On August 23, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Paul G. Gardephe of the Southern District of New York appointed Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP and Labaton Sucharow LLP co-lead counsel in a multi-trillion dollar class action lawsuit accusing many of the nation’s biggest banks of rigging the $13 trillion market for securities sold by the United States Department of the Treasury.  

On November 16, 2017, Cohen Milstein filed an amended complaint on behalf of an array of large institutional investors, including union, state and municipal pension funds, who are large purchasers and sellers of US Treasury Bonds. The complaint alleges that bankers at competing banks “routinely” shared sensitive client information with each other in chat rooms, allowing them to profit at their clients’ expense; and, that a smaller group of seven banks schemed to thwart competition in the bidding process by blocking their clients’ access to electronic trading platforms where better prices were available.

Cohen Milstein and co-counsel developed the case independently, without the assistance or benefit of any preceding government investigation or enforcement action. 

Case Background

The appointment is the latest development in a slew of class action lawsuits alleging misconduct in Treasury bond auctions.  The United States Treasury borrows money by selling various debt instruments, known as Treasury bonds or Treasury securities.  These sales take place in market auctions conducted throughout the year, and a select group of banks – known as primary dealers – bids in every one of these auctions.  Treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, are viewed as the world’s safest investment, and the market for US Treasuries is the world’s deepest, most liquid and most important financial market.  The over four dozen class action complaints filed to date allege that banks conspired to manipulate auction prices in order to boost their own profits.

Among the banks named as defendants in this litigation thus far are Bank Of Nova Scotia, New York Agency; Barclays Capital Inc.; BMO Capital Markets Corp.; BNP Paribas Securities Corp.; Cantor Fitzgerald & Co.; Citigroup Global Markets Inc.; Commerz Markets LLC; Countrywide Securities Corp.; Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC; Daiwa Capital Markets America Inc.; Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; HSBC Securities (USA) Inc.; Jefferies LLC; J.P. Morgan Securities LLC; Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated; Bank of America Corp.; Mizuho Securities USA Inc.; Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC; Nomura Securities International, Inc.; RBC Capital Markets, LLC; RBS Securities Inc.; SG Americas Securities, LLC; TD Securities (USA) LLC; and UBS Securities LLC.

The case name is: In re: Treasury Securities Auction Antitrust Litigation, Case No. 2673, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.