Monday, January 17th, 2022

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

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

Four of the banks’ fines — UBS, Barclays, RBS and HSBC — were discounted by 10% as they acknowledged their participation in the cartel.

Credit Suisse did not benefit from this reduction as it did not cooperate with authorities, the commission said. Its fine was reduced by 4% to reflect that the bank was not liable for all aspects of the case, however.

UBS ultimately does not have to pay any fine as the bank received “full immunity” for revealing 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 ensure a sound and competitive financial sector that is essential for investment and growth,” Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s competition chief, said in a statement.

Barclays, 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 misconduct that took place in a single chatroom, and that involved a former employee of the bank, around a decade ago.”

UBS said via email: “This is a legacy matter where UBS was the first bank to disclose potential misconduct and we are pleased the matter is resolved.”

Earlier this year, the commission had also found seven investment banks guilty of breaching its antitrust rules during the 2008 global financial crisis, with three of the banks receiving fines.