By David Enrich and Katie Martin
An escalating probe into possible rigging of foreign-exchange markets has prompted some of the world's biggest banks to suspend a number of high-profile currency traders in New York, London and Tokyo in the latest market-manipulation investigation to rock the banking industry.
More than a dozen traders at five banks are now either suspended or on leaves of absence in connection with global currency-rigging investigations, according to people familiar with the probes. The investigations, which are focusing in part on electronic chat rooms with names such as "The Cartel," have uncovered messages in which traders appeared to inappropriately share market-sensitive information with competitors and joked about their ability to influence exchange rates, according to people familiar with chat-room transcripts that have been handed over to regulators.
In a sign of the escalating nature of the investigation, at least two banks-- Barclays PLC (BCS) and UBS AG (UBS) --have hired criminal-defense lawyers to represent some of their employees who have been put on leave, according to people familiar with the investigations. The suspended traders either declined to comment, didn't respond to requests for comment or couldn't be reached.
The swath of departures leaves big gaps on banks' currency-trading desks and people in the industry said it could cause disruption to the vast foreign-exchange business. In London, the world's biggest foreign-exchange hub, three of the senior traders who are on leave are past or present members of a Bank of England committee that oversees the currency market.
The foreign-exchange probe is the latest in a growing list of investigations into how lightly regulated financial markets are susceptible to potential manipulation by bands of traders and brokers.
(An expanded version of this story appears at WSJ:com http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303618904579171390414686878?mod=mktw.)
-MarketWatch; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
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11-01-13 1613ETCopyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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