Banks fined £930m after ‘Essex Express’ and ‘Banana Split’ cartels rigged markets
Traders from banks including Barclays and RBS worked together in secret online chatrooms to deceive the markets.
Five major banks have been slapped with a 1.07 billion euro (£930 million) fine after cartels of dodgy traders, including one dubbed the “Essex Express”, rigged foreign exchange markets.
Groups of traders from banks including Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) worked together in secret online chatrooms to deceive the markets.
Market traders from Barclays, RBS and MUFG Bank worked together to devise strategies to fool the markets after meeting on the train to the City from Essex, the European Commission revealed.
The traders colluded through an online chatroom named “Essex Express ‘n the Jimmy” as they devised ways to rig the system.
They exchanged sensitive information and trading plans through the chatrooms to give them an advantage when making market decisions as they bought and sold currencies, the commission said.
Barclays, RBS and MUFG Bank (formerly Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi) have been hit with a combined fine of 257.7 million euros (£225.1 million) after it was revealed by the EU antitrust organisation.
The commission also unveiled a longer standing cartel of traders, working in a chatroom dubbed the “Three Way Banana Split”, who also shared valuable information and trading plans.
People involved in the cartel were also revealed to work together in separate chatrooms titled “Two and a Half Men” and “Only Marge”.
Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, JPMorgan and Citigroup have been slapped with a combined fine of 811.2 million euros (£708.6 million) after the “Three Way Banana Split” cartel rigged the markets for more than five years.
The commission said the banks colluded on trading strategies to rig the spot foreign exchange market for 11 currencies.
Swiss bank UBS was also involved but not fined after it alerted the European Commission about the two cartels.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “Companies and people depend on banks to exchange money to carry out transactions in foreign countries.
“Today we have fined Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup, JPMorgan and MUFG Bank and these cartel decisions send a clear message that the commission will not tolerate collusive behaviour in any sector of the financial markets.
“The behaviour of these banks undermined the integrity of the sector at the expense of the European economy and consumers.”
The Royal Bank of Scotland said it acknowledged the fine and is co-operating with investigations and responding to inquiries from other regulatory bodies regarding “past failings in foreign exchange trading”.