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By Ciaran Ryan

Moneyweb: Journalist & Host of Moneyweb Crypto Podcast

Competition Appeal Court dismisses rand manipulation allegations against SA banks

The banks were alleged to have been involved in a 'single over-arching conspiracy' to fix the rand.

Standard Bank has welcomed the Competition Appeal Court (CAC) decision to dismiss the case against it and all but a handful of the 28 banks accused by the Competition Commission of rigging the rand.

The case ignited a firestorm of political posturing late last year, with accusations from several parties that the banks were responsible, through manipulating the currency, for the dire economic conditions in the country.

It now appears as if the commission’s case has hit the wall, notwithstanding Standard Chartered (the British bank) agreeing to settle the case and pay a fine of R42.7 million late last year.

ALSO READ: Mbalula calls Rand manipulation ‘corruption’ and ‘criminal’

The case was dismissed against all SA banks appealing the case except Investec, which opted not to join the appeal lodged by the other banks.

The case was also dismissed against foreign banks except JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse. The reasons for the dismissals varied from the court’s lack of proper jurisdiction over foreign banks, citing the incorrect legal entity, to lack of evidence.

Bank vindicated

Standard Bank has welcomed the decision: “The CAC handed down its judgment on 8 January 2024 which accepted the bank’s incontrovertible evidence over a period of seven years that it had not been party to an international conspiracy to manipulate trading in the USD/ZAR currency pair and consequently held that the Competition Commission’s complaint in that regard is dismissed.

ALSO READ: Treasury concerned after bank admits to manipulating the Rand

“Standard Bank has always maintained that the Group is wholly committed to the rule of law, respects the important role of institutions, and upholds South Africa’s Constitutional democracy, and our Constitutional obligation to ensure that our country improves the quality of life of all citizens.

“In its ruling, the Court concluded that the case against Standard Bank ‘does not get out of the legal starting blocks’.”

‘Flimsy evidence’

The banks were alleged to have been involved in a “single over-arching conspiracy” to fix the rand.

They key evidence presented by the commission was a series of 158 chats over seven years between traders in private online chatrooms.

In these chats, the traders were alleged to have conspired to make profits for themselves, reduce risk, and avoid losses when dealing in the ZAR/USD currency pair.

ALSO READ: Standard Chartered admits it manipulated the rand, agrees to R42 million fine

Legal representatives for the banks argued that these 158 chats over seven years constituted flimsy evidence of a single overarching conspiracy. These chats were often vague and, the banks contended, could not be tied to a single instance of alleged currency manipulation.

The Competition Commission has not yet issued a statement and told Moneyweb it is studying the judgment.

For the balance of the respondents – BNP Paribas, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and Credit Suisse Securities – sufficient facts were placed before the court for the matter to proceed to trial, says the CAC ruling.

This article was republished from Moneyweb. Read the original here

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