U.S. seeks billions from global banks in currency investigation

MARCH 13, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

Settlements would end an inquiry into allegations that banks manipulated currency markets.

(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is seeking about $1 billion each from global banks being investigated for manipulation of currency markets, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the talks.

The figure is a starting point in settlement discussions, with some banks being asked for more and some less, Bloomberg said.

One bank that has cooperated from the beginning is expected to pay far less and penalties of about $4 billion are on the table, Bloomberg reported, adding that the number could change markedly.

With banks pushing back harder than in some previous negotiations, including those for mortgage-backed securities, the final penalties could be lower, Bloomberg said.

The discussions, which have begun in earnest in recent weeks, could lead to settlements that would resolve U.S. accusations of criminal activity in the currency markets against Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase,Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS Group, Bloomberg said.

Prosecutors are also pressing Barclays, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland, to plead guilty, Bloomberg reported.

Last year, regulators fined six major banks, including HSBC Holdings, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, a total of $4.3 billion for failing to stop traders from trying to manipulate the foreign exchange market.

UBS, the first bank to notify U.S. authorities of possible misconduct, has been granted immunity from prosecution for antitrust violations, Bloomberg reported.

Barclays, JP Morgan Chase and UBS declined to comment. Citi and Royal Bank of Scotland could not be immediately reached for comment.