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

Photographed from Greenwich Park in London, January 17, 2017, are the banks’ financial offices in Canary Wharf.

Ben Stansall | AFP | Getty Images

Five banks were fined by the European Commission for their participation in illegal foreign currency trading cartels.

The total fines for UBS, Barclays and RBS as well as HSBC, HSBC, HSBC, Credit Suisse, were 344 MILLION EUROS ($390M), according to a statement by the Commission on Thursday.

An investigation into the G-10 currency trading revealed that five foreign exchange traders at these banks had discussed trading strategies and sensitive information. The commission stated that they sometimes coordinated their trading plans through a professional chat room called Sterling Lads.

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

Credit Suisse was not able to benefit because of its inability to cooperate with authorities. The bank’s penalty was reduced to 4% in order to show that it was not responsible for the entire case.

UBS does not need to pay any penalties as UBS was given “full immunity”, which allowed it to reveal the existence and extent 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.

CNBC reached out to UBS and Barclays Thursday but they were unavailable. Credit Suisse and HSBC did not respond to CNBC’s request for 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.”

Mike Robinson
Mike covers the financial, utilities and biotechnology sectors for Street Register. He has been writing about investment and personal finance topics for almost 12 years. Mike has an MBA in Finance from Wake Forest University.