Currency traders accused of colluding to rig the pricing of South Africa’s rand had a name for their group: ZAR Domination.
That’s according to South Africa’s Competition Commission, which on May 19 announced an investigation into 11 companies for allegedly fixing rand prices. ZAR is the currency’s international code.
“The alleged cartelists called themselves ZAR Domination,” commission spokesman Mava Scott said by phone on Friday. “They used chatrooms that they normally use when they do their currency trades.”
South Africa’s investigation follows similar probes by regulators in the U.S. and U.K., which have resulted in billions of dollars of fines for some of the world’s biggest banks. JPMorgan Chase & Co., BNP Paribas SA, Citigroup Inc., Barclays Africa Group Ltd., Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Investec Ltd. are among the banks facing investigation by the Pretoria-based commission.
“We weren’t aware of that name,” Ursula Nobrega, a spokeswoman for Investec, said Friday, referring to the term “ZAR Domination.” The probe “has caught most market players by surprise,” she said. “The nature of the investigation isn’t known yet. We will cooperate fully.”
South Africa’s rand has weakened 12 percent against the dollar in the past 12 months.
Standard Bank and Standard Chartered declined to comment on “ZAR domination” and said they will cooperate fully with authorities. Spokesmen for Citigroup, JPMorgan and BNP declined to comment.
Barclays Africa isn’t aware of the detail behind the investigation, but reiterates that it will cooperate fully, a spokesman said in a text message, asking not to be identified in line with company policy.