Britain's financial regulator has intensified talks with six major banks over allegations of collusion and manipulation in the foreign exchange market, setting the stage for a group settlement that could cost them close to £2 billion. Ivor Bennett reports.
The fines have been steadily increasing. But even by London's soaring standards, this is like nothing before. Two billion dollars is the reported payout facing six of the world's biggest banks. RBS, HBSC, JP Morgan, Barclays, Citi and UBS are the lenders in question. They're said to have been in talks with UK regulators this week to find a settlement to an ongoing investigation into alleged currency market manipulation. Even when split between the banks, the fines will still be the largest ever levied in Britain. One bank is potentially in line for a 400 million pound hit. Reuters Jamie McGeever says sources are telling him that despite the size of the fines, the banks are driving discussions. SOUNDBITE (English) JAMIE MCGEEVER, CHIEF EUROPEAN MARKETS CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS, SAYING: "The whole saga, the whole scandal, the whole investigation has been damaging for banks. It's the latest in a long line of probes, investigations and scandals. The banks are willing to pay these large fines to essentially get it off their back, to draw a line under it and move on. So to try and restore their reputational damage to some extent." The scandal has also cast a shadow over London. The city accounts for 40 percent of global currency trading and regulators will be keen to turn over a new leaf. None of the banks have been formally accused of any wrongdoing. But more than 30 traders have been either put on leave, suspended, or fired.