Another day, another bank scandal

Credit: Canadian Pacific

This time Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ) and Macquarie Group Ltd (ASX: MQG) have admitted trying to act as a cartel to influence the benchmark rate for the Malaysian ringgit.

ANZ has admitted to ten instances of attempted cartel conduct and Macquarie eight separate instances in 2011, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Both banks attempted to influence the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) MYR Fixing rate. Traders from ANZ, Macquarie and several other banks communication via private chat rooms about daily submissions to be made to the ABS. The ABS MYR Fixing rate was derived from those submissions. Although Macquarie wasn’t a submitting bank, it often initiated discussions between traders.

An ‘agreed settlement’ has been filed with the Federal court, and ANZ has agreed to pay a fine of $9 million. Macquarie has agreed to pay a fine of $6 million, and both banks will make a contribution to the ACCC’s costs. But it is still up to the Federal Court to decide whether these penalties are appropriate.

Macquarie says the conduct involved a single, junior trader who was fired in 2012 and that no senior management or any other Macquarie employees were involved in or aware of the conduct. ANZ says just three employees were involved – and none of them are currently employed by the bank. But the bank does accept responsibility and says it apologises for the actions of its former employees.

Both banks say they have improved their systems, conducted additional training and implemented better surveillance of communications.

But given the financial planning scandals – which involves banks including the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA), the benchmark interest rate fixing scandals in Australia – involving National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) and Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) as well as ANZ, questions need to be asked about the banks’ culture.

Why would their staff even consider that these actions were appropriate unless there was a culture that allowed it to happen? It doesn’t seem like the individuals were the prime beneficiaries, but the banks they were working for.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn't own shares in any companies mentioned. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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