German banking giant Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay $205 million in penalties to settle its involvement in an antitrust lawsuit alleging that the lender’s traders routinely manipulated the forex market for their own profit.
The preliminary cash settlement with the New York Department of Financial Services was disclosed on Wednesday and requires a judge’s approval.
The foreign exchange violations were discovered during a four-year-old review of dealings at the bank, from 2008 through 2013, the DFS said in a consent order reached with the Frankfurt-based bank. The New York regulator had also investigated whether Deutsche Bank’s traders used algorithms on trading platforms to front-run or otherwise take advantage of clients through a practice known as “jamming the fix.”
Deutsche Bank has spent more than $17 billion over the past decade in legal costs, according to calculations by Bloomberg. The German lender joins a line of global banks that have settled this year, but the penalty amount is well below the $635 million that Barclays paid to end allegations of abusing “last look” rights to reject clients’ trades.
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Other defendants include Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS.
In their complaint, investors including hedge and pension funds accused the 16 banks, which controlled more than 80 percent of the global forex market, of having conspired since 2007 in chat rooms, instant messages, and emails to manipulate currency benchmarks and other financial instruments.
US authorities opened their FX probe of the German lender back in 2014, focusing on conduct using their electronic trading platforms.
The investors said that traders used chat rooms with names such as ‘Butter the Comedian’, ‘The Bandits’ Club’ and ‘The Mafia’ to swap confidential orders, and set prices through manipulative tactics with colorful names such as ‘front-running’, ‘banging the close’ and ‘painting the screen’.
“Due to Deutsche Bank’s lax oversight in its foreign exchange business, including in some instances, supervisors engaging in improper activity, certain traders and salespeople repeatedly abused the trust of their customers and violated New York State Law,” said Maria Vullo, superintendent of the DFS.