Money in Motion

What the Bank of New York Mellon Lawsuit Means for Currency Investors

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Another week, another pension fund filing a lawsuit over execution of currency trades. Here's what it means for you. 

New York City and New York's attorney general joined a crowded field when they sued Bank of New York Mellon over its execution of currency trades for several public-employee pension funds. At issue, as in suits by several other states, is whether the bank provided fair pricing on forex trades: New York says BNY Mellon regularly gave them the worst price of the day, pocketing the difference between that and the price at the time of the trade.

The bank says the claims "are flat out wrong, both on the law and on the facts," and called the suit "prosecutorial overreach that ill serves New York, New Yorkers and the pension funds whose interests the Attorney General purports to advance."

Should all this be a warning for you?

Yes - and no. It's "not the sort of situation a retail investor would be involved in. It almost seems as if the forex aspect of what the bank was doing was an afterthought - often not really the main focus of the trades," says Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington. "Individuals are usually much more active in terms of the frequency of their trades, and much more on top of literally every pip," he told me. Esiner adds that his clients, which include small businesses and antiques dealers, "are on top of it like hawks."

Of course, "in this environment, it's not necessarily clear what sort of regulation might result from these lawsuits. To that extent, there might be implications down the road," Esiner says. "But not right now."

So you can rest easy, mostly. But really, make sure you watch your trades closely. If nothing else, these lawsuits are a lesson in how quickly currencies can move - especially these days - and how vigilant you need to be.

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