Mega investing firms like BlackRock Inc and Allianz SE’s Pacific Investment Management Co. are suing 16 major financial establishments over allegations that the banks had rigged prices in the expanding foreign exchange market.

According to Reuters, counsel representing BlackRock Inc, Allianz SE’s Pacific Investment Management Co, and several other prominent institutional investors filed the lawsuit last week in Manhattan. Among the financial firms facing charges are Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Canada.

The plaintiffs are accusing the banks of violating U.S. antitrust laws by rigging fiat currency benchmarks such as the WM/Reuters Closing Rates during a ten-year period between 2003 and 2013. In addition, the banks are being accused of sharing confidential orders and trading positions for their own personal benefit(s).

Behind Closed Doors

The manipulation allegedly occurred through various internet chat rooms under differing pseudonyms such as “The Mafia,” “The Cartel” and “The Bandit’s Club.” The filed complaint reads:

By colluding to manipulate FX prices, benchmarks and bid/ask spreads, defendants restrained trade, decreased competition and artificially increased prices, thereby injuring plaintiffs.

Many of the parties filing the suit claim that they will also be pursuing similar litigation in regions of Europe, in which several of the bank defendants are alleged to have conducted illegal trades.

Behind Closed Doors

How It All Began

The lawsuit stems from previous nationwide litigation amongst the named defendants, which were ordered to pay approximately $2.31 billion in settlement money following worldwide regulatory probes that had led to roughly $10 billion in fines for several of the banks and indictments of various traders.

The plaintiffs are affected firms that ultimately sought to “opt out” of receiving any settlement money due to the belief that they could earn more money in damages through a separate suit. Among some of the non-financial parties suing the banks are the California State Teachers’ Retirement System known as CalSTRS.

From the earlier litigation, the largest settlement came by way of Citigroup, which was ordered to pay approximately $402 million to the affected parties. Other groups – such as Credit Suisse – have yet to settle their cases.

Some Final Points

The investors are being represented by the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, headquartered in Los Angeles. Representatives of the law firm commented:

The European Commission is expected to impose further substantial fines when it concludes its investigation, which is expected to happen this year.

At the time of writing, the foreign exchange market is estimated to account for roughly $5.1 trillion in transactions each day.

Maybe Crypto Isn’t So Bad After all

In a world where cryptocurrency is constantly alleged to be manipulated, mishandled and the subject of malicious activity, traditional financial institutions seem to have a considerably longer pattern of misappropriating funds and information. Remember Wells Fargo? The mega-bank was recently ordered to pay over $140 million in settlement money to customers that had accounts opened in their names by bank officials without their permission.

While there have certainly been a few bad actors in the crypto exchange space, it pales in comparison to the theft committed by – and gotten away with – by traditional banks. Instances like these make us wonder if in the future, crypto – once all the kinks are officially worked out – will be the only way for humans to retain complete control over their finances and maintain their full privacy.

Were the plaintiffs right to reject the settlement money, or are they just being greedy? Post your comments and thoughts below!

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