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Five South African banks face charges of dollar-rand manipulation

28 big banks, including five South African, are set to face the music at the Competition Tribunal over allegations of manipulating the dollar-rand (USD/ZAR) trades.

The Competition Commission yesterday filed a new charge sheet against the banks accused of manipulating the USD/ZAR currency pair trading after the Competition Appeal Court dismissed their failed appeal in February.

The commission found that the banks directly and indirectly manipulated trade of the USD/ZAR currency pair in relation to bids, offers, bid-offer spreads, the spot exchange rate and the terms and/or margin of executing client orders at the FIX.

It also alleged that the banks had divided markets by allocating customers in the USD/ZAR currency pair.

Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said the banks must file their answers to these charges, which have now been further substantiated.

“These charges will not go away. Some of the individual traders involved in the currency manipulation have been dismissed, but their employers, the banks, are yet to be held accountable in South Africa,” Bonakele said.

“It is the responsibility of the South African authorities to get to the bottom of these serious allegations about the manipulation of our currency, wherever it occurred.”

The case relates to allegations of collusion to fix prices and divide markets in respect of the USD/ZAR currency pair dating back to 2017, when the commission initially accused 17 banks.

The new referral provides more details on the operations of the currency manipulation cartel and expands the scope of the prosecution to include five more banks.

New banks added to the charge sheet are the Nedbank Group, Rand Merchant Bank, which is constituted by RMB Holdings, and FirstRand Bank, and Standard Americas Inc.

RMB said that it was aware that it had been named in the complaint referred by the commission to the tribunal regarding conduct by a number of banks in the foreign exchange market.

The bank said that it investigated this matter in detail when publicity around it first emerged in 2015.

“The investigation team comprised both internal and external parties, and the investigation identified no wrong-doing or unethical conduct on the part of the bank,” it said in a response to Business Report.

“RMB intends to work constructively with the relevant regulators to resolve this matter.”

Nedbank and Absa had not replied to media queries by 6pm.

Despite the news, banks’ stocks rallied yesterday, with the bank index rising 4.71 percent to 5257.61 points.

Absa soared 7.8percent to R85.72, Nedbank was 6.95percent higher at R104, and FirstRand rose 2.78percent to R41.43.

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