LAW360: By Melissa Lipman
Law360, New York (May 20, 2015, 11:22 AM ET) — Citigroup Inc. has agreed to pay $394 million to settle with a group of private investors who accused the bank of manipulating the foreign exchange market, the plaintiffs said Wednesday, as Citi and four other major banks also agreed to pay $5.6 billion to resolve criminal charges over the plot.
Under the terms of the deal, Citi and Citibank NA will pay $394 million and cooperate with the plaintiffs as they push forward with claims that some of the world’s biggest banks manipulated foreign exchange rates. The deal brings the plaintiffs’ total settlements so far to more than $800 million.
The announcement comes on the same day the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S.Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority and othersannnounced they had fined five major banks more than $5.6 billion for manipulating the $5.3 trillion forex market. Citi and three other banks agreed to plead guilty as part of the criminal settlements. Citi will pay $925 million in criminal fines for its role in the plot, by far the largest of the bunch.
“Today is a good day for victims of the banks’ long-standing scheme to manipulate the FX market,” said Scott & Scott LLP’s David R. Scott, who represents the plaintiffs. “The Department of Justice has recognized the world’s largest banks committed crimes when they manipulated the foreign exchange market. We look forward to recouping their customers’ significant losses.”
Citi CEO Michael Corbat said the company had fired nine employees as a result of its own internal investigation into the scheme and had more disciplinary actions in the works.
“The behavior that resulted in the settlements we announced today is an embarrassment to our firm, and stands in stark contrast to Citi’s values,” Corbat said. “We will learn from this experience and continue building upon the changes that we have already made to our systems, controls, and monitoring processes.”
The consolidated forex class action, brought on behalf of thousands of investors by several retirement plans and investment funds, accused 12 banks – including Barclays, Citigroup,Credit Suisse AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. – of conspiring to manipulate foreign exchange rates, thereby diminishing the plaintiffs’ returns on trades, pension plans and savings accounts.
The benchmark at issue – called the WM/Reuters Closing Spot Rates – is calculated when the market closes at 4 p.m. local time in London based on actual transactions as well as the so-called bid and ask order rates, which are quotes dealers give for the rates at which they are willing to buy and sell a given currency. WM/Reuters looks at the quotes and spot transactions made in the 30 seconds before and after closing and then calculates the median rate to get the benchmark.
The plaintiffs claim that the bank employees colluded to trade in ways that would create favorable fixed rates.
The banks pushed to dismiss the case, but federal Judge Lorna G. Schofield allowed the U.S.-based investors to go forward with their case in a late January ruling.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. was the first to settle with investors, when in January it agreed to pay $99.5 million to exit the case. In March, UBS AG agreed to settle its portion of the suit for $135 million. Bank of America Corp. has also agreed to pay $180 million to resolve the suit. All of the banks agreed to provide documents and other assistance to plaintiffs as they pursue claims against other banks.
In addition to Wednesday’s criminal fines, the U.K. and Switzerland, as well as the CFTC, have levied about $4.3 billion in penalties against the banks.
The plaintiffs are represented by Michael D. Hausfeld, William Butterfield, Reena Gambhir, Timothy Kearns and Nathaniel Giddings of Hausfeld LLP and Christopher M. Burke, David R. Scott, Kristen M. Anderson, Sylvia M. Sokol, Walter W. Noss and William C. Fredericks of Scott & Scott LLP.
Citi is represented by Andrew D. Lazerow, Andrew Arthur Ruffino and Alan M. Wiseman ofCovington & Burling LLP.
The case is In re: Foreign Exchange Benchmark Rates Antitrust Litigation, case number1:13-cv-07789, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
–Additional reporting by Evan Weinberger and Aaron Vehling. Editing by Sarah Golin.