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December 3, 2021

EC fines five banks €344m for participating in forex spot trading cartel

The European Commission has imposed a fine of €344m on Barclays, NatWest (RBS), UBS, HSBC, and Credit Suisse for participating in illegal foreign exchange (‘Forex’) spot trading.

The commission’s investigation focused on the trading of G-10 currencies, the most liquid and traded currencies worldwide.

It found that some traders acting on behalf of the fined banks shared sensitive information and trading plans through an online chatroom called ‘Sterling Lads’.

They occasionally coordinated their trading strategies as well.

HSBC has been fined the most at €174.3m, followed by Credit Suisse at €83.3m, Barclays at €54.3m and NatWest at €32.5m.

Notably, UBS received ‘full immunity’ from €94m fine for exposing the online chatroom.

Barclays, HSBC, and NatWest received a 10% deduction on their fines for acknowledging their participation in the cartel.

Credit Suisse did not get any reductions as it did not cooperate under the leniency or settlement procedures. The Commission, however, granted a 4% reduction as Credit Suisse is not held liable for all aspects of the case.

EC commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager 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”.

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