A senior manager at HSBC was arrested in New York for his role in a conspiracy to rig currency benchmarks, according to two people familiar with the matter, becoming the first person to be charged in the Justice Department's three-year investigation into foreign-exchange rigging at global banks.
Mark Johnson, HSBC's global head of foreign exchange cash trading in London, was taken into custody at John F. Kennedy International Airport Tuesday and is scheduled to appear before a judge in federal court in Brooklyn Wednesday morning, said the people, who asked not to be named because the case hasn't been made public. He's charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the people said.
Johnson's arrest comes more than a year after five global banks pleaded guilty to charges related to the rigging of currency benchmarks. HSBC, which wasn't part of those criminal cases, in November 2014 agreed to pay $618 million in penalties to U.S. and British regulators to resolve currency manipulation allegations. HSBC, which still faces investigations by the Justice Department and other authorities for the conduct, has set aside $1.3 billion for possible settlements, according to an August filing.
Rob Sherman, an HSBC spokesman, and Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment.
The Justice Department has faced skepticism over its ability to charge individuals in the case, although people familiar with the probe told Bloomberg News that charges could come by this summer.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve banned former UBS Group AG trader Matthew Gardiner from the banking industry for life for his role rigging currency benchmarks.
Gardiner used electronic chat rooms, with names including The Cartel and The Mafia, to facilitate the rigging of foreign-exchange benchmarks and to disclose confidential customer information to traders at other banks, the Fed said in a statement Tuesday. That matter is separate from the one involving Johnson, the people said.
Gardiner has been helping U.S. prosecutors who are trying to build currency-rigging cases against individuals for violation of antitrust laws, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News in April. He hasn't been publicly charged and it isn't clear if he has been granted immunity for cooperation. A lawyer for Gardiner didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment.