Swiss Antitrust Regulator Probes Eight Banks Over FX-Rigg

The Swiss Competition Commission said it’s investigating UBS AG, Credit Suisse Group AG and six more banks as the probe into the alleged manipulation of foreign-exchange rates deepens.

The authorities are examining whether firms colluded to fix foreign-exchange rates, the Bern-based watchdog, also known as Weko, said in a statement today. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Barclays Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc are among the other firms being probed, along with Zuercher Kantonalbank and Julius Baer Group Ltd., Weko said. More banks and brokers may have been involved, the regulator added.

The competition commission, which began a preliminary investigation into currency trading in September, was among the first to probe manipulation in the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market after Bloomberg News reported in June that traders colluded to rig the benchmark WM/Reuters rates. At least a dozen regulators around the world are now investigating.

“This is just another layer of a very large onion,” Christopher Wheeler, a London-based banking analyst at Mediobanca SpA, said by telephone. “The banks are trying really hard to cooperate with the regulators to minimize the financial impact, but the numerous investigations are going to drag on for at least two years.”

The watchdog is probing whether firms exchanged confidential information, co-ordinated with others in the market to execute transactions at an agreed price, and attempted to influence the WM/Reuters rates, according to Weko.

‘Incorrect References’

“There are indications that these banks made agreements to manipulate currency rates,” the commission said.

Credit Suisse, which said it wasn’t a subject of the commission’s initial investigation, said Weko’s statement contains “incorrect references” to the firm and said the allegations were “inappropriate and harmful to our reputation.” The Zurich-based firm added it will fully cooperate with the authorities.

UBS spokeswoman Eva Mairinger declined to comment. Switzerland’s biggest bank has said previously that it has been probing currency trading and has been cooperating with the authorities investigating the matters. Last week, the company suspended foreign-exchange traders in the U.S., Singapore and Switzerland as a result of its internal probe, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Small Role

Julius Baer said that its internal probe has found no evidence of market abuse and that it “constructively supports” the probe. Zuercher Kantonalbank, the biggest state-owned Swiss regional lender, said it has only a small role in the currency markets, with a market share of about 0.2 percent.

UBS climbed 1.4 percent to 18.24 francs at 2:52 p.m. in Swiss trading, Credit Suisse gained 1.3 percent to 28.57 francs and Julius Baer rose 0.5 percent to 39.40 francs. Barclays advanced 0.4 percent to 232.10 pence in London trading while RBS was 1.2 percent higher at 310.8 pence.

“We will co-operate fully with any regulatory investigation,” RBS spokeswoman Sarah Small said by e-mail. Officials at Citigroup, JPMorgan and Barclays declined to comment.

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