Antitrust: Commission fines UBS, Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Credit Suisse € 344 million for participating in a Foreign Exchange spot trading cartel

The European Commission has completed its cartel investigation into the Foreign Exchange (‘Forex’) spot trading market by imposing fines on five banks. The Commission has adopted today a decision imposing a total fine of € 261 million on the four banks that decided to settle the case, namely UBS, Barclays, RBS and HSBC. The Commission has also fined Credit Suisse € 83 million under the ordinary procedure. The Commission’s investigation revealed that some traders in charge of the Forex spot trading of G10 currencies, acting on behalf of the fined banks, exchanged sensitive information and trading plans, and occasionally coordinated their trading strategies through an online professional chatroom called Sterling Lads. Under the Commission’s 2006 Leniency Notice, UBS received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartels, thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of ca. € 94 million. Barclays, RBS, HSBC benefited from reductions to their fines for cooperating with the Commission’s investigation. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said: “Today we complete our sixth cartel investigation in the financial sector since 2013 and conclude the third leg of our investigation into the Foreign Exchange spot trading market. Our cartel decisions to fine UBS, Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Credit Suisse send a clear message that the Commission remains committed to ensure a sound and competitive financial sector that is essential for investment and growth. Foreign exchange spot trading activities are one of the largest financial markets in the world. The collusive behaviour of the five banks undermined the integrity of the financial sector at the expense of the European economy and consumers.” A press release is available online.