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EU fines banks 1.7 billion euros for rate-rigging

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EU fines banks 1.7 billion euros for rate-rigging
EU fines banks 1.7 billion euros for rate-rigging

The European Union is imposing fines totalling 1.7 billion euros (2.3 billion dollars) on six financial institutions for manipulating interest-rate benchmarks, the bloc’s executive announced on Wednesday.

Germany’s Deutsche Bank faces the stiffest penalty with a total fine of 725 million euros, followed by France’s Societe Generale with 446 million euros and Britain’s RBS with 391 million euros.

The US lenders JP Morgan and Citigroup face fines between 70 and 80 million euros, while the British broker firm RP Martin was hit with a 247,000-euro fine.

Britain’s Barclays and Switzerland’s UBS escaped fines for blowing the whistle on the rate-rigging cartels.

There had been suspicions about rate-rigging during the 2008 financial crisis, but the scandal reached full force last year when Barclays bank became the first to settle a fine for attempting to falsify the Libor benchmark.

The banks being fined on Wednesday were involved in manipulating interest rate derivatives denominated in the European euro and the Japanese yen, the European Commission said.

“What is shocking about the Libor and Euribor scandals is not only the manipulation of benchmarks … but also the collusion between banks who are supposed to be competing with each other,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.

“Healthy competition and transparency are crucial for financial markets to work properly, at the service of the real economy rather than the interests of a few,” he added.

Interest-rate benchmarks are set for millions of daily financial transactions and act as references for everything from mortgages to credit cards.

There are estimates that benchmarks — which include major indices such as Libor and Euribor, but also those used to set cocoa or oil prices — are a reference for financial instruments and contracts valued at more than 1,000 trillion euros.

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