US govt denies any joint investigation into FX spot market with UK SFO

Maria Nikolova

The US Government says it conducted an investigation into the FX spot market in parallel to the investigations of the SFO, ACCC and KFTC, but there was no joint investigation.

The United States Government had to explain the nature of its co-operation with foreign enforcement agencies on Forex probes as it faced requests to seek and provide statements by a witness in a Forex manipulation case. The testimony in question is said to have been made to the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC).

The statements are seen as crucial by the defendants in the case – former UK traders Richard Usher, Rohan Ramchandani, and Christopher Ashton. The witness has provided statements to the three regulators and those regulators subsequently found no antitrust violations in the same conduct at issue here—with the SFO explaining that “a detailed review of the available evidence led us to the conclusion that the alleged conduct, even if proven and taken at its highest, would not meet the evidential test required to mount a prosecution.” According to the defendants, these facts suggest that the witness’s testimony contains exculpatory and impeaching statements.

The defendants have asked that the Court order the Government to request these records from the SFO, ACCC, and KFTC, or from the Cooperating Witness or banks with which it has reached plea agreements, and to produce them when it receives them.

In a reply to the Defendants’ request, the US Department of Justice stated that it did not conduct any joint investigation into the FX spot market with the SFO, ACCC, and KFTC. Rather, the US investigation was done in parallel to the UK, Australian and Korean investigations.

The US Government did not attend any witness interviews with representatives from the SFO, ACCC, and KFTC. Moreover, the US Government did not share documents or investigative material with these foreign agencies, did not give or receive input into investigative strategies and did not include these authorities in the Government’s charging decisions.

The contacts that the US Government had with the agencies in question concerned the nature and scope of the parallel investigations, as well as procedural questions. The US Government remains grateful for the assistance received from foreign authorities in conducting its investigation but notes that diplomatic statements of gratitude do not convert separate investigations into a joint one.

The US Government has had substantive factual interaction – that is, jointly attended interviews or proffers – with only one foreign agency, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Last week, the defendants in the case, also known as “FX Cartel” or “FX Mafia”, sought to dismiss the Indictment by arguing that the US Courts lack considerable experience in deciding on such matters and that the traders committed no violation per se of the Sherman Act.

The defendants in the case, captioned USA v. Usher et al (1:17-cr-00019), are citizens and residents of the United Kingdom. They were currency traders for banks in London with customers in Europe.

Christopher Ashton was a EUR/USD trader for the UK affiliate of Barclays PLC from 2011 to 2015. Rohan Ramchandani was a EUR/USD trader for the UK affiliate of Citicorp. from 2004 to 2014. Richard Usher was a EUR/USD trader for the UK affiliate of The Royal Bank of Scotland PLC from 2004 to 2010, and for the UK affiliate of JPMorgan Chase & Co. from 2010 to 2013.

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