Law360, New York (May 3, 2016, 5:15 PM ET) — Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. were among seven banks that on Tuesday agreed to pay a total of $324 million to settle class action litigation alleging that they rigged a benchmark interest rate used to set terms for swaps transactions.
The banks, which lost a motion to dismiss the complaint in March, also agreed to cooperate with counsel for the plaintiffs in further investigation of manipulation of the so-called ISDAfix, a tool which determines valuations for interest rate derivative products, according to settlement agreements filed in federal district court in Manhattan. That cooperation is potentially significant because 15 defendants hit with lawsuits over alleged ISDAfix manipulation have yet to reach settlements.
“We are very pleased that these banks are offering our clients hundreds of millions of dollars in recovery,” said David R. Scott, the managing partner of Scott & Scott LLP and one of the co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “We will vigorously pursue relief from the remaining defendants, substantially aided by the cooperation we secured in these settlements.”
According to the plaintiffs, who sued in September 2014, the banks worked closely with interdealer broker ICAP PLC, which until January 2014 was tasked by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association with managing the daily setting of the U.S. dollar-rate version of ISDAfix.
The banks were responsible for submitting rate quotes, which ICAP essentially compiled. But the suit says the parties worked together to set the rate at the point where it was most profitable for them, including engaging in a process known in the industry as “banging the close” where they bought and sold derivative products just before the fix was closed in order to get the price they wanted.
According to the plaintiffs, JPMorgan agreed to pay $52 million to settle the case while Bank of America, Credit Suisse AG, Deutsche Bank AG and The Royal Bank of Scotland PLC each agreed to pay $50 million.
Citigroup agreed to a $42 million payout and Barclays PLC will pay $30 million to resolve the claims, the plaintiffs said. Barclays had already paid $115 million last May to settle claims brought by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission related to alleged ISDAfix rigging.
None of the settling banks could immediately be reached for comment.
Class claims are still outstanding against BNP Paribas SA, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., HSBC Bank PLC, ICAP Capital Markets LLC, Morgan Stanley, Nomura Securities Inc., UBS AG and Wells Fargo & Co.’s Wells Fargo Bank NA unit.
The CFTC and other regulators are reportedly continuing their investigation into allegations of manipulation of the ISDAfix, and the CFTC has reportedly referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice for an investigation into potential criminal activities.
U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman noted that many of the claims made by institutional investors related to alleged manipulation of the ISDAfix looked similar to those made against banks in litigation related to the London Interbank Offered Rate and other financial benchmarks when he rejected the banks’ motion to dismiss in March.
“It appears that that sort of rate manipulation can be economically sensible and feasible given that many banks (including some defendants) have admitted that, in approximately the same period of time, they conspired to rig similar benchmark rates – namely, Libor and the leading benchmark interest rate for the foreign exchange market – in order to maximize profits,” Judge Furman wrote.
The plaintiffs alleged that the conduct stopped once the subpoenas arrived, an assertion that Judge Furman said strengthened their claims.
The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Scott & Scott LLP, Quinn Emmanuel Urqhart & Sullivan LLP, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, Grant & Eisenhofer PA, Bernstein Liebhard LLP, Carella Byrne Cecchi Olstein Brody & Agnello PC, Labaton Sucharow LLP, Trief & Olk, Berger & Montague PC, McCulley McCluer PLLC and Fine Kaplan & Black RPC.
Bank of America and Nomura are represented by attorneys from Shearman & Sterling LLP. Barclays is represented bySullivan & Cromwell LLP and Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP. BNP Paribas is represented by Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP. Citigroup is represented by Covington & Burling LLP. Credit Suisse is represented by Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP. Deutsche Bank is represented by Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP. Goldman Sachs is represented by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. HSBC is represented by Locke Lord LLP. ICAP is represented by Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP. JPMorgan is represented by Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. RBS is represented by Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP. UBS is represented by Gibson Dunn. Wells Fargo is represented by Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP. Morgan Stanley is represented by Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.
The case is Alaska Electrical Pension Fund v. Bank Of America Corp. et al., case number 1:14-cv-07126, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
–Editing by Katherine Rautenberg.