WASHINGTON - The U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation of possible manipulation of the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market, a person familiar with the matter said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is also looking into alleged rigging of interest rates associated with the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, is in the early stages of its currency market probe, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the inquiry is confidential.
The U.S. investigation comes as the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority said in June it was reviewing potential manipulation of exchange rates. That month, allegations that dealers at banks pooled information through instant messages and used client orders to move benchmark currency rates were reported by Bloomberg News. Regulators are probing the alleged abuse of financial benchmarks used in markets from oil to interest rate swaps by the firms that play a central role in setting them.
Swiss regulators last week said they were “coordinating closely with authorities in other countries as multiple banks around the world are potentially implicated.”
The person familiar with the U.S. currency market probe didn’t say which banks may be under scrutiny. Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, declined to comment on the investigation.
Probes of Libor manipulation led to fines totaling about $2.6 billion against four firms, including UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, for rigging the benchmark for more than $300 trillion of securities worldwide.
Earlier this week, European Union antitrust regulators said they were examining the possible manipulation of currency rates by the financial industry, while Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority, or Finma, and the nation’s competition commission said they were probing similar potential wrongdoing.