The European Commission has today fined top banks including UBS and Unicredit a total of €371m for running a bond-trading cartel during the worst years of the euro zone debt crisis.

The decision, announced by EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager, said traders from seven investment banks colluded in online chatrooms to fix prices and share sensitive information.

“It is unacceptable, that in the middle of the financial crisis, when many financial institutions had to be rescued by public funding these investment banks colluded in this market at the expense of EU member states,” she said in a statement.

Bank of America and the French company Natixis escaped a penalty thanks to the statute of limitations.

Portigon (formerly WestLB), which did not generate any turnover during the last financial year, had nothing to pay.

Japan’s Nomura was fined €129.5m, Switzerland’s UBS €172.4m and Italy’s UniCredit €69.4m, the statement said.

Brussels had already fined Credit Suisse, Credit Agricole and Bank of America Merrill Lynch a total of €28m in April for colluding in the market for US dollar-denominated bonds.

Deutsche Bank had been spared for disclosing the matter.

In May 2019, five banks had been fined more than €1 billion for two cartels on the foreign exchange market during the financial crisis between 2007 and 2013.

Three of the firms found to have breached EU competition rules currently act as primary dealers in Irish Government bonds on behalf of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

They are Bank of America, Nomura and NatWest.

UBS was previously a primary dealer, but it is not currently.

A spokesman for the NTMA said the agency has noted today’s statement by the European Commission.

“The agency notes that three of the seven parties named have never been primary dealers in Irish Government Bonds and that the timelines in question include a period when Ireland was less active in the bond market,” the spokesman said.

“The agency will consider any new information when the EC publishes additional detail.”

In March, the NTMA withdrew authorisation from stockbroker Davy to act as a primary dealer in Irish Government debt, after it was fined by the Central Bank for regulatory breaches.

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