EU fines three banks over market rigging
European Union regulators have fined banks JPMorgan, HSBC and Credit Agricole a combined 484 million euro (£411 million) for colluding to manipulate the price of financial products linked to interest rates.
EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the banks illegally exchanged sensitive information and colluded to take profit in the market on the specialised financial products.
The EU fined JPMorgan Chase 337 million euro (£286 million), France's Credit Agricole 114 million euro (£97 million) and London-based HSBC 33 million euro (£28 million).
Three years ago, the antitrust regulators levied fines totalling 1.04 billion euro (£851 million) on Barclays, Deutsche Bank, RBS and Societe Generale as part of the same case.
The case covers manipulation of financial contracts linked to a benchmark interest rate called Euribor in the period 2005-2008.
Those banks chose to settle, while Wednesday's decision sought to punish the three holdouts.
"This sends a clear message that banks, like all companies, have to respect EU competition rules," said Ms Vestager.
"Financial markets need to be competitive."
She said the financial products, which companies use to manage interest rate uncertainty, were traded globally on money markets worth trillions of dollars.
The market's manipulation reaped huge profits for the banks, she said.
"If this market is rigged it will benefit only a few and this is exactly what the seven banks did."
She said they exchanged confidential information about trade and strategy in chatrooms and the like to send rates high or low to meet their needs.
"The Euribor rate on a specific date can make a huge difference to the cash flow in a bank."
She said the chatrooms were replete with "vulgar language" as the banking officials developed their own vocabulary to drive the collusion between the seven banks and stem fair competition.
"It is a very closed community with a very free language, so to speak," she said.