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UK prepares forex fines for six banks on Wednesday: sources

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British regulators investigating allegations of collusion and manipulation in the foreign exchange market could fine a group of six banks as early as next Wednesday, people familiar with the matter said.

[LONDON] British regulators investigating allegations of collusion and manipulation in the foreign exchange market could fine a group of six banks as early as next Wednesday, people familiar with the matter said.

The six banks are Switzerland's UBS, US banks JP Morgan and Citigroup and Britain's HSBC, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland, sources said. They are expected to be fined a total of about 1.5 billion pounds (US$2.37 billion).

It would be the first settlement in the year-long global probe into the US$5.3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market. Around 35 traders have been suspended or fired by their banks. No individual or institution has so far been accused of any wrongdoing.

A group settlement could be appealing to the banks, after Barclays in 2012 was singled out as the first bank to settle with regulators over a global investigation into the rigging of benchmark interest rates.

Three sources said the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was working to release the coordinated settlement with the banks on Wednesday, although they said that timetable could slip if problems emerge with details.

The regulator said there was no date confirmed for any settlement. JP Morgan could not be immediately reached for comment, and the other five banks all declined to comment.

US regulators are also working towards a settlement. The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission could announce a settlement with a group of banks around the same time, one US based source said.

The group of banks in the US settlement was not necessarily the same as the group in the UK deal, although there would be overlap.

The UK fines are expected to be for lax internal compliance at the banks, oversight failures and possible market conduct breaches by individual employees, but not deliberate market manipulation, sources have said.

The British regulator could fine one bank between 300 million and 400 million pounds, and the other five are expected to be fined 200-300 million, one of the sources said.

The six banks all set aside money for potential settlements of forex investigations in their third quarter results, signalling part of the process was near to a conclusion. The six banks and Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse have set aside about US$7 billion for legal provisions.

HSBC this week specifically set aside US$378 million for a potential settlement with the UK watchdog.

The regulator notified the six banks of its planned settlement eight weeks ago, the sources said. One said they had to submit responses by Friday.

Estimates on how much banks will be fined in total vary wildly. Settlements with US authorities are expected to be much more costly, particularly with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Earlier this year, banking research firm Autonomous put the worldwide potential settlement costs at around US$35 billion.

REUTERS