US authorities are pressing major banks to plead guilty to manipulating foreign currency prices, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Justice Department is seeking such admissions from British banks Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland and the US banks JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, the newspaper said, quoting what it called lawyers briefed on the matter as part of a long-running probe.
Such plea deals are common in the United States, where companies agree to pay fines to avoid going to trial.
These plea deals generally include a clause in which the company does not admit to any wrongdoing. That protects them from possible third-party lawsuits in the future.
The Times said that this would be the first time in decades in which a US institution would plead guilty to criminal charges.
US authorities had previously obtained guilty pleas from Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas, the paper noted.
It also said a probe by New York state regulators had revealed previously unreported currency misconduct.
New York’s financial regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, initially focused on practices carried out by Barclays and Deutsche Bank. But his people have expanded their probe to include Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale.
None of these banks have been accused of wrongdoing, and they are cooperating with the investigation, the Times said.
But it added that any plea deal reached with the federal Justice Department would not cover wrongdoing that might surface in the probe by New York state authorities.
The currency investigation began two years ago amid suspicion that Wall Street traders manipulated foreign exchange prices in line with their own interests.
In November, six banks moved to close the first phase of the case. They agreed to pay a combined $4.25 billion in fines to settle with financial regulators in Washington and Britain. The settlement included JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS and HSBC.