Citigroup Pays Fine to Settle South African Rand Collusion Probe
Comment of the Day

February 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Citigroup Pays Fine to Settle South African Rand Collusion Probe

This article by Vernon Wessels and Renee Bonorchis for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Citigroup Inc. agreed to pay an administrative penalty of 70 million rand ($5.4 million) to settle a South African antitrust investigation that it participated in a cartel to manipulate the value of the rand.

The figure does not exceed 10 percent of Citigroup’s annual turnover in South Africa and comes after the New York-based lender undertook to cooperate with the Competition Commission and “avail witnesses to assist the prosecution of the other banks that colluded in this matter,” the Pretoria-based commission said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.

“This settlement was done to encourage speedy settlement and full disclosure to strengthen the evidence for prosecution of the other banks,” Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said in the statement. Barclays Africa Group Ltd. has also agreed to cooperate, people familiar with the matter said last week.

The commission on Feb. 15 referred a collusion case to the country’s Competition Tribunal for prosecution and identified lenders including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, HSBC Holdings Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Credit Suisse Group AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Nomura International Plc as among those that participated in price fixing and market allocation in the trading of foreign-currency pairs involving the rand.

Commerzbank AG, Macquarie Group Ltd., Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., Investec Ltd. and Standard Bank Group Ltd. were also named.

Eoin Treacy's view

This news item may be responsible for the spike in open interest in Rand options. The currency has been strengthening since the news broke, in line with other commodity currencies and suggests that a good many traders were short and that the continued resilience of the commodity complex is a tailwind for related currencies.

The Rand moved to a new recovery high last week and a sustained move above ZAR13.5 would be required to question current scope for continued strengthening.

In nominal terms, the FTSE/JSE All Share has been largely rangebound since late 2014 but is now firming from the region of the trend mean. A sustained move above 55,000 would confirm a return to medium-term demand dominance.

The iShares MSCI South Africa ETF is testing the upper side of a yearlong range and lower side of the overhead trading range. A sustained move above $60 would confirm a return to medium-term demand dominance. 

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