speculators.

    Some bankers have tried to play down the affair by saying the vast and highly liquid foreign exchange market is almost impossible to manipulate, but senior traders are saying this is not necessarily true.

    A senior trader said that despite the huge volume of daily foreign exchange trading, the fragmentation of liquidity between different trading platforms and banks’ increasing use of their own internal platforms meant that “you can start to get an impact on the market at quite small ticket prices”.

    The news came on the same day as Credit Suisse announced it had dismissed a trader at its London exchange traded funds desk this week after he had caused a nearly $6m loss late last year.

    “The bank promptly notified the relevant authorities and has been co-operating with its regulators. We are confident the trader acted alone and that the matter has been contained,” Credit Suisse said.

    Additional reporting by Delphine Strauss