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What One Trader's Trial Means for Currency Market: QuickTake Q&A


A former London-based currency trader at HSBC Holdings Plc is on trial in Brooklyn, New York, for his alleged role in a scheme that U.S. prosecutors say netted $8 million in illegal profit. The charges against Mark Johnson and a colleague were the first brought against individuals and come amid a global probe into foreign-exchange market manipulation. A conviction would be a big win for the U.S. Justice Department, which has struggled to build cases against traders and managers, and a chance to regain momentum after an appeals court in July tossed out convictions of two former bankers for manipulating the Libor benchmark rate.

The case follows on the international investigation into currency misdeeds that saw seven banks, including Citigroup Inc., Barclays Plc and JPMorgan Chase & Co., agree to pay about $10 billion in fines. The U.K. Serious Fraud Office closed down its own investigation into currency rigging in 2016, so the U.S. has been the sole authority to bring individual charges. Three former bank employees are awaiting federal trial in Manhattan in a separate case after being accused of using an online chat room they dubbed "the Cartel" to share information and fix currencies.