South African banks cleared in landmark Rand manipulation case; Competition Appeal Court criticises ‘inadequate’ evidence

South Africa’s Competition Appeal Court has dismissed charges against 28 banks accused of colluding to manipulate the Rand almost a decade ago. Notable lenders like Standard Bank, Nedbank, and FirstRand emerge victorious, with the court deeming the case by the Competition Commission as inadequate and lacking evidence. JPMorgan, BNP Paribas, HSBC, Credit Suisse, and Investec now face trial in this long-standing currency manipulation saga.

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South Africa Antitrust Probe Into Rand-Fixing Collapses, BD Says

By Colleen Goko

South Africa’s Competition Appeal Court dismissed the cases against most of the 28 banks accused of colluding to fix the rand in the New York foreign exchange market almost a decade ago, Business Day reported, citing the tribunal.

The court ruled in favor of South African lenders including Standard Bank Group Ltd., Nedbank Group Ltd., and FirstRand Ltd., and most of the foreign banks who faced the accusations, the Johannesburg-based newspaper reported on Tuesday. That leaves JPMorgan Chase & Co., BNP Paribas SA, HSBC Holdings Plc, Credit Suisse Group AG and Investec Plc to face trial, according to the report.

The court criticized the case brought by the Competition Commission, saying it was inadequate and lacked evidence, according to the report. It made no order on costs.

The currency-manipulation saga began in May 2015, when the commission alleged that banks colluded to rig the value of the rand against the dollar. The inquiry followed a global probe into currency manipulation that was exposed two years earlier, triggering investigations in the US and the UK, and resulting in billions of dollars in settlements.

South Africa’s antitrust-watchdog revived the case against banks in 2020 after compiling a charge sheet against the more than 20 lenders that allegedly colluded to fix prices and divide markets in the currency pair.

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

Competition Appeal Court clears Standard Bank against allegations of currency manipulation

Press Release from Standard Bank

8 January 2024, Johannesburg – The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited welcomes the Competition Appeal Court’s decision to uphold its appeal by dismissing currency manipulation allegations against Standard Bank. The ruling comes several years after the Competition Commission’s decision to charge several banks, including Standard Bank, over allegations of collusion to manipulate the foreign exchange rate.

The Competition Appeal Court handed down its judgment on 8 January 2024 which accepted the Bank’s incontrovertible evidence over a period of seven years that it had not been party to an international conspiracy to manipulate trading in the USD/ZAR currency pair and consequently held that the Competition Commission’s complaint in that regard is dismissed.

Standard Bank has always maintained that the Group is wholly committed to the rule of law, respects the important role of institutions, and upholds South Africa’s Constitutional democracy, and our Constitutional obligation to ensure that our country improves the quality of life of all citizens.

In its ruling, the Court concluded that the case against Standard Bank does not get out of the legal starting blocks”.

Standard Bank remains committed to supporting the work of regulators, including the Competition Commission. Standard Bank reiterates its belief in and respect for South Africa’s institutions generally and its well-functioning and sound judicial system.

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