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Banks fined £413m over euro rate rigging

The offices of global financial institutions at Canary WharfImage copyright Getty Images

The European Commission has fined three banks €485m (£413m) for rigging a key European benchmark rate.

The Euribor rate is used to calculate the value of many financial products worth billions of euros.

HSBC, JPMorgan and Credit Agricole illegally exchanged sensitive Euribor information to make a profit on those products, the Commission said.

JPMorgan and HSBC have denied wrongdoing, and says they may appeal against the decision.

Barclays, Deutsche Bank, RBS and Societe Generale all settled with the Commission over the case in 2013.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: «Banks have to respect EU competition rules just like any other company operating in the single market.»

The Commission fined JPMorgan Chase €337m, Credit Agricole €115m, and HSBC €34m.

It said the banks were part of a cartel relating to products used to manage the uncertainty of interest rate movements.

Chat rooms

The investigation found that the cartel operated between September 2005 and May 2008.

Traders used chat rooms and instant messaging to tell each other desired or intended Euribor positions.

This distorted the pricing of financial products based on Euribor, the Commission said.

A JP Morgan spokeswoman said the banking giant had done nothing wrong.

«We have cooperated fully with the European Commission throughout its five year investigation,» she said.

«We did not engage in any wrongdoing with respect to the Euribor benchmark. We will continue to vigorously defend our position against these allegations, including through possible appeals to the European courts.»

‘Legal options’

An HSBC spokesman said: «We believe we did not participate in an anti-competitive cartel. We are reviewing the European Commission’s decision and considering our legal options.»

In 2013 the European Commission fined eight banks €1.7bn for euro and yen interest rate-rigging.

Two of the eight, whistleblowers Barclays and UBS, were excused their financial penalties.