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February 26, 2015

Justice Department Is Seeking Felony Pleas by Big Banks in Foreign Currency Inquiry

“The Justice Department is pushing some of the biggest banks on Wall Street — including, for the first time in decades, American institutions — to plead guilty to criminal charges that they manipulated the prices of foreign currencies.

“In the final stages of a long-running investigation into corruption in the world’s largest financial market, federal prosecutors have recently informedBarclays, JPMorgan Chase, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Citigroup that they must enter guilty pleas to settle the cases, according to lawyers briefed on the matter. The pleas would be likely to carry a symbolic stigma, if limited actual fallout, in handing felony convictions to some of the world’s biggest banks.

“Yet even as those cases head toward negotiations over potential plea deals — a development that has not been previously reported — additional currency misconduct has surfaced in a New York state investigation, confidential documents show. The documents, excerpts from online chat rooms reviewed by The New York Times, suggest that banks designed electronic trading platforms that effectively drove up the price of currencies sold to clients. In the chats, replete with expletives and industry jargon, employees described and even joked about how the platform would cancel trades that ceased to be profitable for the bank.

“New York’s financial regulator, Benjamin M. Lawsky, initially focused on platforms at Barclays and Deutsche Bank, but he has since subpoenaed four other banks: Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse,BNP Paribas and Société Générale. None of the banks have been accused of wrongdoing, and they are cooperating with the investigation.”

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Read the full New York Times article by Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg here.

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