Major banks rebuff FX price fixing claims
Some of the world’s biggest banks have managed to secure win in a lawsuit accusing them of an alleged conspiracy among banks to fix prices in the foreign exchange (FX) market.
On March 30, 2023, the New York Southern District Court entered a ruling in favor of the defendant banks: JP Morgan Chase & Co. and JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Citibank, N.A., Citicorp, and Citigroup, Inc., Barclays Capital, Inc. and Barclays PLC, and Bank of America, N.A.; Bank of America Corporation; HSBC Bank (USA), N.A.; HSBC North American Holdings Inc.; Royal Bank of Scotland, plc (RBS) and UBS AG.
This case concerns the impact of an alleged conspiracy among banks to fix prices in the FX market on consumers’ purchases of euros with U.S. Dollars within the United States. The defendants had moved for summary judgment on plaintiffs’ remaining claims.
In short, Plaintiffs allege that they purchased euros at manipulated rates from Defendants in the consumer retail market. Because Plaintiffs’ pleadings did not provide notice that any Plaintiff sought to recover for credit, debit, wire or other non-physical currency transactions or any transactions made abroad, Plaintiffs’ claims are limited to transactions “involving foreign currency purchased with U.S. Dollars and physically received at Defendants’ retail branches within the United States.” These transactions are referred to as “qualifying transactions” or “qualifying purchases.”
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants conspired to manipulate exchange rates in the FX spot market that then were used to calculate the prices charged to retail customers. Plaintiffs base this allegation on plea agreements and regulatory orders involving certain Defendants. Those plea agreements and the allegations in Plaintiffs’ Third Amended Complaint (TAC) focus on two benchmarks: the WMR London closing fix (“the WMR fix”) and the European Central Bank fix (the “ECB fix”). Plaintiffs also now assert that those plea agreements and other documents show that Defendants conspired to manipulate “market prices generally” and to widen bid/ask spreads.
Defendants were granted summary judgment on Nypl and Rubinsohn’s claims because no reasonable jury could find that either Plaintiff made a qualifying transaction. It is undisputed that neither Nypl nor Rubinsohn physically received euros purchased with U.S. dollars at one of Defendants’ branches in the U.S. Plaintiffs quibble over the definition of “purchase” and cite generally to Nypl and Rubinsohn’s deposition transcripts without identifying any evidence that Nypl or Rubinsohn actually made a physical purchase in any U.S. branch of any Defendant bank. While courts need not go “hunting for truffles buried in . . . the record,” a review of the portions of the transcripts submitted with Plaintiffs’ motion papers reveals no such evidence.
Defendants were granted summary judgment on the claims of McCarthy and Jolly, and their respective businesses Mad Travel and Go Everywhere, Inc., because no reasonable jury could find that they made any of their transactions at supracompetitive prices.
Unlike Nypl and Rubinsohn, Plaintiffs McCarthy and Jolly testified that they purchased physical euros with U.S. dollars at U.S. branches of one of the Defendant banks, JPMC, on their own behalf and on behalf of their respective businesses. McCarthy made qualifying purchases “on occasion” but does not recall when or how often, nor does she have receipts. Jolly made qualifying purchases several times per year, though she has receipts for purchases only on four specific days.
Defendants’ motion was granted because there is no evidence in the record that the prices Plaintiffs paid on those days — or on any particular day that they might have traded, whether supported by documentation or not — were inflated by the alleged conspiracy and thereby caused any injury to Plaintiffs.
The Court granted the motion for summary judgment.