The U.K’s markets watchdog, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has received more than a 1,000 requests for help in 2013, almost a quarter of the requests originating from American agencies, a London-based law firm, RPC LLP, has announced based on data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act disclosure it has analysed.
The 14% rise in the amount of requests from the previous year is a probable result of the ongoing investigations into alleged rigging of the FX rates used by banks, with the epicenter of the industry being London. Richard Burger, an RPC lawyer told Bloomberg: “As financial services become ever more globalized, regulators are finding that their work is increasingly turning up some sort of link to other countries. Since the U.K. is a leading financial hub, the FCA is often an important port of call, whether that’s just to clarify a routine inquiry or for its input into more in-depth, complex matters.”
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The investigations of FX rates manipulation ongoing around the world focus on chat groups in which institutional dealers sent instant messages over their Bloomberg terminals. For a period of three years, in chat groups with names such as ”The Cartel” and “The Bandits’ Club,” bank traders allegedly shared information with competitors allowing them to execute their own trades before filling client orders. Bankers have been suspended or fired as the investigations extend to more jurisdictions over time.
The investigations have had serious negative effects on the brands of major international banks as traders were insecure about their future, clients had their confidence shaken and investors worry about the fines which the probes and related lawsuits will result in. Luckily for the banks, the FCA is reportedly close to reaching a settlement agreement in order to try and bury the issue.
A different U.K regulatory body, however, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has recently opened its own investigation into the FX rates manipulations allegations. The SFO is likely to take a long time to investigate the matter on its own and can issue further fines and criminal prosecution against the banks and traders involved. Only yesterday, the Financial Times reported that the SFO plans to carry on investigating a previous bank scandal related to the rigging of the Libor interbank interest rate well into the next year, despite having already launched a criminal probe into the matter over two years ago.