A US law firm is preparing a multimillion-pound lawsuit against banks found guilty of manipulating the foreign exchange market.
The action is being led by Connecticut-based Scott + Scott and is aimed at banks including HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and US banks JP Morgan and Citigroup.
In the US earlier this year, Scott + Scott won an agreement in which a number of major banks paid investors almost $2bn (£1.3bn) to settle a civil lawsuit tied to allegations that traders manipulated the currency market.
The law firm’s managing partner, David Scott, was currently in London before travelling to Paris and Berlin, to talk to major companies that want to launch a European action.
He said complainants were likely to include multinational businesses, pension funds and even central banks, although he would not say if the Bank of England was involved in the case.
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Scott said: “To date, every regulator in the world has found a number of banks guilty of manipulating forex rates, with damages suffered by the clients amounting to billions of dollars. We are already being contacted by investors and firms to help assess their losses.”
He told the BBC: “We have met with central banks and they have expressed an interest – they are interested in the institutional knowledge that we have gained litigating the forex case in the US.
“We have developed a model that allows us to give a pretty good idea of what their damages are if they traded foreign currency.”
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and other world regulators fined six major banks in November, including RBS and HSBC, £2.6bn over forex rigging.
Traders under swashbuckling nicknames such as “the 3 musketeers” were found to have clubbed together to manipulate forex.
In May, Barclays agreed a £1.53bn fine with US and UK authorities amid a raft of settlements with banks over their involvement in the rigging of global currency markets.
Scott said: “The people who are ultimately the victims of the conspiracy do not know it, because you cannot have a good conspiracy unless it is well concealed.”
Because the foreign exchange market was so large “the banks and traders did not need to bludgeon somebody over the head to steal their money,” he said.
“They just needed to make small paper cuts and bleed people very slowly – because each of those cuts in a market this large ultimately leads to a very large pot of money. The customers had no idea they were being defrauded.”
Scott + Scott expects to launch its European complaint in the autumn.