The European Commission has fined Credit Agricole, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase a total of 485 million euros ($520 million) for their part in a cartel to fix the price of financial benchmarks linked to the euro. As Hayley Platt reports, the fines for historic offences come at a difficult time for lenders.
It was not the biggest and it may not be the last. But total fines of 485 million euros from the European Commission are a reminder that Credit Agricole, HSBC and JPMorgan Chase have been accused of having some bad habits in the past. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EU COMPETITION COMMISSIONER, MARGRETHE VESTAGER, SAYING: "The traders involved tried to submit quotes either to move the Euribor rate up or to move it down - of course depending on what benefitted them on that particular day." The Commission says the lenders were part of a seven-bank cartel that colluded to distort the Euribor benchmark interest rate. JPMorgan was fined the lion's share - over 337 million euros - it's now considering an appeal. Deutsche Bank, RBS and Societe General admitted guilt in 2013. And Barclays avoided a fine because it blew the whistle. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RICHARD HUNTER, HEAD OF RESEARCH, WILSON KING INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, SAYING: "It makes one wonder, on the basis of the financial crisis now being some eight years past, when these fines will actually finally come to an end. Because, obviously, the banks have a fairly difficult trading environment as things stand with low interest rates, let alone having to continue to pay legacy fines." The signs of struggle are everywhere. Credit Suisse has just pledged to cut another near one billion dollars in costs and pared back profit targets amid challenging markets. And then there's the Italian banks. Last week there were reports that eight could be at risk as a result of the political turmoil there.