Ex-Barclays trader pleads guilty in U.S. in forex probe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former Barclays Plc BARC.L trader pleaded guilty on Wednesday to U.S. charges arising from a global investigation into the manipulation of foreign-exchange prices at major banks, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Jason Katz, a former Barclays trader who later worked at BNP Paribas SA BNPP.PA, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to participating in a price-fixing conspiracy, becoming the first person to admit criminal wrongdoing in the probe.

Katz’s plea came after Barclays and three other banks last year pleaded guilty to conspiring to manipulate currency prices. Barclays agreed to pay $2.4 billion to resolve related U.S. and UK probes.

Prosecutors said that from January 2007 until July 2013, Katz, while working at three different financial firms, conspired with traders at other firms to fix prices in Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African currencies.

“These conspirators engaged in blatant collusion and succeeded in manipulating exchange rates for multiple currencies to their advantage,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder said in a statement.

As part of his plea deal, Katz agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department in its ongoing investigation. He also reached an agreement announced by the Federal Reserve Board that would ban him from the banking industry.

Following a court hearing, Katz was released on a $150,000 bond. His lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

According to regulatory filings and his LinkedIn profile, Katz joined Barclays in July 2010 from Standard Bank, and worked in its New York offices until September 2011, when he join BNP Paribas as director of emerging markets foreign exchange trading.

Katz left BNP in July 2013, the Federal Reserve said, and joined Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd ANZ.AX, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He is the third person to face U.S. criminal charges in connection with the foreign-exchange probe.

In July, an HSBC Holdings Plc HSBA.L executive, Mark Johnson, was arrested and charged along with a former executive for participating in a fraudulent scheme involving a $3.5 billion currency transaction. Johnson has pleaded not guilty.

Beyond Barclays, the other banks that pleaded guilty in May 2015 in the foreign-exchange probe included a unit of Citigroup Inc C.N, JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc RBS.L.

A fifth bank, UBS Group AG UBSG.S, pleaded guilty to manipulating benchmark interest rates. All five banks are scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday in a federal court in Connecticut.

The case is U.S. v. Katz, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-cr-003.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker