EU fines Nomura, UBS and UniCredit in antitrust case

Frankfurt, Germany

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LONDON – The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, has found seven investment banks guilty of violating their antitrust rules during the 2008 global financial crisis. Three of the banks received fines.

The seven institutes took part in a “bond trading cartel” on the primary and secondary market for European government bonds between 2007 and 2011, the commission announced on Thursday. Traders used chat rooms to share commercially sensitive information and discuss their bid strategies in advance of debt auctions, the commission added.

“Our decision against Bank of America, Natixis, Nomura, RBS, UBS, UniCredit and WestLB is a clear message that the Commission will not tolerate any collusive behavior,” said Margrethe Vestager, head of competition policy in the EU.

Nomura, UBS and UniCredit now have to pay a fine totaling 371 million euros.

A Nomura spokesman said the decision related to the conduct of two former employees of the bank for a period of approximately 10 months in 2011.

“Nomura will examine all options, including an appeal. Since the time of the appropriate conduct, Nomura has taken increased measures to ensure that we operate our business with the highest integrity at all times,” the spokesman said via email.

UBS said that “this is an old problem dating back to 2007-2011 and that years ago we took appropriate steps to mitigate and improve processes,” adding that it is considering an appeal.

UniCredit said it would appeal the commission’s decision. A spokesman said via email: “The group strongly denies the decision, claiming that the results do not demonstrate any wrongdoing by UniCredit.”

NatWest, formerly known as RBS, has not been fined for reporting the maladministration to the commission.

Bank of America and Natixis are not fined because their violations have exceeded the sanctions deadline and Portigon, formerly WestLB, has not received a fine for not reporting net sales in the past fiscal year.

“It is unacceptable that in the midst of the financial crisis, when many financial institutions had to be bailed out with public funds, these investment banks cooperated in this market at the expense of the EU member states,” Vestager also said on Tbankshursday.

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