Seven big banks settle U.S. rate-rigging lawsuit for $324 million

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seven of the world’s biggest banks have agreed to pay $324 million to settle a private U.S. lawsuit accusing them of rigging an interest rate benchmark used in the $553 trillion derivatives market.

The Bank of America logo is seen at their offices at Canary Wharf financial district in London,Britain, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

The settlement made public on Tuesday, which requires court approval, resolves antitrust claims against Bank of America Corp BAC.N, Barclays Plc BARC.L, Citigroup Inc C.N, Credit Suisse Group AG CSGN.S, Deutsche Bank AG DBKGn.DE, JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc RBS.L.

Several pension funds and municipalities accused 14 banks, including those that settled, of conspiring to rig the “ISDAfix” benchmark for their own gain from at least 2009 to 2012.

Companies and investors use ISDAfix to price swaps transactions, commercial real estate mortgages and structured debt securities.

The alleged illegal activity included the execution of rapid trades just before the rate was set each day, called "banging the close," causing the British brokerage ICAP Plc IAP.L to delay trades until they moved ISDAfix where they wanted, and posting rates that did not reflect market activity.

Under the settlement, payments would include $52 million from JPMorgan; $50 million each from Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and RBS; $42 million from Citigroup and $30 million from Barclays.

The remaining defendants are BNP Paribas SA BNPP.PA, Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N, HSBC Holdings Plc HSBA.L, Morgan Stanley MS.N, Nomura Holdings Inc 8604.T, UBS AG UBSG.S, Wells Fargo & Co WFC.N and ICAP, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

Spokespeople for BNP Paribas, HSBC, Morgan Stanley and UBS declined to comment. The other non-settling defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tuesday’s accord came five weeks after U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan refused to dismiss the lawsuit.

U.S. and European regulators have also examined whether ISDAfix was set properly, and Barclays agreed last May to pay a $115 million fine to settle a U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission probe.

The private lawsuit is one of many pending in Manhattan federal court accusing banks of conspiring to rig rate benchmarks, securities prices or commodities prices.

The case is Alaska Electrical Pension Fund et al v. Bank of America Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-07126.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Bill Rigby