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Banks admit to cartel conduct

Two Australian banks, including one of the big four, have admitted to attempting to engage in cartel conduct in relation to the benchmark rate for the Malaysian ringgit.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken proceedings on a consent basis against both ANZ and Macquarie in relation to alleged attempts to engage in cartel conduct.

Both banks have acknowledged that their staff, three from ANZ and one from Macquarie, attempted to influence non-deliverable forward foreign exchange benchmark setting for the Malaysian ringgit.

“The ACCC alleges that on various dates in 2011, ANZ or Macquarie sought to influence the ABS MYR Fixing Rate published on that day, and thus attempted to contravene the cartel provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010,” the regulator said.

ANZ has admitted to 10 instances of attempted cartel conduct, and has agreed to pay a pecuniary penalty of $9 million. Macquarie, which has admitted to eight intances of such conduct, has agreed to pay a penalty of $6 million – both penalty amounts are subject to court approval.

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“The ACCC recognises the integrity of foreign exchange markets plays a fundamental role in our market economy,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims.

“These proceedings are a reminder that Australian cartel laws apply to financial markets, and capture cartel conduct by firms that carry on business in Australia, regardless of where that conduct occurred.”

ANZ chief risk officer Nigel Williams said the bank had an obligation to ensure its staff, both domestic and international, complied with the law at all times.

“While there is no evidence that foreign exchange benchmarks in Singapore were successfully influenced, we accept responsibility and apologise for the actions of our former employees,” he said.

[Related: ANZ fine 'up to a court', says ASIC]

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