The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seems to have a strong case against big banks that might have colluded to alter foreign currency prices, reported The New York Times. The DOJ expects to receive guilty pleas from said banks. However, will the DOJ actually do something upon a guilty plea?
The foreign currency market is reported as being the largest and least regulated market, which creates an opportunity for big banks to act criminally. Federal prosecutors expect to file charges against one bank by the year’s end. This time around, however, prosecutors look to prosecute actual individuals for the crimes rather than the institutions.
Considering prosecutors have obtained instant messages that illustrate the coordination of the crimes, those charged are pinpointed be the traders and their bosses and not executives. The NYT also reported that “critics of the Justice Department might view the cases as little more than an exercise in public relations.” That statement is correct.
In order for those critics to be convinced otherwise, the DOJ is going to have to aggressively prosecute the alleged criminals and be fearless against the banks. Several banks, domestic and international, including Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, CitiGroup, and about a dozen others are under investigation.
The NYT gives a cohesive and concise breakdown of the scheme:
As explained in the video, institutions that trade currencies on the foreign market take advantage of that one minute break called “the fix” to drive the currency’s worth up or down, whichever is beneficial to the institution. Investors allegedly had no idea about “the fix,” and institutions played on that ignorance to get rich off of their clients during trades.
“Any rigging of the price mechanism leads to a misallocation of capital and is extremely costly to society,” said Tom Kirchmaier at the London School of Economics.
This investigation comes at a time when Eric Holder is on his way out. Will he turn around that weak, tepid legacy he’s in danger of leaving at the DOJ? This is a good chance for him to quiet all the naysayers and actually do some justice work. You know, the thing he’s paid to do.