The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has today commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court in Melbourne against the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) for unconscionable conduct and market manipulation in relation to the ANZ’s involvement in setting the bank bill swap reference rate (BBSW) in the period March 2010 to May 2012. The full ASIC statement and related information can be found here.
The BBSW is the primary interest rate benchmark used in Australian financial markets, administered by the Australian Financial Markets Association (AFMA). On 27 September 2013, AFMA changed the method by which the BBSW is calculated. The conduct that the proceedings relate to occurred before the change in methodology.
It is alleged that ANZ traded in a manner intended to create an artificial price for bank bills on 44 separate days during the period of 9 March 2010 to 25 May 2012.
ASIC alleges that on these days ANZ had a large number of products which were priced or valued off BBSW and that it traded in the bank bill market with the intention of moving the BBSW higher or lower. ASIC alleges that ANZ was seeking to maximise its profit or minimise its loss to the detriment of those holding opposite positions to ANZ’s.
ASIC is seeking declarations that ANZ contravened s.12CA, s.12CB and the former s.12CC of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (Cth), s.1041A of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (Corporations Act), and s.912A of the Corporations Act.
Further, ASIC has sought from the court pecuniary penalties against ANZ and an order requiring ANZ to implement a compliance program.
Prior to today’s action, ASIC’s investigations into misconduct in the BBSW has seen ASIC accept enforceable undertakings from UBS-AG, BNP Paribas and the Royal Bank of Scotland (refer: 13-366MR, 14-014MR, 14-169MR). The institutions also made voluntary contributions totalling $3.6 million to fund independent financial literacy projects in Australia.
In July 2015, ASIC published Report 440, which addresses the potential manipulation of financial benchmarks and related conduct issues.