South Africa Regulators Need More Proofs in Rand Rigging Case

The competition tribunal also refused request to dismiss the cases against banks because of lack of evidence

South Africa’s Competition Tribunal has ordered the country’s competition regulator to provide more evidence over the alleged currency manipulation, which investigators say goes back as far as 2007.

Meanwhile, the competition tribunal refused the request from banks implicated in the rigging of the Rand against the US dollar to dismiss the cases against them because of lack of evidence. They have once again argued jurisdiction, prescription and that there is no proof that they participated in the collusive transactions.

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The anti-trust watchdog has also asked the competition commission to redraft its charges and further clarify accusations within 40 days.

“The Tribunal, in line with common law precedent, found that it did not have jurisdiction to issue an order requiring the foreign banks to pay any administrative penalty as such an order would not be effective,” the Pretoria-based Tribunal said in the statement.

The tribunal found that, in both of these instances, the commission would still need to “confine its case against the lenders “to one of a single over-arching conspiracy” and provide more detail on such a conspiracy.”

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South Africa has been stepping up its forex rigging probe, but more than several years after Western financial watchdogs issued multi-billion dollar fines to global banks. The financial watchdog allowed the legal processes initiated in 2015 to run their course in early 2019 and said it would continue to monitor developments closely in accordance with its mandate.

The move signals that South Africa’s watchdog may be gearing up to open settlement although it did not indicate whether the fines will be imposed on the global revenues of each bank or just to their domestic arms. Either way, the figure is expected to be a starting point in settlement discussions, with some banks to be asked for more and some less.

While the filing didn’t provide details of the investigation, which was launched back in April 2015, the commission said that Competition Tribunal prosecutors would be looking into whether banks conspired to fix prices quoted to clients for buying and selling currencies, known as a bid-ask spread.

The cases were brought under anti-trust rules, which effectively limit the class action to South African claimants.

Over 20 banks have been involved in the case. The list includes Investec, JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse Group, Commerzbank AG, Standard New York Securities Inc, Macquarie Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, ANZ Banking Group Ltd, Standard Chartered Plc, and Barclays Africa (Absa), part of the Barclays Plc.

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