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Former HSBC trader found guilty in front-running scheme

Gavel and handcuffs on wooden background

Mark Johnson, former global head of foreign exchange cash trading at HSBC, was found guilty Monday in federal court of assisting in a scheme to trade ahead of client orders involving around $3.5 billion in FX trades, the Justice Department said in a news release.

Mr. Johnson, who worked at HSBC Bank, a unit of HSBC Holdings, was found guilty by a jury in U.S. District Court in New York of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and eight counts of wire fraud. His sentencing date before U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis has not been scheduled.

Mr. Johnson was indicted in August 2016 by a federal grand jury. He was accused of cheating HSBC client Cairn Energy out of millions of dollars in November and December 2011 by front-running FX trades based on information related to a planned sale of one of Cairn's foreign subsidiaries, according to court documents.

HSBC's agreement with the client required the bank to keep the details of the client's planned transaction confidential, according to the Justice Department.

In total, Johnson and the traders he supervised generated HSBC profits of roughly $7.5 million from the execution of the FX transaction, the Justice Department said.

Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde said in the release that the jury found Mr. 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."

Mr. Johnson left HSBC earlier this year.