Foreign currency trading: Mellon charged with fraud

Foreign currency trading earned Mellon $2 billion extra by defrauding clients, New York attorney general charges. Mellon says state misunderstands bank's role in foreign currency trading.

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    In this file photo, the Bank of New York Mellon building is shown in New York. New York's attorney general sued Mellon Oct. 4, 2011, claiming it defrauded clients in foreign currency trading over 10 years.
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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Bank of New York Mellon for $2 billion on Tuesday, claiming it earned that amount over 10 years by defrauding clients in foreign currency exchange transactions.

According to Schneiderman's office, BNY Mellon misrepresented rates it would give currency transactions, providing nearly the worst rates of the trading day instead of the best. The case began with a 2009 whistle-blower complaint followed by an investigation. Clients include public pension funds.

New York City joined in the lawsuit. Deputy Comptroller Ricardo Morales said officials are confident pensioners and taxpayers will recoup money they are owed.

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The bank said the lawsuit was "prosecutorial overreach" based on "a fundamental misunderstanding" of the role of custodian banks in the global foreign currency trading. BNY Mellon said it is confident it will prevail in the suit, which was filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

On the same day, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York also announced it had filed a civil fraud lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against the bank, alleging BNY Mellon engaged in a scheme to defraud custodial clients who have used the bank's foreign exchange services from at least 2000 to the present.

The suit seeks injunctive relief and hundreds of millions of dollars in civil penalties under the Institutional Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

BNY Mellon spokesman Kevin Heine said the bank is confident it provides its institutional clients and their investment managers with "competitive and attractive" foreign-exchange pricing, the information they need to make informed trading decisions.

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