Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Credit Suisse and UBS fined for taking part in forex trading cartel

Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Credit Suisse and UBS fined for taking part in forex trading cartel

The financial offices of banks in the financial district of Canary Wharf, are pictured from Greenwich Park in London on January 17, 2017.

Ben Stansall | AFP | Getty Images

The European Commission has fined five banks for participating in an illegal foreign exchange trading cartel.

UBS, Barclays, RBS, HSBC received a combined total fine of 261 million euros ($296 million). This included a 10% discount as the four institutions acknowledged their participation in the cartel, the Commission said Thursday. UBS does not have to pay a fine as the bank received “full immunity” for revealing the existence of the cartel.

Credit Suisse received an individual fine of 83 million euros but did not benefit from the 10% reduction as it did not cooperate with authorities, the commission said. Its fine was, however, reduced by 4% to reflect that the bank was not liable for all aspects of the case.

The investigation, focused on the trading of G-10 currencies, revealed that foreign exchange traders in these five banks communicated sensitive information and trading plans. They occasionally coordinated their trading plans via a professional online chatroom called Sterling Lads, the Commission said.

“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,” Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s competition chief, said in a statement.

UBS, Barclays and HSBC were not immediately available when contacted by CNBC Thursday. Credit Suisse declined to comment.

A spokesperson for NatWest, the parent company of RBS, told CNBC via email: “We are pleased to have reached this settlement regarding serious misconduct that took place in a single chatroom, and that involved a former employee of the bank, around a decade ago.”

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