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Brussels, 20 May 2014
Statement on the euro interest rate derivatives case
Brussels, 20 May 2014
The Commission is sending today its statement of objections to three large international banks – Crédit Agricole, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase. This is a further key step in our investigations into cartels in the financial sector.
In the context of the same investigations, the Commission already imposed fines totalling EUR 1.7 billion in December 2013 on eight international financial institutions. This amount included a 10% reduction for these companies, because they had agreed to settle the case with the Commission.
Back then, we found that four banks – Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Société Générale – participated in a cartel for interest rate derivatives denominated in the euro currency. These financial products are based on the EURIBOR benchmark (for "euro interbank offered rate").
Since that time, we have continued our investigation under the standard cartel procedure for the three parties that did not settle with the Commission – namely Crédit Agricole, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase.
We have now reached the preliminary conclusion that these three banks may have participated in this cartel too. If confirmed, such behaviour would be a breach of the EU's antitrust rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreements.
The three banks now have the opportunity to defend themselves. We will look carefully at all their arguments before taking any final decision.
Obviously, if it is confirmed that these three banks participated in the cartel, it would be a very serious infringement and the Commission would impose sanctions.
Interest rate derivatives, such as swaps, futures, options or forward rate agreements, play an important role to allow financial institutions and companies to manage the risks linked to the fluctuations of interest rates.
Financial markets such as these require transparency and healthy competition. These ingredients are essential to restoring trust in the financial sector, which is a precondition for a successful and sustained recovery of the European economy.
Antitrust rules must be complied with in the financial sector as in all other economic sectors. Market players should compete, not collude. This is why antitrust enforcement in this area complements the efforts of financial regulators and authorities.
Antitrust investigations into the financial sector are therefore a top priority for the Commission.
In parallel to the case I have presented to you today, we are pursuing our investigation against a broker in the Yen Interest Rate Derivatives market. We also continue to look into the Swiss Franc Interest Rate Derivatives market and the foreign exchange spot trading market (FOREX). And we are still looking into possible collusion relating to benchmarks for oil and biofuels.