Former Deutsche Bank, HSBC traders convicted of cheating employers

A HSBC logo sits on display outside an HSBC Holdings Plc bank branch in London, UK, on June 9, 2015.
A HSBC logo sits on display outside an HSBC Holdings Plc bank branch in London, UK, on June 9, 2015. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Two former currency traders from Deutsche Bank and HSBC Holdings were convicted in Singapore yesterday of cheating the banks by making false trades.

Former HSBC senior dealer Ivan Chng and former Deutsche Bank trader Toh Hway Khuan pleaded guilty in separate hearings in the High Court. Both admitted to using their banks' accounts in 2009 to get preferential rates on the US dollar. The cases are unrelated and the men will be sentenced at a later date.

Chng, 48, was charged in 2015 with 149 counts of buying and selling about US$800 million (S$1.1 billion) and unlawfully making about S$230,000. He pleaded guilty to 25 of the charges. Toh, 51, was also charged in 2015, with 39 counts of buying and selling more than US$250 million and unlawfully making about S$140,000.

The trades were a deception and were to the detriment of the banks, prosecutors said in court.

Prosecutors sought a jail term of three months for Toh and six months for Chng to deter those in the financial industry from making personal gains through deceit.

Both men failed to disclose their beneficial ownership in the trades, and their offences were difficult to detect, prosecutors said in court.

Toh's lawyer Lee Teck Leng sought a "high fine", rather than a prison sentence, saying the bank did not suffer actual losses and there was no market impact from his client's conduct.

Toh worked in a "highly stressful trading room where mistakes made could be very costly", his lawyer said, adding that he has been jobless since being fired from Deutsche Bank in 2010.

In Chng's case, the then trader succumbed to the temptation of making money on the side, his lawyer Thong Chee Kun said. Chng, who was a currency trader for more than two decades, became a recluse after he was fired from HSBC and had to work as an Uber Technologies driver, his lawyer said.

Chng, who exceeded the bank's annual target of US$4 million in trading profits for 2008 and 2009, should be fined instead of jailed, Mr Thong said.

The offences happened around the time the Monetary Authority of Singapore was reviewing attempts by banks to rig currency benchmarks between 2007 and 2011.

The regulator censured 20 banks in 2013 and ordered them to improve internal controls.

Probes into the rigging of foreign exchange markets and interest rate benchmarks have led to lenders across the globe paying billions of dollars in fines and an overhaul of how such rates are set.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'Former Deutsche Bank, HSBC traders convicted of cheating employers'. Print Edition | Subscribe