News Release 2017-6 | January 11, 2017
OCC Issues Notice of Charges to Prohibit and Assess $5 Million Penalty Against Two Foreign Exchange Traders
WASHINGTON – The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) today issued a notice of charges for prohibition and notice of assessment of civil money penalty against Richard Usher, former Head of G10 Spot Trading at JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., and Rohan Ramchandani, former Head of European Spot Trading at Citibank, N.A.
The OCC also fined Messrs. Usher and Ramchandani $5 million each for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, engaging in unsafe or unsound practices, and breaching their fiduciary duties related to their conduct in the foreign exchange (FOREX) market.
The OCC found that beginning in as early as December 2007 and continuing until at least January 2013 (Relevant Period), Messrs. Usher and Ramchandani were FOREX spot traders with their respective banks who primarily traded the euro, including the euro/U.S. dollar (EUR/USD) currency pair. Throughout the relevant period, Usher and Ramchandani engaged in near daily conversations with each other and other EUR/USD spot traders at competing financial institutions in a permanent electronic chat room that referred to itself, and was known in the market, as the “Cartel.”
Through their participation in the Cartel chat room, Messrs. Usher and Ramchandani engaged in unsafe or unsound practices, breached their fiduciary duties, and entered into and engaged in a conspiracy with other euro traders in the chat room to suppress or eliminate competition and increase, decrease, fix, maintain, or stabilize prices in the FOREX Spot Market.
Specifically, Messrs. Usher and Ramchandani and other traders in the Cartel chat room: (i) coordinated trading in the EUR/USD currency pair in connection with the World Markets/Reuters FOREX spot benchmarks and European Central Bank reference rates (known as “fixes”); (ii) agreed to withhold bids and offers when one trader in the conspiracy was actively trading so that the price of the currency would not move in a direction adverse to the trader who was actively trading in the market; and (iii) disclosed, discussed, and coordinated currency pair spreads to be quoted to customers. Messrs. Usher and Ramchandani also disclosed confidential, commercially sensitive bank information, such as customer orders and currency pair spreads, to their respective banks’ competitors in the Cartel chat room.
Concurrent with the OCC’s enforcement action, the Department of Justice also issued indictments against Messrs. Usher and Ramchandani for violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act. In addition, the Federal Reserve announced enforcement actions against another trader in the Cartel chat room.
Pursuant to federal law, Messrs. Usher and Ramchandani may request a hearing challenging their respective notice of charges for prohibition and notice of assessment of civil money penalties.