Regulators scrutinized in Australia cartel case against Citi, Deutsche, JPM

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© Reuters. Regulators scrutinized in Australia cartel case against Citi, Deutsche, JPM© Reuters. Regulators scrutinized in Australia cartel case against Citi, Deutsche, JPM

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Two Australian regulators may have agreed not to pursue JPMorgan Chase & Co (N:) over its role in a criminal cartel case in exchange for its help in prosecuting the other banks involved, a lawyer for another bank told a court on Thursday.

The investment bank and two rivals, Citigroup Inc (N:) and Deutsche Bank AG (DE:), worked on a A$2.5 billion stock issue for retail lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (AX:) in 2015.

Those banks and their former executives – but not JPMorgan – have been charged with criminal cartel behavior. Regulators say they agreed to keep some of the stock to prop up its price, and a pre-trial hearing has heard JPMorgan cooperated with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in exchange for immunity.

A lawyer for ANZ told the court on Thursday his client was seeking documents detailing contact between the ACCC and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), a corporate regulator that was not directly involved in bringing the charges.

“It would … be an abuse of power if ASIC had decided not to bring (separate) proceedings against JPMorgan for the reason that the ACCC had successfully put pressure on them to do so,” said ANZ’s lawyer, Tim Game.

Game later told the court he was not alleging misconduct by either regulator, but rather that he wanted to see their communications. The regulators have resisted handing over some of the documents the defense has sought.

“There is no evidence whatsoever suggesting that ASIC is engaging in any of that conduct,” ASIC lawyer Sue McNicol told the court.

The case is being closely watched by investment bankers around the world because it could influence how they are allowed to conduct joint capital raisings.

A year and half after the charges were brought, no trial date has been set and none of the accused – Citi, Deutsche, ANZ and several of their staff and ex-staff – have entered a formal plea. All have said they will fight the charges, which carry prison terms.

The pre-trial hearings will resume in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on Friday.

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