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Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and ANZ face criminal cartel charges

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. (ANZ), along with Deutsche Bank (DB) and Citigroup (C) are facing criminal cartel charges for a $1.9 billion share sale done in 2015. The case pertains to the placement of 80.8 million shares by ANZ to raise capital, out of which 25.5 million shares were taken by lead managers and later sold in the market. They are also accused of not disclosing this important fact.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused the banks of cartel behavior with intentions to rake in profits and said it would pursue criminal charges against them in an unprecedented instance as opposed to the normal civil charges. Experts pointed out that this could mean the agency has a strong case against the group. If found guilty, the offence involves heavy penalties along with lengthy jail terms.

All the involved banks have denied any misconduct on their parts and said they would defend themselves. ANZ said it believed it acted lawfully and would contest the allegations against itself and its Treasurer Rick Moscati, who was named by the agency. Deutsche Bank said it was cooperating with the investigation.

JPMorgan too was an underwriter in the transaction but has not been named by the ACCC

JPMorgan (JPM) too was an underwriter in the transaction but has not been named by the ACCC and no update was provided for the same. Shares of ANZ fell following the news and the incident once again puts the spotlight on Australia’s scandal-ridden financial services industry that has faced numerous allegations including misleading authorities, bribery, and forgery of documents. It is hoped that the scandal and the ensuing prosecution will lead to much-needed reforms in the banking and finance sector in Australia.

On a separate note, Deutsche Bank in particular is facing a rough patch right now with a credit ratings downgrade and its US operations being labelled as troubled. The bank, which recently announced job cuts and a business restructuring, has been dealt another blow by the cartel charges. Despite its gloomy situation, Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing assured that the bank is in a sound position financially and has achieved a lot to be proud of. He said the bank is taking the necessary steps to improve its position.

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