Akshay Aiyer, a former currency trader at a major multinational bank, was sentenced to serve eight months in jail and ordered to pay a $150,000 criminal fine for his participation in an antitrust conspiracy to manipulate prices for emerging market currencies in the global foreign currency exchange (FX) market, the Justice Department announced today.
On Nov. 20, 2019, Aiyer was convicted after a three-week jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for conspiring to fix prices and rig bids in Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and African (CEEMEA) currencies, which were generally traded against the U.S. dollar and the euro, from at least October 2010 through at least January 2013.
“Today’s sentence, including prison time, serves as yet another reminder of the consequences for those who cheat and compromise the integrity of the global financial markets,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “This case, which the Antitrust Division litigated, is another step forward in the department’s ongoing commitment to prosecute and deter cartels in the financial markets that harm American consumers.”
“Today’s sentencing demonstrates the gravity of the defendant’s egregious behavior to manipulate emerging market currencies, as well as the importance of bringing him to justice,” said FDIC Inspector General Jay N. Lerner. “This extensive conspiracy represents a serious breach of trust with both his clients and the major multinational bank for whom he worked. We appreciate the cooperation of our law enforcement partners, and we remain committed to investigate such unscrupulous crimes that impact the integrity of our banking sector.”
According to evidence presented at trial, the defendant engaged in near-daily communications with his co-conspirators by phone, text, and through an exclusive electronic chat room to coordinate their trades of the CEEMEA currencies in the FX spot market. The jury heard evidence that the defendant and his co-conspirators manipulated exchange rates by agreeing to withhold bids or offers to avoid moving the exchange rate in a direction adverse to open positions held by co-conspirators and by coordinating their trading to manipulate the rates in an effort to increase their profits. By agreeing not to buy or sell at certain times, the conspiring traders protected each other’s trading positions by withholding supply of or demand for currency and suppressing competition in the FX spot market for emerging market currencies. They also heard evidence that the defendant and his co-conspirators took steps to conceal their actions by, among other steps, using code names, communicating on personal cell phones during work hours, and meeting in person to discuss particular customers and trading strategies.
The Antitrust Division has charged five companies and six individuals in its investigation of collusion in the FX spot market. On May 20, 2015, four major banks – Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays PLC, and The Royal Bank of Scotland plc – pleaded guilty and agreed to collectively pay more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines for their participation in an antitrust conspiracy in the euro-U.S. dollar FX spot market. On Jan. 25, 2018, BNP Paribas USA, Inc. pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $90 million criminal fine for its participation in an antitrust conspiracy involving emerging market FX prices. On Jan. 4, 2017 and Jan. 12, 2017, plea agreements were announced for two former traders in connection with an antitrust conspiracy involving emerging market FX prices.
The sentence announced today is a result of an ongoing investigation into collusion in the financial markets, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office, FDIC Office of Inspector General, and the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section also provided substantial assistance in this matter. Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging, or other anticompetitive conduct in the financial markets should contact the Antitrust Division’s New York Office at 212-335-8000 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.