Australian Regulator Joins Global Probe of Forex Rates Rigging as Serious as 2012 Libor Rate Scandal

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By Vittorio Hernandez | March 20, 2014 10:00 AM EST

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) is taking part in a global international investigation into foreign exchange rate riggings said to be as serious as the 2012 Libor rate scandal.

The ASIC investigation is expected to last at least 12 months as the Aussie regulator assists its counterpart agencies in Europe, U.S. and Asia probe banks and currency traders to determine if there is collusion to manipulate the price of currencies on the international money markets estimated to handle $5.3 trillion a day.

In Australia, total average daily turnover for all over-the-counter currency instruments reached $168.8 billion in October 2013, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.

In the U.S., the allegation is being examined by the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The maneouvering was allegedly done by bank traders sharing information about client orders to manipulate the WM/Reuters rates in their favour.

ASIC Chief Greg Medcraft told the Financial Times, "We are commencing a review to ascertain whether any misconduct relating to foreign exchange trading may have occurred in Australia, and whether from an Australian perspective ASIC has concerns about the foreign exchange market."

Since the investigation overseas started, 25 bank employees so far have suspended, placed on leave or fired including a Bank of England staff, while multi-billion dollar penalties are expected to be slapped on banks.

Among the banks under investigation are Barclays, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland, while Deutsche Bank, UBS, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase said they are cooperating with regulators in the ongoing probe.

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