Internal “inquiries” found no evidence that a currency trader employed by Standard Bank did, in fact, participate in the alleged foreign exchange price-fixing cartel comprising 18 banks, the bank said this week. The bank has made an urgent application to the Competition Tribunal to compel the Competition Commission to produce its record of evidence against the banks, or at least against Standard Bank.
This follows an initial request for details of the evidence against it. The request was sent on February 22 – a week after it was announced that this case was being referred to the tribunal.
Without this information, Standard Bank claims it cannot engage or cooperate with investigators, with the intention of securing leniency when fines get handed out.
Another accused bank, London-based HSBC, has also filed its responding papers at the tribunal.
These are not yet publicly available but, in a media statement issued this week, the commission said the bank claimed that it had been falsely accused.
The banks and the commission have already agreed to a two-day hearing in July, where the foreign banks in particular will argue that the tribunal has no jurisdiction over their currency traders, who are not based in South Africa.
The banks also have until Wednesday to file further exemptions they may have.
“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,” said Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele.
According to Standard Bank, however, it is the commission that is delaying things by failing to produce the record of evidence from the start of its investigation, in April 2015.
The probe covers alleged collusion from as far back as 2007.
In an affidavit submitted this week, Jean Meijer, Standard Bank’s attorney in the forex case, said the commission “cannot reasonably contend that the production of the record in this matter is not a task that ought to receive its urgent attention”.
This week’s application contains letters exchanged between the bank and the commission, in which Standard Bank becomes more and more insistent about obtaining the evidence against it.
Meijer also claims that the commission blind sided Standard Bank by including it among the 18 banks being charged in the first place.
“Extraordinarily, Standard Bank became aware of the