Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Credit Suisse, UBS fined for currency trading cartel

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

Ben Stansall | AFP | Getty pictures

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

UBS, Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Credit Suisse were fined a total of 344 million euros ($ 390 million), the commission said in a statement on Thursday.

The survey, focused on trading in G-1[ads1]0 currencies, revealed that currency traders in these five banks discussed sensitive information and trading plans. From time to time, they coordinated their trading plans through a professional online chat room called Sterling Lads, the commission said.

Four of the banks’ fines – UBS, Barclays, RBS and HSBC – were reduced by 10% when they acknowledged their participation in the cartel.

Credit Suisse did not benefit from this reduction since they did not cooperate with the authorities, the commission said. The fine was reduced by 4% to reflect that the bank was not responsible for all aspects of the case.

Finally, UBS does not have to pay a fine as the bank was granted “full immunity” to reveal the existence of the cartel.

“Our cartel decisions to fine UBS, Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Credit Suisse send a clear message that the Commission remains committed to ensuring a healthy and competitive financial sector that is crucial for investment and growth,” said Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s competition director. in a statement.

UBS and Barclays were not immediately available when contacted by CNBC on Thursday. Credit Suisse and HSBC 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 abuse that took place in a single chat room, and which involved a former bank employee, for around ten years ago .”

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