23 April 2019

Statement regarding COMPETITION TRIBUNAL case

On 17 February 2017, the Competition Commission of South Africa announced that it had decided to refer several banks (foreign currency traders) to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution. While the list included Absa Bank, the Commission also stated that it would not be imposing a fine or any other sanction against Absa.

In March 2017 the former Chief Executive Officer of Absa, Maria Ramos, explained in her annual results speech that the two Absa employees implicated in the case had been suspended to face disciplinary action. “Those who contravened our rules will be held accountable,” she said at the time.

In Absa’s view, this is consistent with Absa’s values, and Ms Ramos insisted it was necessary for Absa to apologize even though there were only two employees involved. It was the right thing to do.

In recent times, there have been public statements by some public figures accusing Absa’s former CEO of having been involved in “manipulating the rand”, and calling for her prosecution. Such statements are untrue and misleading. The Competition Commission in its submission to the Competition Tribunal named the individuals implicated, and Ms Ramos was not one of them.

Instead, Ms Ramos ensured that Absa’s internal investigation was thorough and surfaced all the facts needed to approach the authorities and offer Absa’s assistance. This led to the Competition Commission’s own investigation. Absa continues to cooperate in full with the Competition Commission during the Competition Tribunal phase.

It is therefore untrue and misleading to suggest that Ms Ramos has not acted above board or that the authorities have taken no action in this matter.

While they involved foreign currency trading, the transgressions being prosecuted at the Competition Tribunal have never determined the Rand’s overall valuation as alleged in some statements.

The Competition Tribunal process is ongoing.