Originally published on 21 May, 2015
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After a 19-month long investigation, several global banks have agreed to pay penalties to the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Reserve for rigging the foreign exchange market.
Five banks were fined a total of around US .6 billion after pleading guilty to manipulating the foreign exchange market on Wednesday. Bank of America was fined separately by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
According to the investigation, senior traders from each bank met in a private chat room daily and used coded language to discuss moving the daily benchmark exchange rates set for the USD and the Euro. The exchange rate benchmarks are calculated each day based on actual buy and sell transactions conducted by forex traders, and using the median rate of all trades that go through within a one minute period around 4 p.m. GMT.
In the chat rooms, the traders exchanged pending client orders. With knowledge of an impending exchange, a trader may sell his Euros for USD before 4 p.m. Hoping to then bring down the price of the Euro, the trader and his counterparts at other banks will aggressively sell Euros from their ‘sell-Euro’ client orders. This skews the market’s impression of supply and demand, thereby bringing down the price of the Euro.
The trader is then able to buy back Euros with the U.S. dollars he had previously exchanged Euros for, and pockets the profits earned.
The resolution of the U.S. investigation includes some of the largest fines ever levied by the U.S. Justice Department for antitrust violations. UK and Swiss financial regulators are conducting their own separate investigations into the ‘forex scandal.’
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