Ex-Barclays trader pleads guilty in forex case

A former Barclays currency trader has become the first individual to plead guilty to a criminal charge in a major US investigation into the manipulation of foreign exchange markets.

Jason Katz admitted participating in a price-fixing conspiracy involving Russian rubles, South African rand and other emerging market currencies at a court in New York yesterday.

The US Department of Justice has charged three individuals with offences in connection with its long-running investigation into forex markets. In May last year Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, JP Morgan and Citigroup collectively agreed to pay $2.5 billion after pleading guilty to participating in a conspiracy to manipulate the price of US dollars and euros.

Brent Snyder, deputy assistant attorney general at the DoJ, said that Mr Katz and his conspirators “engaged in blatant collusion and succeeded in manipulating exchange rates for multiple currencies to their advantage”.

The conspiracy charge admitted by Mr Katz carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Mr Katz worked at three different financial institutions in New York when the price-fixing took place between 2007 and 2013, the DoJ said in court papers. Through this time, he and other traders conspired to suppress and eliminate competition by using an electronic trading platform to manipulate prices for central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African currencies, the department said.

Customers of Mr Katz and his co-conspirators included corporations, hedge funds, pension funds and other entities located in New York, other US states and in foreign countries who “wanted to exchange large amounts of one currency into an equivalent amount of another currency”, the DoJ said in the filing. The activities of Mr Katz and his co-conspirators “substantially affected interstate and US import trade and commerce”, it added. Mr Katz has agreed to cooperate with the department’s continuing investigation into the foreign exchange market, the department said. He was released on $150,000 bail.

According to regulatory filings and his LinkedIn profile, Mr Katz joined Barclays in July 2010 from Standard Bank and worked in Barclays’ New York office until September 2011, when he join BNP Paribas as director of emerging markets foreign exchange trading. Mr Katz left BNP in July 2013.

UBS has pleaded guilty to manipulating Libor and other benchmark interest rates as part of the DoJ’s wider probe. The bank will be sentenced alongside Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan and Royal Bank of Scotland at a court in Connecticut today.

Mr Katz could not be reached for comment. Barclays declined to make a comment.

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