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‘Cartel’ Currency Traders Charged in Market-Rigging Case

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Forex Weekly Outlook November 7-11
  • ‘Cartel’ Currency Traders Charged in Market-Rigging Case

U.S. prosecutors charged three ex-traders at the heart of a criminal investigation that has ensnared the world’s biggest banks over the rigging of currency rates.

Richard Usher, formerly of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Rohan Ramchandani, who used to work for Citigroup Inc., and Chris Ashton, a former Barclays Plc trader, were indicted Tuesday on conspiracy charges in New York. They’re all living in the U.K. and will have to be extradited unless they surrender voluntarily.

The three men used an online chatroom they dubbed “The Cartel” to coordinate trading of U.S. dollars and euros and manipulate prices of the currencies, according to the indictment. They are charged with conspiring to restrain trade from the end of 2007 through the beginning of 2013. The goal of the conspiracy was to suppress and eliminate competition in the trading of the euro and the dollar in the U.S., U.K. and Switzerland, according to the charges.

The case represents the culmination of the government’s promise to prosecute individuals at the center of one of the biggest market-manipulation investigations of the Obama administration. The indictments come after years of criticism against the Justice Department for securing multibillion-dollar corporate penalties without holding individuals to account.

“No one gets a free pass simply because they were working for a corporation,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, the department’s No. 2 official. “Today’s indictment reiterates our commitment to holding individuals accountable for corporate misconduct.”

Lawyers Fire Back

Lawyers for the traders criticized the U.S. for moving forward with its case after U.K. authorities looked at the same evidence and decided not to bring charges. Stephen Pollard, Ramchandani’s lawyer, said the U.K’s Serious Fraud Office already investigated his client for more than 18 months.

“It is unacceptable for the American DOJ to bypass the SFO decision and seek to prosecute conduct undertaken on British soil by British citizens where the British regulators have confirmed there was no criminal offense,” said Pollard, an attorney with WilmerHale in London.

Usher’s lawyer, Jonathan Pickworth, a partner at White & Case in London, said he was disappointed and that Usher “did nothing wrong.” Ashton’s lawyer Sara George, a partner at Stephenson Harwood LLP, said her client was also cleared by the U.K. authorities and was “never given any legal advice, guidance or instruction by Barclays in relation to U.S. law.”

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, although that figure may be increased depending on the gains from the misconduct.

Usher and Ramchandani were each fined $5 million by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, as well, the banking regulator said in a Tuesday statement. The OCC also banned both of them from working in the U.S. banking industry.

Bank Pleas

Citigroup, Barclays, JPMorgan and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc pleaded guilty in May 2015 to conspiring to rig currency rates. UBS Group AG received immunity from prosecution, but its conduct in the market breached an earlier agreement over its role in manipulating benchmark interest rates.

“The Cartel” chatroom was limited to specific euro-dollar traders, prosecutors said. Many conversations took place just before daily fixes — the brief windows of time when data providers take a snapshot of trading so they can set daily rates. Usher and Ramchandani started conspiring in December 2007, while Ashton got involved four years later, according to the indictment.

The three former traders participated in telephone calls and electronic messages, including engaging in near-daily conversations in the chat room, which they also referred to as “The Mafia,” where they discussed past, current and future customer orders and trades, prosecutors alleged.

‘The Cartel’

“The Cartel” chat room was started by Usher as early as 2009, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Usher had risen quickly to the top of his profession. After joining HBOS Plc in 2001, he was hired by RBS in 2003 and a year later collected an industry award on his employer’s behalf. He joined JPMorgan as head of spot foreign exchange in 2010, where he became a member of the now-defunct Bank of England’s Chief Dealers Sub Group, a collection of about a dozen currency traders and central bank officials who met at restaurants and bank offices to discuss industry developments.

The members of the chat room ribbed each other like high-school buddies. Usher was referred to as “Feston” because he resembled an overweight version of British chef Heston Blumenthal, according to people who have seen the chats. Ramchandani, Citigroup’s cricket-loving head of spot trading, was called “Ruggy,” while Ashton, the last one to join, was dubbed “Robocop.”

The U.S. investigation followed a series of articles published by Bloomberg in 2013 exposing how the world’s biggest banks were colluding to rig foreign exchange rates.

