A former HSBC banker facing charges of fraudulently rigging a multi-billion dollar currency exchange deal was today convicted of fraud in a New York court.
Mark Johnson, a British citizen and formerly HSBC’s global head of foreign exchange trading, was accused of defrauding Scottish oil and gas developer Cairn Energy PLC by front running its currency exchange order.
A second Briton, Stuart Scott, who left HSBC in 2014, was named alongside Johnson as accused of the same crimes.
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According to documents filed in the eastern district court of New York, Johnson and Scott are alleged to have made $3 million profit by trading currencies in advance of a client buying $3.5 billion worth of UK pounds in 2011. The client was the London-listed exploration company Cairn Energy, which was selling on of its foreign subsidiaries in India.
They are accused of buying sterling in advance of the client’s transaction in a manner designed to spike the price to the benefit of HSBC although they already billed their client $5 million in fees for their work. Mark Johnson was arrested by the FBI last year at New York’s JFK airport as he tried to board a flight to London.
Johnson and Scott were the first executives to be charged in connection with the US’ long-running investigation into bankers’ alleged rigging of the currency market.
HSBC generated profits of $8 million from the transaction: $3 million from front-running and a $5 million fee from the client.
According to the US Department of Justice, Johnson exclaimed “Ohhhh, fucking Christmas!” when told the deal was going through in December 2011. The court papers show that Johnson and Scott had discussed how far they could “ramp” the price of sterling against the dollar before their client would “squeal”.