Banking giants UBS AG and HSBC Bank USA NA have each agreed to pay $14 million to settle class action claims that they participated in a conspiracy with other banks to manipulate a benchmark interest rate used to set terms for swaps transactions. The agreements totaling $28 million come in the wake of major settlements in the litigation reached last year, including $324 million from seven banks including Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., and a $56.5 million settlement reached with Goldman Sachs. In their suit, the investor Plaintiffs accuse the banks and interbank broker ICAP Capital Markets LLC of having rigged the ISDAfix benchmark rate, which determines valuations for interest-rate derivative products.
Under the settlements with UBS and HSBC, the banks will provide the investors with cash payments totaling $28 million, but also “valuable confirmatory discovery, which will assist Plaintiffs in the prosecution of the non-settling Defendants,” according to a motion for approval submitted to the court by the investors. Similar obligations were included in the agreements with the other banks. The information the investors will receive includes transaction data involving ISDAfix instruments and up to three witness interviews of current employees at HSBC and UBS relating to the suit’s alleged conduct, according to the settlement motion.
The UBS and HSBC settlements bring the total recovery to more than $408 million for the class.
Five Defendants still remain in the litigation: Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, BNP Paribas SA, Wells Fargo Bank NA, Nomura Securities International Inc. and ICAP Capital Markets LLC.
The banks worked closely with interdealer broker ICAP PLC, which until January 2014 was tasked by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association with managing the daily setting of the U.S. dollar-rate version of ISDAfix. The banks were responsible for submitting rate quotes, which ICAP essentially compiled.
It’s claimed in the suit that the parties worked together to set the rate at the point where it was most profitable for them, including engaging in a process known in the industry as “banging the close” where they bought and sold derivative products just before the fix was closed in order to get the price they wanted.
The proposed settlement class includes all persons or entities who “entered into, received or made payments on, settled, terminated, transacted in or held an ISDAfix Instrument” between Jan. 1, 2006, and Jan. 31, 2014.