The case is U.S. v. Richard Usher, 17-cr-019, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Forex

Dollar Pulls Back as the World Prepares for New US President

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Global debt

Dollar Pulls Back as the World Prepares for New US President

US Dollar pulled back on Tuesday ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration following a week of consistent gains.

The United States dollar pared gains against the European common currency to $1.21444 per Euro as investors abandoned the greenback for Gold and other haven assets ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration.

Against New Zealand Kiwi, the dollar was largely unchanged and remained steady within 0.70787 support level and 0.71401 resistance level.

However, against the Japanese Yen, the United States Dollar gained on Tuesday to 103.966.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding global growth and COVID-19 vaccine deployment, OPEC is bullish on oil demand in 2021.

In its latest outlook for the year, OPEC left demand unchanged for the year even as experts are projecting disruption from U.S producers given the series of stimulus planned by the incoming administration.

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Naira

Daily Naira Exchange Rates (Black Market, CBN Official Rates, Bureau De Change) Monday, January 18, 2021

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interbank

Daily Naira Exchange Rates (Black Market, CBN Official Rates, Bureau De Change) Monday, January 18, 2021

Naira exchange rate decline to N642 against the British Pound and remained pressure at N475 and N580 against the US Dollar And Euro, respectively.

Date USD GBP EURO YUAN Canadian Australian
NGN BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL
18/01/2021 470/475 635/642 572/580 60/70 375/385 245/293
15/01/2021 470/475 635/642 573/580 60/70 375/385 245/293
14/01/2021 470/475 630/640 570/580 60/70 375/385 245/293
13/01/2021 470/474 630/637 570/580 60/70 375/385 245/293
12/01/2021 470/475 630/637 575/580 60/70 375/385 245/293
11/01/2021 468/675 625/635 575/582 60/70 372/382 245/293
08/01/2021 467/672 622/630 570/575 60/70 365/378 245/293
07/01/2021 465/470 620/628 570/575 60/70 365/378 245/293
06/01/2021 465/470 620/628 565/570 60/70 365/378 245/293
05/01/2021 465/470 620/628 565/572 60/70 365/378 245/293
04/01/2021 465/470 620/628 565/572 60/70 365/378 245/293
31/12/2020 465/470 620/628 567/573 60/70 365/378 245/293
30/12/2020 465/470 620/628 567/573 60/70 365/378 245/293
29/12/2020 465/470 620/628 565/573 60/70 365/378 245/293
28/12/2020 460/465 615/625 560/570 60/70 350/367 245/293
25/12/2020 460/465 615/625 560/570 60/70 350/367 245/293
24/12/2020 460/465 615/625 560/570 60/70 350/367 245/293
23/12/2020 470/475 622/632 575/580 60/70 350/367 245/293
22/12/2020 472/476 622/630 570/578 60/70 340/362 250/295
21/12/2020 472/476 622/632 570/580 55/68 340/362 250/295
18/12/2020 472/477 622/630 570/577 55/68 340/362 250/295

 Bureau De Change Naira Rates

Date USD GBP EURO
NGN BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL
18/01/2020 460/475 635/643 570/580
15/01/2020 460/475 630/638 570/577
14/01/2020 460/475 630/638 570/577
13/01/2020 460/470 626/633 565/576
12/01/2020 460/470 626/633 566/576
11/01/2020 460/470 620/630 560/573
08/01/2020 460/470 615/625 555/573
07/01/2020 460/470 615/623 550/570
06/01/2020 460/470 610/623 550/572
05/01/2020 460/470 615/624 550/572
04/01/2020 460/470 615/624 550/572
31/12/2020 460/470 600/626 550/573
30/12/2020 460/470 600/626 550/573
29/12/2020 455/475 600/626 550/573
28/12/2020 455/475 605/628 555/573
25/12/2020 455/475 600/628 550/575
24/12/2020 455/474 600/628 555/575
23/12/2020 460/475 621/632 568/580
22/12/2020 470/475 620/631 568/577
21/12/2020 470/475 620/631 568/577

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Official Naira Exchange Rates

Date Currency Buying(NGN) Central(NGN) Selling(NGN)
1/15/2021 US DOLLAR 379 379.5 380
1/15/2021 POUNDS STERLING 516.9181 517.6001 518.282
1/15/2021 EURO 459.4996 460.1058 460.712
1/15/2021 SWISS FRANC 426.8499 427.413 427.9761
1/15/2021 YEN 3.6548 3.6596 3.6644
1/15/2021 CFA 0.6839 0.6939 0.7039
1/15/2021 WAUA 545.8708 546.5909 547.3111
1/15/2021 YUAN/RENMINBI 58.531 58.6087 58.6864
1/15/2021 RIYAL 101.0236 101.1568 101.2901
1/15/2021 SOUTH AFRICAN RAND 24.8724 24.9052 24.938

