A senior currency trader at BP Plc has been placed on leave after conversations emerged linking employees at the oil giant to an online chat room used by the world’s biggest banks to rig the foreign-exchange market.
Andrew White, known in the market as Tubby, was suspended after Bloomberg reported in December that traders at BP’s London office received tipoffs from counterparts at firms including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Barclays Plc, three people with knowledge of the matter said.
They are among five banks under pressure to plead guilty and pay about $5 billion in fines to the U.S. Department of Justice and other authorities over claims they worked together to manipulate currency benchmarks used to value trillions of dollars of investments. At the center of the probes is a chat room called “the Cartel,” where senior traders congregated before the setting of the 4 p.m. WM/Reuters benchmark, known as the fix, to share client orders and align strategies.
Until authorities began investigating the market in 2013, traders at BP were fed information by banks about fix orders, forthcoming trades, client business and stop-losses, transcripts examined by Bloomberg show. Banks were keen to curry favor with the London-based energy company, which has operations in about 80 countries and is a major user of the foreign-exchange market, according to traders at BP and the banks.
There’s no evidence that White or any other BP traders were members of the Cartel, and it couldn’t be determined from messages reviewed by Bloomberg who sent the information to BP or whether employees acted on any of the tips.
White participated in at least one other chat room with Richard Usher, the former JPMorgan and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc trader who started the Cartel, according to a person who examined conversations that included both men.
The two also knew each other socially. In 2012 they bought Wharf Pool, a carp fishing lake in suburban Essex, for about 250,000 pounds ($390,000).
Copies of messages sent to BP traders over the course of a year were provided to Bloomberg by a person with access to the online conversations. The person, who redacted the names of banks sending the messages and dates of conversations, said they came from firms whose senior foreign-exchange traders belonged to the Cartel.
Robert Wine, a spokesman for BP, said the company couldn’t comment about personnel matters. White declined, through Wine, to comment. A lawyer for Usher also wouldn’t comment.
BP said in a statement in December that it conducted an internal review after regulators began probing currency markets.
“BP has a robust framework of compliance requirements and internal controls which are constantly reviewed, and maintains an open dialogue with the appropriate regulators,” the company said at the time.
For more, read this QuickTake: Broken Benchmarks