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Major South African Banks Face Prosecution in Forex Cartel Scandal

Published by
WIlliam Dube
  1. The Competition Tribunal of South Africa dismissed objections and applications from major banks, including Investec, Standard Bank, Absa, Nedbank, and FirstRand, in the ongoing “Forex Cartel” case, paving the way for their prosecution for alleged currency manipulation involving the rand/dollar currency pair.
  2. The banks’ alleged collusion on prices for bids, offers, and bid-offer spreads has had wide-ranging impacts on the South African economy, affecting imports and exports, foreign direct investment, public and private debt, and company balance sheets.
  3. Following the Tribunal’s ruling, all the banks must respond to the complaint referral within 40 business days, and any remaining objections must be raised as part of their responses. The Competition Commission may reply within 20 business days of the banks filing their answering affidavits.

The Competition Tribunal of South Africa has recently dismissed various applications and objections filed by a number of local and foreign banks in an attempt to avoid prosecution in the ongoing investigation into alleged currency manipulation. This case, referred to as the “Forex Cartel,” has placed banks like Investec, Standard Bank, Absa, Nedbank, and FirstRand under scrutiny for their potential involvement in price fixing related to the rand.

In February 2017, the Competition Commission brought these banks before the Competition Tribunal, alleging that they had been colluding on prices for bids, offers, and bid-offer spreads for spot trades involving the rand/dollar currency pair since at least 2007. The manipulation of the exchange rate for the South African Rand has had significant consequences for various aspects of the country’s economy, impacting imports and exports, foreign direct investment, public and private debt, and company balance sheets. Ultimately, these effects have had ripple effects on the prices of goods, services, and financial assets.

All of the banks named in the findings have lodged objections or applications against the commission, with some arguing that the commission lacks jurisdiction and others filing various exceptions, objections, applications for dismissal, and strikeouts. However, in a judgment handed down on Thursday, March 30, the Competition Tribunal dismissed all applications and objections submitted by 15 banks, including Standard Bank, Nedbank, and FirstRand Bank, to halt the prosecution against them for fixing the South African Rand/US Dollar currency pair.

Additionally, the Tribunal dismissed a second round of applications brought by the various banks in response to the commission’s amended complaint referral, ruling that it does have jurisdiction to hear the case against the banks. The Competition Commission has expressed its satisfaction with the ruling.

This recent ruling marks the second significant setback for the banks within a week, as the Competition Appeal Court (CAC) had earlier ruled in favor of the commission, denying Standard Bank access to the commission’s evidence. The CAC ruled that Standard Bank can only access the commission’s evidence after it has answered the allegations against it.

The Competition Tribunal emphasized the severity of the banks’ alleged conduct in its decision, stating that the respondents are accused of engaging in behavior considered the most egregious in competition law. The alleged conduct involves fixing and manipulating the Rand/Dollar exchange rate, which has a central and crucial role in the South African economy.

As a result of the ruling, the Tribunal ordered that all of the banks must respond to the complaint referral by filing answering affidavits within 40 business days of the Tribunal’s order. The banks may raise any remaining objections as part of their responses to the complaint referral. If the Commission wishes to reply, it must do so within 20 business days of the banks filing their answering affidavits.

Competition Commissioner Doris Tshepe has expressed that the decision by the Tribunal confirms the commission’s view that the banks must answer for their alleged collusion. The prosecution of this case has been ongoing since 2017, and the banks have yet to respond to the allegations against them. This decision provides the banks with an opportunity to do so.

WIlliam Dube

William Dube is a finance and economic news expert with over 10 years of experience in economic anaylsis, financial product assessment and market analysis. With a numerous certificates from prestigious universities including but not limited to Yale University and the University of Pennyslivenia. William specializes in providing insightful news developments in South Africa and commentary on investment strategies, risk management, and global economic trends. You can contact him on william@rateweb.co.za

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Published by
WIlliam Dube

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