The European Commission has found that Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), JPMorgan (JPM), UBS AG (UBS) and Credit Suisse (CS) engaged in cartel behavior. Except for RBS, which received immunity from having to pay any fines by disclosing the cartel conduct, the other banks were fined $120 million for their activities. For cooperating, UBS and JPMorgan received fine reductions. Along with Credit Suisse, both banks got a 10% reduction for consenting to settle.
All four financial institutions are accused of running a cartel involving bid-ask spreads of Swiss franc interest-rate derivatives in the European Economic Area. Banks and companies typically use interest rate derivatives to manage interest rate fluctuation risks. A “bid-ask spread” is the difference between how much a market maker is willing to sell and purchase a product.
According to the European Commission, between May and September ’07, the four banks agreed to quote to third parties wider fixed bid-ask spreads on certain short-term, over-the-counter Swiss franc interest rate derivatives while keeping narrower spreads for trades between them. The purpose was to reduce their transaction costs and keep liquidity among themselves, as well as keep other market makers from competing on equal terms in the Swiss franc derivatives market. In one action, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) was fined €61.7 million euros for purportedly manipulating the Swiss franc Libor benchmark interest rate in an illegal cartel with RBS, which, again, had immunity from fees.
The SSEK Partners Group is a securities fraud law firm.
EU fines JPMorgan, UBS, Credit Suisse for taking part in cartels, Reuters, October 21, 2014
Commission settles RBS-JPMorgan cartel in derivatives based on Swiss franc LIBOR, Europa.eu, October 24, 2014
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