Currency rigging

U.S. authorities have charged three former London-based traders for large banks with using an online chatroom to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros in the currency market.

The Department of Justice alleged in a criminal indictment that the trio belonged to the “Cartel” chatroom, which has been at the center of a long-running investigation of forex manipulation.

Richard Usher, formerly of JPMorgan, Rohan Ramchandani, formerly of Citigroup, and Christopher Ashton, formerly of Barclays, “gained an unfair advantage on their counterparts by committing corporate fraud involving the manipulation of the foreign currency exchange,” according to the indictment.

The three banks plus Royal Bank of Scotland all pleaded guilty in May 2015 to conspiring to rig currencies and agreed to a total of more than $2.5 billion in fines.

“Whether a crime is committed on the street corner or in the corner office, no one gets a free pass simply because they were working for a corporation when they broke the law,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said.

“Today’s indictment reiterates our commitment to holding individuals accountable for corporate misconduct,” she added.

Usher, Ramchandani and Ashton allegedly schemed with other euro-dollar traders belonging to “The Cartel” from 2007 to 2013. All three will either have to go to the U.S. voluntarily or U.S. authorities will have to seek to extradite them.

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said in March it had closed its own investigation without any individuals being charged.

“It is unacceptable for the American DoJ to by-pass 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,” an attorney for Ramchandani said in a statement.

As The Telegraph reports, authorities around the world have been investigating a host of rigging scandals including the fixing of Libor, a key financial benchmark used to price trillions of pounds worth of securities, and manipulation of the currency markets.

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