Brussels, 10 June 2014
Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to ICAP for suspected participation in yen interest rate derivatives cartels
The European Commission has informed the UK based broker ICAP of its preliminary view that it may have breached EU antitrust rules by facilitating several cartel infringements in the market for interest rate derivatives denominated in the yen currency. The sending of a statement of objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.
Interest rate derivatives (e.g. forward rate agreements, swaps, futures, options) are financial products which are used by banks or companies for managing the risk of interest rate fluctuations. These products are traded worldwide and play a key role in the global economy (see MEMO/13/1090). They derive their value from the level of a benchmark interest rate, such as the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or the Tokyo Interbank Offered Rate (TIBOR) for the yen.
The Commission has concerns that ICAP may have been involved in cartels concerning yen interest rate derivatives as a facilitator. This behaviour, if established, would violate Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 53 of the EEA (European Economic Area) Agreement that prohibit anti-competitive agreements and restrictive business practices.
In the course of its investigation the Commission imposed fines totalling € 669 719 000 on five banks and one cash broker active in the same sector in December 2013. These six companies had admitted their involvement in cartels in the yen interest rate derivatives sector, which allowed the Commission to settle the case with them. In return, their fines were reduced by 10% (see IP/13/1208).
The Commission had also opened proceedings against ICAP in October 2013 and the investigation is continuing under the standard (non-settlement) cartel procedure.
On 20 May 2014, the Commission also sent statements of objections to suspected participants in a cartel for Euro interest rate derivatives (see IP/14/572).
A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission investigations into suspected violations of EU rules on restrictive business practices. The Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them and the companies can examine the documents on the Commission's investigation file, reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present their comments on the case before representatives of the Commission and national competition authorities.
If, after the parties have exercised their rights of defence, the Commission concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an infringement, it can issue a decision prohibiting the conduct and impose a fine of up to 10% of a company's annual worldwide turnover.