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DOJ Launches Criminal Investigation Into Deutsche Bank Russian Trades

Deutsche Bank just can’t seem to get out of its own way and indeed, it’s becoming increasingly clear that when it comes to malfeasance, the German lender is without equal. 

Just days after WSJ revealed that the bank’s $2.5 billion LIBOR settlement could be in jeopardy due to the apparent mishandling of chat records dating back to 2005 (which, incidentally, is when Anshu Jain instituted a new seating arrangement that placed LIBOR submitters next to traders), Bloomberg says Loretta Lynch’s Justice Department has launched a criminal probe into the bank’s alleged role in facilitating a series of trades which may have allowed Russian clients to launder billions through the bank's trading desks. 

The "mirror trades" in question aren’t terribly complicated and indeed, it appears as though they would have been quite easy to identify if you knew what you were looking for. Here’s Bloomberg:

The trades under investigation involve stocks bought by Russian clients in rubles through Deutsche Bank, and simultaneous trades through London in which the bank bought the same securities for similar amounts in U.S. dollars, people familiar with the matter have said.

Got it. So basically, Deutsche Bank moved some money out of the country for a few Russians. 

Here’s what the bank had to say about the trades in its latest interim report:

Deutsche Bank is investigating the circumstances around equity trades entered into by certain clients with Deutsche Bank in Moscow and London that offset one another. The total volume of the transactions under review is significant. The ongoing internal investigation includes a review as to whether violations of law, regulation or policy have occurred, as well as a review of Deutsche Bank's related internal controls. Deutsche Bank has advised regulators and law enforcement authorities in several jurisdictions (including Germany, Russia, the UK and US) of this investigation. Deutsche Bank has taken disciplinary measures with regards to certain individuals in this matter and will continue to do so with respect to others as warranted.

But as one analyst in Hamburg notes, "the sums we’re talking about aren’t peanuts," which means this isn’t going to be swept under the rug before every regulator from New York to Moscow extracts its fair share of protection money from the bank. 

As for the Justice Department, Loretta Lynch’s ongoing effort to prove how serious the US is about prosecuting criminality on Wall Street has led to at least one other open investigation involving Deutsche Bank. As we noted in "DoJ To Tax Wall Street (Again) In MBS Probe," the DoJ is now pursuing a fresh round of MBS-related settlements with banks that knowingly packaged and sold shoddy CDOs, cementing Lynch’s role as the person in charge of shaking down Wall Street for government protection money, and Deutsche Bank is among the targets.

Amusingly, the New York DFS (which is investigating whether the bank might have deliberately scrubbed an "unknown number" of LIBOR chats from its system) is also looking into the Russian trades. Here’s Bloomberg again:

Those mirror trades have also come under scrutiny of New York’s banking regulator, a person familiar with the matter has said. The state’s Department of Financial Services has asked Deutsche Bank for e-mails, memos, client lists and other documents as it looks into whether those trades were used to help Russian clients skirt U.S. sanctions laws, according to the person. The DFS also asked for information about whether any of the bank’s other operations, including those in New York, were connected with the trades, the person has said.

So in other words, once Deutsche Bank has finished explaining to the DFS how, despite its best efforts, it just can’t seem to find all of the LIBOR-related DB Chat messages regulators are interested in reviewing, the bank will get around to digging up any "e-mails, memos, and other documents" it can (or can’t) locate related to the mirror trades. 

In the end, the story will be the same. More evidence of endemic corruption will come to light allowing government entities to extract still more settlement payouts. 

Chances that any actual Deutsche Bank employees get "Tom Hayes-ed": slim. 

Chances that a few traders are fired and then promptly find lucrative new work somewhere in the Swiss financial community: pretty good.