-Anietie Udobit, agency reports
Credit Agricole, HSBC and JP Morgan have been fined for rigging the Euribor interest rate benchmark as European Union antitrust regulators ended a five-year investigation into the scandal.
The European Commission’s competition watchdog fined the banks a total of €485m (£410m) for participating in a cartel in euro interest rate derivatives.
In a statement the European Commission said the banks had colluded on euro interest rate derivative pricing elements, and exchanged sensitive information, in breach of antitrust rules.
JP Morgan was fined €337.2m, HSBC got a €33.6m penalty and Credit Agricole must pay €114.7m.
The fines were set on the time they participated in the cartel and the value of products involved.
The three banks held out against a 2013 settlement with the European Commission that imposed almost €1bn of fines on Deutsche Bank, Société Générale and Royal Bank of Scotland.
US bank JP Morgan, which was hit with the heaviest fine, has left the door open to a possible appeal.
Jennifer Zuccarelli, JP Morgan spokeswoman, said: “We have cooperated fully with the European Commission throughout its five-year investigation. We did not engage in any wrongdoing with respect to the Euribor benchmark. We will continue to vigorously defend our position against these allegations, including through possible appeals to the European courts.”
HSBC said the decision related to “purported conduct” during one month in early 2007.
The bank said in a statement: “We believe we did not participate in an anti-competitive cartel. We are reviewing the European commission’s decision and considering our legal options.”
Crédit Agricole said it “firmly believes that it did not infringe competition law” and willl appeal the Commission’s decision before the European courts.
“Payment of the fine will not affect the 2016 financial statements given the provisions set aside previously,” the bank said.
The decision is an example of the long shadow that still hangs over the industry from alleged misconduct during the years of the financial boom.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “A sound and competitive financial sector is essential for investment and growth.
“Banks have to respect EU competition rules just like any other company operating in the single market.”
The Euribor case is one of many involving the complicated business of setting benchmark rates, such as the Libor or the Yen Libor, that are used everyday to set the price of a wide range of assets including mortgages or student loans.
Several inquiries into rate-rigging have already resulted in €1.8bn in fines covering about 11 institutions in conspiracies to fix the Yen Libor, Swiss-Franc Libor and Euribor.
Earlier this year, four former Barclays traders were sentenced to as long as six and a half years in prison for manipulating Libor.
Former UBS trader Tom Hayes is serving 11 years in prison for rigging Libor and in May an ex-Deutsche Bank broker received a record four-and-a-half-year term for insider trading.