Commerce Commission launches forex probe

An inquiry into the foreign exchange market has been launched by the Commerce Commission. Photo / Ross Setford
An inquiry into the foreign exchange market has been launched by the Commerce Commission. Photo / Ross Setford

The Commerce Commission has an investigation underway into the foreign exchange market, amid a global probe into alleged manipulation of currency rates.

The New Zealand regulator's active investigation into the currency trading market comes as at least a dozen authorities in North America, Asia and Europe conduct inquiries into claims traders colluded with their counterparts at rival banks to set foreign exchange rates by sharing client information.

The Commerce Commission has an "investigation in that space," a spokeswoman told BusinessDesk. She declined to comment on the scope of the probe or any of the parties involved.

The New Zealand dollar was the world's 10th most traded currency with US$105 billion in average daily turnover in April 2013 and accounting for about 2 per cent of the global US$5 trillion traded daily, according to the Bank for International Settlement. The bulk of trading in the kiwi occurs outside New Zealand.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission joined the worldwide probe earlier this month, telling the Financial Times it would likely take a year to complete the investigation.

The Financial Markets Authority is aware of the international inquiries, and will "continue to monitor developments here and abroad, and to liaise with agencies in New Zealand, Australia and further afield," a spokesman said in an emailed statement.

Since the allegations of global market manipulation emerged in a Bloomberg report last year, about 30 foreign exchange traders have been suspended, put on leave, or fired, of which seven have come from Swiss bank UBS, the world's fourth-biggest currency trader, according to a Reuters report. Other firms reported to have suspended, put on leave, or fired staff include Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, and Barclays.

Earlier this month the Bank of England, the UK central bank, suspended a staff member pending an internal review into allegations its employees were aware of the market manipulation.

The probe into foreign exchange trading comes after a similar investigation into fixing the London Interbank Offered Rate, the borrowing rate between lenders known as the Libor. That probe resulted in financial institutions paying some US$6 billion to settle civil and criminal claims.

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