Banking giants hit with €1.7bn in fines for interest rate rigging

Banking giants hit with €1.7bn in fines for interest rate rigging

Eight global banking giants have been fined a combined €1.7 bn by the European Commission for forming illegal cartels to rig benchmark interest rates.

The eight banks have agreed penalties with the Commission over allegations they formed cartels to fix two key benchmark interest rates used to set the price of trillions of dollars of financial products, from mortgages to complex financial products.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) will pay €391m for its role in the attempted rigging of the Yen Libor and Euribor – the Tokyo and euro area equivalents of the London interbank offered rate (Libor).

But Barclays is immune from a potential €690m penalty after blowing the whistle on the Euribor cartel.

The sanctions – the first from the EC on rate manipulation – are the highest yet for European antitrust enforcement.

Other banks fined by the EC in the Euribor case are German group Deutsche Bank and French player Societe Generale.

Those involved in the Yen Libor case are RBS, Swiss group UBS, Deutsche Bank, US giants JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup and UK-based wholesale broker RP Martin.

UBS avoided a hefty €2.5bn fine after flagging up the Yen Libor cartel with the EC.

Fellow British bank HSBC is understood to have pulled out of the Euribor settlement talks,

alongside US group JPMorgan Chase & Co and French group Credit Agricole, while broker ICAP is said to have refused settlement in the Yen Libor probe.

The EC said cartel investigations involving these firms will continue.

Joaquin Almunia, EC vice-president in charge of competition policy, said: “What is shocking about the Libor and Euribor scandals is not only the manipulation of benchmarks, which is being tackled by financial regulators worldwide, but also the collusion between banks who are supposed to be competing with each other.

“Today’s decision sends a clear message that the commission is determined to fight and sanction these cartels in the financial sector.”

The EC sanctions serve as the latest reminder of wrongdoing in the industry, which has been left reeling following a series of scandals in recent years.

Authorities worldwide have so far fined UBS, RBS, Barclays, Rabobank and ICAP for manipulating rates, while seven individuals face criminal charges.

UBS has paid the largest penalty yet in the clampdown, fined $1.5bn late last year.

But Barclays was the first to settle and suffered a major reputational blow, which claimed the scalp of former chief executive Bob Diamond and has led to a major overhaul of practices and culture in the bank.

Barclays said it “voluntarily” reported the Euribor cartel to the EC and “co-operated fully” with the investigation.

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