Jury convicts ex-trader for FX market bid rigging

Maria Nikolova

A jury convicted Akshay Aiyer of conspiring to fix prices and rig bids in Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African currencies.

Akshay Aiyer, a former currency trader at a major bank, got convicted on Wednesday for his participation in an antitrust conspiracy to manipulate prices for emerging market currencies in the Forex market.

The verdict, delivered by a jury at the New York Southern District Court, was announced following a three-week trial. Aiyer, a former Executive Director at a major multinational bank), was convicted of conspiring to fix prices and rig bids in Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African (CEEMEA) currencies, which were generally traded against the USD and the EUR, from at least October 2010 through at least January 2013.

According to evidence presented at trial, Aiyer engaged in near-daily communications with his co-conspirators by phone, text and through an exclusive electronic chat room to coordinate their trades of the CEEMEA currencies in the FX spot market. The jury heard evidence that the defendant and his co-conspirators manipulated exchange rates by agreeing to withhold bids or offers to avoid moving the exchange rate in a direction adverse to open positions held by co-conspirators and by coordinating their trading to manipulate the rates in an effort to increase their profits. By agreeing not to buy or sell at certain times, the conspiring traders protected each other’s trading positions by withholding supply of or demand for currency and suppressing competition in the FX spot market for emerging market currencies.

The jury also heard evidence that the defendant and his co-conspirators took steps to conceal their actions by, among other steps, using code names, communicating on personal cell phones during work hours and meeting in person to discuss particular customers and trading strategies.

The Antitrust Division has charged five companies and six individuals in its investigation of collusion in the FX spot market. On May 20, 2015, four major banks – Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays PLC and The Royal Bank of Scotland plc – pleaded guilty and agreed to pay collectively more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines for their participation in an antitrust conspiracy in the euro-U.S. dollar FX spot market. On January 25, 2018, BNP Paribas USA, Inc. pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $90 million criminal fine for its participation in an antitrust conspiracy involving emerging market FX prices. On January 4, 2017 and January 12, 2017, plea agreements were announced for two former traders in connection with an antitrust conspiracy involving emerging market FX prices.

The Antitrust Division’s investigation of collusion in the financial markets continues.

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