Barclays to pay $50 million to end U.S. currency rigging lawsuit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Barclays Plc agreed to pay $50 million to settle a U.S. lawsuit claiming it rigged its foreign exchange trading system to reject client orders that would be unprofitable for the British bank.

A view of the exterior of the Barclays U.S. Corporate headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The preliminary, all-cash settlement with investors led by Axiom Investment Advisors LLC was disclosed in papers filed on Wednesday night in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and requires a judge’s approval.

It comes three months after Barclays agreed to pay $150 million and fire a senior electronic trading official to resolve similar claims by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

Barclays denied wrongdoing and agreed to provide information that may help Axiom pursue similar cases against other banks.

Mark Lane, a Barclays spokesman, declined to comment.

The lawsuit arose from “Last Look,” a Barclays trading system feature meant to deter traders from exploiting tiny delays, often just a few milliseconds, in the flow of information within the marketplace.

Instead, according to the New York regulator, Barclays used Last Look as a “general filter” to weed out unprofitable trades, and gave vague or inaccurate responses to clients who asked why their trades were not being processed.

Axiom, which is based in Manhattan, said this caused “significant damages” for Barclays’ foreign exchange counterparties, and amounted to breach of contract or fraud.

In September and October 2014, Barclays revised Last Look so that it would reject trades deemed “sufficiently unprofitable” for both customers and the bank, not just the bank, the New York regulator has said.

Barclays is among several banks that in 2015 settled private U.S. litigation over alleged currency rigging. Claims over Last Look were not covered in its settlement.

George Zelcs, a lawyer for Axiom, called the latest Barclays accord “a meaningful initial settlement that hopefully allows us to move forward in other cases,” including a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank over a similar algorithm.

A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman declined to comment.

The case is Axiom Investment Advisors LLC v. Barclays Bank Plc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-09323. The Deutsche Bank case is Axiom Investment Advisors LLC v. Deutsche Bank AG in the same court, No. 15-09945.

Editing by Bernadette Baum