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ANZ, Macquarie's cartel fines approved

AAP logoAAP 14/12/2016 Stuart Condie

The Federal Court has approved multi-million dollar fines slapped on ANZ and Macquarie Bank for attempted fixing of the benchmark rate for the Malaysian ringgit, reaching the decision only "with some hesitation".

Justice Michael Wigney on Wednesday approved a $9 million fine for ANZ and $6 million fine for Macquarie for cartel conduct, and said he would likely have imposed heftier punishments than those agreed by the banks and the competition watchdog in November - but that the fines were still appropriate.

ANZ was fined $900,000 per offence, and Macquarie $750,000, which Justice Wigney observed was at the very low end of the range of fines on offer.

"I do not suggest for a moment that, all other things being equal, I would have imposed penalties of $900,000 for each of the contraventions were it not for the fact that the parties had agreed and proposed penalties of that amount," said Justice Wigney, who also made a similar observation about Macquarie..

"I almost certainly would have imposed higher penalties, being penalties towards the higher end of the range."

ANZ and Macquarie had both admitted their traders had communicated with other banks in an attempt to influence the benchmark rate for the ringgit, and co-operated with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's investigation.

"It is 'highly desirable' that the agreed penalties be accepted and imposed," Justice Wigney said.

"That conclusion has been reached with some hesitation, and not without some solicitude."

Each bank was ordered to pay $200,000 toward the ACCC's costs in bringing the case.

"These penalties underline the seriousness of the conduct involved in these proceedings," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

"This conduct had the potential to undermine the integrity of foreign exchange markets and undermine healthy economic growth."

ANZ said last month that it had accepted responsibility for the behaviour of three of its former employees, and had changed its compliance, training and monitoring systems to avoid any repeat.

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