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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Not "Fucking Christmas" For HSBC

Once again HSBC finds itslef on the wrong side of the headlines, as a British HSBC executive has been released on $1m bail after being charged with fraud linked to a giant $3.5bn currency trade after he was arrested by FBI agents at JFK airport.

The Telegraph reports that Mark Johnson, HSBC’s head of FX and commodities for the Americas, was arrested by federal agents at the New York airport on Tuesday evening.

Johnson and Stuart Scott (ex HSBC) face charges of conspiring to defraud a client five years ago by “front-running” a currency deal.

The allegations relate to the conversion of $3.5bn into sterling for a client company in December 2011, a transaction that allegedly netted $8m for HSBC, including Johnson and Scott.

It is thought that HSBC was carrying out the currency exchange for London-listed oil company Cairn Energy, which had sold a stake in its Indian subsidiary to commodities giant Vedanta.

Johnson appeared in court in New York yesterday to be formally charged, while it is thought Scott has not been arrested and is reportedly in the UK.

According to Justice Department documents, Johnson, who at the time of the alleged fraud was HSBC’s head of global foreign exchange cash trading, and Scott allegedly bought sterling “in advance of the transaction, knowing that the transaction would cause the price of sterling to increase, thereby generating substantial trading profits for HSBC and the defendants”. This is a practice known as “front-running”.
They then executed the $3.5bn purchase “in a manner to cause the price of sterling to spike” – called “ramping” – which benefited the bank and the pair and was “at the expense of the victim company”, according to the documents.

When the full order for £2.25bn – the equivalent of $3.5bn – was authorised, Johnson was recorded on a telephone call as saying to Mr Scott “Ohhhh, fucking Christmas,” the documents allege.

When the spike in the price of sterling was picked up by the company and its adviser, an unnamed supervisor is alleged to have told the client that the market movement was caused by “a Russian” bank, which was false.

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