US, British, and Swiss regulators have fined five global banks for attempting to manipulate foreign exchange markets—the latest penalties for an industry previously criticized for rigging interest rates and for its role in triggering the global financial crisis. Citibank, JPMorgan Chase Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC Bank, and UBS have agreed to settlements totaling almost $3.4 billion; Barclays is still being investigated. Regulators found that between Jan. 1, 2008, and Oct. 15, 2013, the five banks failed to adequately train and supervise foreign currency traders, leading to traders forming groups that shared info about client activity; they also tried to manipulate the market to ensure their banks made a profit, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority said.
"Traders shared the information obtained through these groups to help them work out their trading strategies," the authority said in a statement. "They then attempted to manipulate fix rates and trigger client 'stop loss' orders." (These orders limit client losses in the face of adverse currency movements.) The banks had already factored in the prospect of heavy fines, putting money aside to cover the cost: Citigroup took a $600 million charge, while JPMorgan Chase set aside $400 million; Barclays, HSBC, and RBS similarly set aside hundreds of millions of dollars. RBS Chairman Philip Hampton said his bank condemns the actions of the employees responsible and has started disciplinary action against six employees, three of whom have been suspended. The US Department of Justice and other authorities are conducting their own investigations, and further penalties are possible. (Read more currency stories.)