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Naira

Daily Naira Exchange Rates (Parallel Market, Bureau De Change and CBN Rates); Friday, January 15, 2021

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Nigeria 500 naira notes

Daily Naira Exchange Rates (Parallel Market, Bureau De Change and CBN Rates); Friday, January 15, 2021

The Nigerian Naira remained under pressure against the United States Dollar on the parallel market at N475 exchange rate, while the value has not improved against the Euro and Pound, inflation rose to 15.75 percent in the month of December to further compound Nigeria’s predicament.

Date USD GBP EURO YUAN Canadian Australian
NGN BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL
15/01/2021 470/475 635/642 573/580 60/70 375/385 245/293
14/01/2021 470/475 630/640 570/580 60/70 375/385 245/293
13/01/2021 470/474 630/637 570/580 60/70 375/385 245/293
12/01/2021 470/475 630/637 575/580 60/70 375/385 245/293
11/01/2021 468/675 625/635 575/582 60/70 372/382 245/293
08/01/2021 467/672 622/630 570/575 60/70 365/378 245/293
07/01/2021 465/470 620/628 570/575 60/70 365/378 245/293
06/01/2021 465/470 620/628 565/570 60/70 365/378 245/293
05/01/2021 465/470 620/628 565/572 60/70 365/378 245/293
04/01/2021 465/470 620/628 565/572 60/70 365/378 245/293
31/12/2020 465/470 620/628 567/573 60/70 365/378 245/293
30/12/2020 465/470 620/628 567/573 60/70 365/378 245/293
29/12/2020 465/470 620/628 565/573 60/70 365/378 245/293
28/12/2020 460/465 615/625 560/570 60/70 350/367 245/293
25/12/2020 460/465 615/625 560/570 60/70 350/367 245/293
24/12/2020 460/465 615/625 560/570 60/70 350/367 245/293
23/12/2020 470/475 622/632 575/580 60/70 350/367 245/293
22/12/2020 472/476 622/630 570/578 60/70 340/362 250/295
21/12/2020 472/476 622/632 570/580 55/68 340/362 250/295
18/12/2020 472/477 622/630 570/577 55/68 340/362 250/295

 Bureau De Change Naira Rates

Date USD GBP EURO
NGN BUY/SELL BUY/SELL BUY/SELL
15/01/2020 460/475 630/638 570/577
14/01/2020 460/475 630/638 570/577
13/01/2020 460/470 626/633 565/576
12/01/2020 460/470 626/633 566/576
11/01/2020 460/470 620/630 560/573
08/01/2020 460/470 615/625 555/573
07/01/2020 460/470 615/623 550/570
06/01/2020 460/470 610/623 550/572
05/01/2020 460/470 615/624 550/572
04/01/2020 460/470 615/624 550/572
31/12/2020 460/470 600/626 550/573
30/12/2020 460/470 600/626 550/573
29/12/2020 455/475 600/626 550/573
28/12/2020 455/475 605/628 555/573
25/12/2020 455/475 600/628 550/575
24/12/2020 455/474 600/628 555/575
23/12/2020 460/475 621/632 568/580
22/12/2020 470/475 620/631 568/577
21/12/2020 470/475 620/631 568/577

Central Bank of Nigeria’s Official Naira Rates

Date Currency Buying(NGN) Central(NGN) Selling(NGN)
1/15/2021 US DOLLAR 379 379.5 380
1/15/2021 POUNDS STERLING 516.9181 517.6001 518.282
1/15/2021 EURO 459.4996 460.1058 460.712
1/15/2021 SWISS FRANC 426.8499 427.413 427.9761
1/15/2021 YEN 3.6548 3.6596 3.6644
1/15/2021 CFA 0.6839 0.6939 0.7039
1/15/2021 WAUA 545.8708 546.5909 547.3111
1/15/2021 YUAN/RENMINBI 58.531 58.6087 58.6864
1/15/2021 RIYAL 101.0236 101.1568 101.2901
1/15/2021 SOUTH AFRICAN RAND 24.8724 24.9052 24.938

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