Eight of the world’s biggest banks, including Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, say it is unfair to rope them into a vast London lawsuit over alleged collusion in the foreign exchange market.
The banks, which were sued in 2020 by 11 investment fund groups such as Allianz, PIMCO, BlueCrest and Brevan Howard, told London’s specialist Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) on Thursday the claims against them had simply been filed too late.
“We have invested a huge amount of time and money defending claims we say are time-barred,” said Kieron Beal, a lawyer representing the banks, requesting that the court deal with so-called limitation arguments before proceeding further.
Around 175 investment and pension funds, formed into 11, heavyweight claimant groups, are suing a total of 14 banks in London and the United States to seek hefty but unquantified damages for alleged forex collusion between 2003 and 2013.
The European Commission fined banks more than €1.0 billion ($976 million) in 2019 over forex cartels with names such as “Essex Express” and “Three Way Banana Split”.
But lawyers for the claimants allege they have identified more widespread bank misconduct than the chatrooms the European Commission was examining.
The case hit the headlines in 2020 after claimants brought on board former Barclays and BNP trader Jason Katz, who pleaded guilty in a related criminal case – and paid him $400 per hour as a consultant.
Claimant lawyers say they filed two identical cases – the first in 2018 against six banks – Barclays, Citibank, HSBC HSBA.L, JP Morgan, NatWest and UBS – and a second against a further eight banks in 2020.
Marie Demetriou, a lawyer for the claimants, said allowing the second group of defendants to seek a preliminary decision on limitation would lead to an unacceptable delay and the potential “nightmare scenario” of two identical future trials if the two cases could not then be managed jointly.
“Our only concern is delay,” agreed Sarah Abram, a lawyer for the original defendant group.
“We are six global banks accused of unlawful conduct over a decade in proceedings hanging over us for four years that have already been subject to enormous drift,” she said.
Some of the world’s biggest investment banks have already paid more than a combined $11 billion in fines to settle US, British and European regulatory allegations that traders manipulated currency rates for years.
The CAT judge said he would “reflect on the arguments”.