‘Colluding’ banks say charges are vague

Tembinkosi Bonakele (Photo: Competition Commission website)
Tembinkosi Bonakele (Photo: Competition Commission website)

Johannesburg - The banks charged with colluding in the trading of the rand have hit back at the Competition Commission, saying the allegations are “vague and embarrassing” with not enough detail being given for them to prepare a defence or decide how to plead.

Twelve banks filed exemption applications to the Competition Tribunal, arguing for the case to be dropped on a number of interrelated grounds.

The only banks not raising an exemption are Citibank, which has already settled for R70m, and the Barclays and Absa groups, which are cooperating to get leniency.

Standard Bank has already made an urgent application to the tribunal to compel the commission to release its full record of investigation, also claiming that it did not have enough information at hand to plead or argue its case.

The wholly foreign banks in the alleged cartel claim that the local competition authorities have no jurisdiction over them.

BNP Paribas also argues that the commission’s allegation against it is self-contradictory as the original referral claims the trader Jason Katz worked for BNP at the same time he allegedly worked for Standard Bank New York and Barclays.

Katz already pleaded guilty to forex-fixing in the US and he seems to single-handedly be responsible for several banks he worked for successively being drawn into this investigation.

BNP is one of the foreign banks claiming the tribunal has no jurisdiction.

The commission’s counterargument has been that anything affecting the rand has an effect in South Africa, hence giving the tribunal jurisdiction.

BNP and other foreign banks say, however, that there is no evidence or description of the alleged impact – or any attempt to identify who may have been impacted. Competition commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele has previously admitted that an estimate of that sort would be a large research endeavour that has not been done.

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