Banking “cartel” hit with €93.9m in fines

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JP Morgan, UBS and Credit Suisse have been handed €93.9m in fines by the European Commission for rigging libor rates, interest rate derivatives and other benchmarks and prices.

The largest settlement will be paid by JP Morgan, which has been fined €61.6m for manipulating the Swiss franc libor rate from March 2008 until July 2009.

Joaquín Almunia, vice president in charge of competition at the commission, said: “This is the third case where the Commission finds a cartel related to the manipulation of a financial benchmark, in which major banks colluded instead of competing with each other. Our economy needs a healthy, transparent, well-functioning financial sector. This is why antitrust rules in this sector must be strictly enforced.”

The three banks were also found to have collaborated on the fixing of bid-ask spreads of Swiss franc interest rate derivatives and were separately fined between €9.2 and €12.7 apiece. RBS, which confessed to the existence of the cartel in which it also played a part, received immunity for its co-operation and so escaped a fine.

Almunia commented: “Unlike in previous cartels we found in the financial sector, this one did not involve any collusion on a benchmark. Rather, the four banks agreed on an element of the price of certain financial derivatives. This way, the banks involved could flout the market at their competitors’ expense. Cartels in the financial sector, whatever form they take, will not be tolerated.”