U.S. officials are investigating at least 10 major banks that allegedly rigged prices of precious metals, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Previously, a similar probe by British and German regulators was dropped for lack of evidence.
Prosecutors from the Justice Department's antitrust division are reportedly investigating pricing processes for gold, silver, platinum, and palladium in London, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has opened a civil investigation, the Journal reported.
Initial requests for information have been made by the investigating authorities, including a subpoena from the CFTC to HSBC, according to the bank’s annual report released Monday. The Justice Department also sought documents related to an antitrust probe in November, HSBC said. “This matter is at an early stage and HSBC is cooperating fully,” the bank said about the two probes. “Based on the facts currently known, it is not practicable at this time for HSBC to predict the resolution of these matters.”
In November, Goldman Sachs, Standard Bank, BASF and HSBC were sued in the U.S. in what was called the first national class action lawsuit against alleged price-fixing of metals, Reuters reported. The plaintiff, Modern Settings LLC, alleged that purchasers had lost millions of dollars because of collusion between the defendants.
Last year, Switzerland’s regulatory body said it had found “serious misconduct” by UBS employees in metal pricing, Bloomberg reported. Barclays also had to pay a fine in May, after a trader tried to influence gold prices in 2012.
In addition to HSBC, the banks being investigated are the Bank of Nova Scotia, Barclays PLC, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Société Générale SA, Standard Bank Group Ltd., and UBS AG, sources told the Journal.
Representatives from the banks and the investigating groups declined to comment, according to the Journal.