Two of Australia’s biggest banks have agreed to pay a combined 15 million AUD fine after admitting attempted cartel conduct when trading foreign exchange contracts for the Malaysian ringgit in 2011. The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) admitted to ten instances of attempted cartel conduct, while investment bank Macquarie Group admitted to eight instances.
Australia’s competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said on Friday that Macquarie and ANZ traders communicated via private online chat rooms about submissions made to the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) regarding the benchmark rate of the Malaysian currency. On various dates, the traders attempted to arrange for particular banks to make high or low submissions to the ABS.
The case stems from an earlier investigation by Singapore authorities in 2013, when 20 banks were disciplined after 133 traders attempted to manipulate three interest rate and foreign exchange benchmarks. Although there was no conclusive evidence that the benchmarks had been manipulated, the traders’ conduct “reflected a lack of professional ethics”, according to The Monetary Authority of Singapore.
ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said “these proceedings are a reminder that Australian cartel laws apply to financial markets, and capture cartel conduct by firms that carry on business in Australia, regardless of where that conduct occurred”.