Johannesburg – The Competition Commission on Wednesday welcomed the Tribunal's decision to confirm its settlement of almost R70-million agreement with Citibank NA in relation to the bank's involvement in a forex trading cartel.
This comes after Citibank was fined R69,500,860 administrative penalty for its role in the unfolding collusion in foreign currency deals. In the settlement agreement, Citibank admitted that between 2007 and 2013 it colluded with its competitors in respect of spot trading of ZAR currency pairs, in contravention of the Competition Act. These competitors were the 16 other banks that were cited as the respondents in the complaint referral.
Citibank also agreed to fully cooperate with the Commission in relation to the prosecution of the other banks. This cooperation includes providing evidence which is in Citibank's possession or under its control against the other banks facing prosecution – and to provide witnesses to testify in support of the Commission's case against the other banks.
The Commission said none of the banks have to date filed their answer to the case except HSBC which has filed papers, disputing that it participated in the cartel. Subsequent to the Commission’s filing of its case, the Tribunal convened a pre-hearing in March at which most of the banks indicated that they would be filing exception applications challenging the Commission's case on the basis that it did not have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the matter.
Banks indicated that they require evidence in the Commission's possession against them. But it was only Standard Bank that filed an application to compel production of evidence against them.
The Tribunal has directed banks wishing to file an exception applications should do so by May 3. A second pre-hearing would be held in June where further directives on proceedings will be given. Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said in a statement that the Commission has also filed its supplementary affidavit explaining that it has jurisdiction over cartel conduct that affects the value of the rand wherever it may have taken place.
"The Commission believes that the case against the banks is very clear from its papers and we will be resisting any attempts to delay proceedings at the Tribunal on the basis of technicalities," Bonakele said. "We therefore call upon the banks to file their answer to the case in the interest of the speedy resolution of this matter."
African News Agency