Former Global Head of HSBC’s Foreign Exchange Cash-Trading Found Guilty of Orchestrating Multimillion-Dollar Front-Running Scheme

Monday, October 23, 2017

The former head of global foreign exchange cash trading at HSBC Bank plc, a subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc (collectively HSBC), was found guilty today for his role in a scheme to defraud an HSBC client through a multimillion-dollar scheme commonly referred to as “front running.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde of the Eastern District of New York, Inspector General Jay N. Lerner of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew Vale of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

Mark Johnson, 51, a United Kingdom citizen with residences both in the U.K. and the United States, was found guilty after a four-week jury trial of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and eight counts of wire fraud.  Sentencing date has not been scheduled.  U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York presided over the trial.  Johnson was arrested on a criminal complaint in July 2016 and indicted in August 2016.

“This verdict makes clear that the defendant corruptly manipulated the foreign exchange market for the benefit of his bank and his bonus pool, to the detriment of the bank’s client,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco.  “This case demonstrates the Criminal Division’s commitment to protecting the financial system from harm, and holding corporate executives, including at the world’s largest and most sophisticated financial institutions, responsible for their crimes.”

“The jury found that former HSBC banker Mark Johnson exploited confidential information provided by a client of the bank to execute trades that were intended to generate millions of dollars in profits for him and the bank at the expense of their client,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde.  “This Office, together with its law enforcement partners, will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who would so abuse their client relationships and, more generally, undermine public confidence in the operation of the financial markets by engaging in fraudulent schemes.”

“This case involved a complex fraud scheme to ‘front run’ a foreign exchange transaction in order to generate millions of dollars in illicit profits for HSBC, which also indirectly benefited individual traders,” said Inspector General Lerner. “Such cases are challenging, but important, to bring against bank insiders who misuse their positions and undermine the integrity of a major international financial institution.”

“Mark Johnson misused confidential information to manipulate currency prices and defrauded a client out of more than $7 million,” said Assistant Director in Charge Vale.  “The American people need to be assured that we are working vigorously to ensure integrity is upheld in financial services industries.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who engage in illegal business practices.”

According to the evidence presented at trial, in November and December 2011, Johnson cheated an HSBC client out of millions of dollars by misusing information provided to him by a client that hired HSBC to execute a foreign exchange transaction related to a planned sale of one of the client’s foreign subsidiaries.  HSBC was selected to execute the foreign exchange transaction – which was going to require converting approximately $3.5 billion in sales proceeds into British Pound Sterling – in October 2011.  HSBC’s agreement with the client required the bank to keep the details of the client’s planned transaction confidential.  Instead, Johnson misused confidential information he received about the client’s transaction to cheat the client out of millions of dollars, the evidence showed.

Shortly before the transaction, which occurred in December 2011, Johnson and other traders acting under his direction purchased Pound Sterling for their own benefit in their HSBC “proprietary” accounts.  Johnson then caused the $3.5 billion foreign exchange transaction to be executed in a manner that was designed to “ramp,” or drive up, the price of the Pound Sterling, benefiting their proprietary positions and HSBC at the expense of their client.

As part of their scheme, Johnson and his co-conspirators made misrepresentations to the client about the transaction that concealed the self-serving nature of their actions.  In total, Johnson and the traders he supervised generated HSBC profits of roughly $7.5 million from the execution of the FX  transaction for the victim company.

The investigation was conducted by the FDIC’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant support.  Assistant Chiefs Carol Sipperly and Brian Young and Trial Attorney Blake Goebel of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Elbert of the Eastern District of New York’s Business and Securities Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section plays a pivotal role in the Department of Justice’s fight against white collar crime around the country, focusing on cases of national significance and international scope.  Fraud Section prosecutors have vast experience in investigating and prosecuting securities and financial fraud, health care fraud and foreign corruption.  The Section is routinely the national leader in large, sophisticated white collar investigations and prosecutions, frequently in partnership with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and in coordination with foreign law enforcement agencies.  Learn more about the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section at:

District Man Sentenced to Year in Prison For Carrying Out Bank Fraud Scheme

Monday, July 17, 2017

Admitted Filing Forged Documents, Leading to Nearly $340,000 in Ill-Gotten Gains

WASHINGTON – David Tyrone Johnson, 48, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison on federal charges arising from a real estate scheme involving forged mortgage satisfaction documents, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Andrew Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Johnson pled guilty in April 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to charges of bank fraud and making false statements. He was sentenced by the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson. Following his prison term, Johnson will be placed on two years of supervised release. He also must pay $337,105 in restitution to Fidelity National Title Insurance Company, as well as a forfeiture money judgment of $170,688.

According to a statement of offense submitted at the time of the guilty plea, SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. loaned a friend of Johnson’s approximately $470,000 in 2008 to purchase residential real estate in the 100 block of 57th Street SE. By 2009, the friend had failed to repay the mortgage loans, and in 2010, SunTrust Mortgage filed a notice of foreclosure with the District of Columbia’s Recorder of Deeds. In April 2013, SunTrust Mortgage began the process of foreclosing on the mortgage and taking possession of the property, due to the friend’s failure to make good and timely payments on the mortgage loans.

Sometime before Oct. 2, 2013, Johnson caused the creation of two phony and forged certificates of satisfaction, which falsely represented that the SunTrust Mortgage loans at the property on 57th Street SE had been paid and that his friend owned the property “free and clear.” According to the statement of offense, on Oct. 2, 2013, Johnson filed these two phony certificates of satisfaction with the Recorder of Deeds.

In or about December 2013, after the fake certificates of satisfaction allowed the friend to sell the property without paying the outstanding mortgages, the title and escrow company wired out the sales proceeds of $337,105, of which approximately $170,688 was obtained by Johnson.

In addition, in 2015, Johnson was required to submit a financial disclosure form to his government agency employer; however, on that form, Johnson failed to disclose the money he obtained from the sales proceeds of the property, knowing that he had obtained the money. This failure to inform his government agency employer was material or important to his employer, and one that resulted in a false statement on his financial disclosure form.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Phillips and Assistant Director in Charge Vale expressed appreciation for the work performed by those who investigated the case and assisted in preparing it for trial from the FBI, including the Washington Field Office and the FBI Laboratory. They also acknowledged the efforts of those working on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Christopher Toms; former Paralegal Specialists Corinne Kleinman and Kaitlyn Krueger; Litigation Tech Specialist Ron Royal, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Swanton, who assisted with forfeiture issues. Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who prosecuted the case.