* Claims narrowed against ScotiaBank, HSBC
* Deutsche Bank settlement agreement expected soon
* Banks accused of suppressing, exploiting silver prices
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, Oct 5 A U.S. judge has dismissed UBS
Group AG as a defendant in a lawsuit accusing big banks
of conspiring to fix silver prices and exploit price distortions
at investors' expense.
In a decision made public on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge
Valerie Caproni in Manhattan also said investors may pursue some
but not all antitrust and manipulation claims against Bank of
Nova Scotia ("ScotiaBank") and HSBC Holdings Plc
Deutsche Bank AG settled related claims in April,
and the investors plan soon to seek preliminary approval of a
settlement, their lawyer Vincent Briganti said on Wednesday.
Terms have not been disclosed.
UBS spokeswoman Erica Chase said the Swiss bank is pleased
the court accepted its arguments. Deutsche Bank spokeswoman
Amanda Williams declined to comment. HSBC and ScotiaBank did not
immediately respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit is one of many in the Manhattan court in which
investors have accused banks of conspiring to rig rates and
prices in financial and commodities markets.
Investors claimed that Deutsche Bank, HSBC and ScotiaBank
rigged silver prices through a secret daily meeting called the
Silver Fix, and accused UBS of exploiting that fix.
The alleged conspiracy started by 1999, suppressed prices on
roughly $30 billion of silver and silver financial instruments
traded each year, and enabled the banks to pocket returns that
could top 100 percent annualized, the investors said.
Caproni said the investors sufficiently, "albeit barely,"
alleged that Deutsche Bank, HSBC and ScotiaBank violated U.S.
antitrust law by conspiring opportunistically to depress the
Silver Fix from January 2007 to December 2013.
But the judge also said dismissing UBS was appropriate
because there was nothing showing it manipulated prices, even if
it benefited from distortions.
"At best, plaintiffs allege that UBS engaged in parallel
conduct by offering (along with the fixing members) below-market
quotes," Caproni said in her 61-page decision.
Caproni gave the investors 14 days to amend their complaint,
including against UBS. Briganti said they plan to do so.
The case is In re: London Silver Fixing Ltd Antitrust
Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York,
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Frances