London faces billions in Foreign Exchange claims following US landmark settlement
Nine major banks including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), HSBC and Barclays have settled a $2 billion claim brought by investors in a US court for losses caused by the rigging of foreign exchange markets. The law firm that brought the claim in New York’s southern district court said there was scope for cases to be brought outside the US.
Anthony Maton (a managing partner at a London law firm) has said:
‘There is no doubt that anyone who traded FX in or through the London or Asian markets- which transact trillions of dollars of business every day – will have suffered significant losses as a result of the actions of the banks. Compensation for these losses will require concerted action in London.”
Global banks are now facing billions of pounds of civil claims in London and Asia over the rigging of current markets, following the landmark legal settlement in New York.
Banks could see claims flood in as early as Autumn in London’s High Court from fund managers, local authorities and companies. It is expected that in other large foreign exchange markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore are similarly likely to see cases being brought by investors. It is thought that there will be more claims in London than in New York as it is a bigger foreign exchange market.
David McIlroy (a barrister at Forum Chambers) has said that a settlement in London could amount to ‘tens of billions of pounds.’ Analysts have said it would be extremely difficult to assess the financial impact on banks at this stage as there aren’t that many clear precedents.
New legislation in the UK enables collective action to be brought in respect of anti-competitive conduct will allow for more claims to be made in London. The concept of a class action is quite new in Britain and claimants need to opt in to join a case, unlike the US. Considering that the UK is a hub through which many foreign exchange transactions are processed, it is possible that overseas investors can also claim through this avenue.
At least seven other banks are being pursued in the continuing case in New York, where it is being alleged that the banks conspired to manipulate prices in the foreign exchange market since 2003.
Assessments by ratings agencies of larger banks like RBS and Barclays make reference to the continuing costs of litigation and investigation by regulators. Profitability could be held back by weak revenues as well as high litigation, conduct and restructuring costs.