Three traders were charged with conspiring in forex rigging probe
The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday brought charges against three former traders at JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc and Barclays Plc arising from a global probe into the manipulation of foreign exchange rates at major banks.
Richard Usher, formerly of JPMorgan, Rohan Ramchandani, formerly of Citigroup, and Christopher Ashton, formerly of Barclays, were charged with conspiring to restrain trade in an indictment filed at a federal court in Manhattan.
The case came after JPMorgan, Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland and a Citigroup unit pleaded guilty in May 2015 to conspiring to manipulate currency rates, agreeing at that time to pay more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines.
Those plea deals contributed to the more than $10 billion that some of the world’s biggest banks have agreed to pay to resolve U.S. and European probes into the manipulation of foreign exchange rates.
The indictment said that from 2007 to 2013, Usher, Ramchandani and Ashton schemed with other euro-dollar traders belonging to an electronic chat group called “The Cartel” to suppress competition in the currency spot market.
Usher, JPMorgan’s former head of G10 spot trading, and Ramchandani, Citigroup’s ex-head of European spot foreign exchange trading, left both banks in 2014. Ashton, Barclays’ ex-global head of spot trading, was at the British bank until 2015.
All three traders were based in the United Kingdom, according to court papers and their lawyers. All three remain out of custody, the Justice Department said.
In addition to the criminal case, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency fined Usher and Ramchandani $5 million each, and the banking regulator banned them from working in the U.S. banking industry.
The U.S. charges came after the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in March said it had closed its own investigation without any individuals being charged, saying there was “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.”
Lawyers for Ramchandani and Usher in statements criticized the Justice Department’s decision to bring charges after the SFO had decided not to do so.
“The UK authorities looked at the matter very carefully and concluded that there were no offences, and we continue to believe that Mr. Usher has done nothing wrong,” said Jonathan Pickworth, a lawyer for Usher.
Stephen Pollard, a lawyer for Ramchandani, said his client had been investigated for over 18 months in the UK and was not prosecuted.
“It is unacceptable for the American DoJ to by-pass the SFO decision and seek to prosecute conduct undertaken on British soil by British citizens where the British regulators have confirmed there was no criminal offence,” Pollard said in a statement.
A lawyer for Ashton declined to comment.
To date, three other individuals have faced U.S. charges stemming from the probe.
Last week, a former trader at Barclays and BNP Paribas SA, Jason Katz, pleaded guilty to participating in a rate-fixing conspiracy, becoming the first person to admit criminal wrongdoing in the probe.
In July, an HSBC Holdings Plc executive, Mark Johnson, was arrested and charged along with a former executive for participating in a fraudulent scheme involving a $3.5 billion currency transaction. Johnson has pleaded not guilty.
The case is U.S. v. Usher et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-cr-19.