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Federal Reserve Bans, Fines Former Barclays FX Trader

May 21, 2017

On Friday, the Federal Reserve imposed a $1.2 million fine and permanently banned Christopher Ashton, the former Global Head of Foreign Exchange (FX) Spot Trading at Barclays Bank PLC, on charges he manipulated FX pricing benchmarks. The Fed originally announced these sanctions last August – over 9 months ago – but they were only finalized this week after Ashton provided no inclination to respond to the Fed’s charges.


Ashton was charged by the Fed in June 2016 with unsafe and unsound practices related to his use of electronic chat rooms to: (i) coordinate FX trading; (ii) facilitate manipulation of FX pricing benchmarks; and, (iii) disclose confidential customer information to traders at other organizations


The enforcement proceedings against Ashton follow the Board's May 2015 enforcement actions against Barclays for unsafe and unsound practices related to its compliance and control failures concerning its practices in the FX markets. The Board required Barclays to pay $342 million in penalties.


‘THE CARTEL’ CHAT ROOM.    Most prominent in the Fed investigation was “The Cartel” chat room, where Ashton and senior traders at JPMorgan, UBS and other banks allegedly shared information and agreed upon ways to try and move currency benchmarks. In July 2016, former UBS Group trader Matthew Gardiner – another member of The Cartel – was banned by the Fed from the banking industry.


In its case, the Fed also said that Ashton created a chat room called “Sterling Lads,” which he used for discussing trading in the British Pound, and for his alleged efforts at rate manipulation. As further proof that Ashton colluded in the FX markets, the Fed pointed out that Ashton’s bonus had nearly doubled, from $497,000 to $948,000, after he joined the live electronic discussions.