JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS have plead guilty to rigging the currency markets. Unlike stocks and bonds, currencies trade nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The market pauses two times a day. Traders allegedly shared client orders with rivals ahead of the pause and pumped up currency rates to make profits.
The penalties are a victory for the government and reflect a broader effort by the Justice Department, long criticized as reluctant to prosecute big banks, to tackle financial misconduct. In the past 18 months, prosecutors have brought criminal cases against banks accused of tax evasion and sanctions violations, and have reached multibillion-dollar settlements with several others for their roles in the 2008 financial meltdown. Still, the punishment announced Wednesday may have limited practical consequences.