Standard Bank acts on collusion complaints

Windhoek-The Standard Bank Group says it considers recent allegations of collusion in an extremely serious light and remains committed to maintaining the highest levels of control and compliance with all relevant regulations.

In a statement released late last week the Group says the allegations are confined to US Dollar and South African Rand trading activities within SBSA and do not relate to the conduct of the Group more broadly.

In April 2015 the South African Competition Commission announced it had initiated a complaint against Standard New York Securities Inc (SNYS) and 21 other institutions concerning possible contravention of the South African Competition Act in relation to US Dollar and South African Rand trading between 2007 and 2013. At the time no mention was made of Standard Bank of South Africa Limited (SBSA).

On 15 February 2017 the Competition Commission lodged five complaints with the Competition Tribunal against 18 institutions, including SBSA and SNYS, in which it alleges unlawful collusion between those institutions in the trading of US Dollar and South African Rand. According to SBSA, it only learned of the complaints at this time and is alleged to have been implicated in one, and SNYS in two, of the five complaints.

"SBSA and SNYS are engaging with the Competition Commission to better understand the basis for the complaints and the appropriate response. Pending the outcome of these engagements and in the light of these historic allegations only having been brought to SBSA's attention on 15 February, no suspension of current employees of SBSA has taken place," read a Standard Bank Group statement.

South Africa's National Treasury recently came out very strongly against reported collusion by several banks implicated in alleged price fixing. This comes after the Competition Commission referred a collusion case to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution following the completion of an investigation into price fixing and market allocation by 17 banks, including three South African banks.

The Commission said it found that from at least 2007, the banks had a general agreement to collude on prices for bids, offers and bid-offer spreads for the spot trades in relation to currency trading involving US Dollar/Rand currency pair. At the Tribunal, the matter has entered a new phase in which the banks would have an opportunity to answer for themselves.

The SA Treasury said in a statement that this process must be allowed to run its course without fear, prejudice or undue influence. "We view this matter in a very serious light and welcome any steps taken against wrongdoing by any financial institutions, and will respect whatever outcome of this process at the Competition Tribunal," Treasury said.

"If proven to be true, it would confirm the pervasiveness of unbridled greed within the ranks of the forex trading sections of banks even after evidence that such behaviour has the potential to collapse national and global financial systems and bring about immeasurable pain to ordinary people as evidenced by the deep recession of 2008-09, which was triggered by banks conducting their business recklessly. This has to be punished and brought to an end."

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia