Swiss Competition Commission Fines Five Financial Institutions for Participation in Forex Trading Cartels

On June 6, the Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) announced that it had “detected several anti-competitive arrangements between banks in foreign exchange spot trading,” and had imposed total fines of CHF 90 million.  COMCO stated that traders of “several internationally active banks have partially coordinated their conduct in two separate cartels in foreign exchange spot markets regarding certain G10-currencies” (i.e., Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Euro, Japanese yen, New Zealand dollar, Norwegian krone, Swedish krona, Swiss franc, United Kingdom pound, and U.S. dollar).

With regard to the first cartel, COMCO found that traders of five leading financial institutions — Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and UBS (listed in alphabetical order) — participated in the so-called “three way banana split” cartel from 2007 to 2013.  With regard to the second cartel, COMCO stated that traders of Barclays, MUFG Bank, RBS, and UBS were participants in the so-called “Essex express” cartel from 2009 to 2012, and coordinated certain G10 currencies in chatrooms.

COMCO declared that it had “concluded amicable settlements [regarding those two cartels] and imposed fines of around CHF 90 million,” and would therefore close those two investigations.  The sanctions for each bank were CHF 27 million for Barclays, CHF 28.5 million for Citigroup, CHF 9.5 million for JPMorgan, CHF 1.5 million for MUFG Bank, and CHF 22.5 million for RBS.  COMCO also noted that “[a] part of the banks has benefited from the leniency programme resulting in a reduction of the fine,” and that UBS was not fined because it revealed the cartels to the competition authorities first.

Finally, COMCO stated that it had closed its investigation against Bank Julius Bär & Co. AG and Zürcher Kantonalbank, but would continue an investigation against Credit Suisse.

Note: This action by COMCO is a followup to the European Commission’s May 16 action against Barclays, RBS, Citigroup, JPMorgan, and MUFG Bank for their participation in the same two cartels (i.e., the “Three Way Banana Split” and “Essex Express” cartels, as explained in a prior DTG post) in the spot forex market.  Since 2014, Singaporean, Swiss, United Kingdom, and U.S. authorities reportedly have imposed total fines of more than $12 billion on 15 banks for forex manipulation.

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