HSBC Settles FX Rigging Investigation with US Department of Justice

The settlement requires the bank to pay $101.5 million in penalties and restitution.

In what has been a long and tumultuous investigation and corresponding prosecution, HSBC has finally reached settlement with the US Department of Justice, over allegations of foreign exchange rigging conducted by two former employees of the bank. The bank will be required to pay $101.5 million, allocated as a $63.1 million criminal penalty and $38.4 million as restitution to the affected corporate client.

Mark Johnson, former HSBC Head of Foreign Exchange Trading, was charged and convicted of crimes related to using information provided by the bank’s client, to manipulate currency markets for their personal benefits.

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In a long-standing investigation, US authorities concluded that Johnson and Scott used information of a deal made by Cairn Energy in 2011 to exchange proceeds from an asset sale in India from USD to GBP. The accusation shows that the magnitude of the deal was estimated at $3.5 billion. Mr. Johnson knowingly purchased GBP ahead of the actual asset sale, in order to manipulate the currency’s value, and reap the profits for his own personal gains as well as HSBC, at the expense of Cairn Energy.

The final settlement has been reached with the US DoJ, demanding that the bank pay a total of $101.5 million in penalties and restitution, as well as implementing a safe and lawful FX practice to avoid such incidents in the future. Additionally, the deal included HSBC entering a three-year deferred prosecution agreement, which would allow the bank to avoid criminal charges pertaining to this case.

Moreover, this is not an isolated incident of FX market violations for HSBC. In September of last year, the Federal Reserve fined the bank $175 million, for what it considered “unsafe and unsound practices in the foreign exchange (FX) markets.” US and global authorities have been cracking down on unlawful practices across currency markets. In another separate incident last year, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) fined HSBC approximately $51 million, related to its engagement in selling Lehman Brothers-related notes between 2003 to 2008. This was the largest ever fine to be handed out by the SFC.

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