UniCredit, Nomura, UBS suffer €371m antitrust fine

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UniCredit, Nomura and UBS were fined with a total of 371 euros by the EU antitrust regulator over illegal agreements, linked to fixed income securities, Reuters reported. According to the EU regulator the three banks had a cartel agreement linked to trading with government bonds. UniCredit said it would appeal to the European Courts and UBS said it was considering doing so. Nomura, which was also fined, was not immediately available for comment.

The penalties are the latest to hit the financial industry for alleged involvement in foreign exchange cartels, Euribor and Libor benchmark cartels, and bonds cartels. The group vigorously contests the decision and maintains that the findings do not demonstrate any wrongdoing on the part of UniCredit.

In an emailed statement, UBS said it was considering an appeal. The fine related to "a legacy issue," it said, and it had since taken action to improve its processes. "Taking into account relevant provisions, this matter may have an impact of up to $100 million on UBS's second quarter 2021 results," it said. The European Commission said Bank of America, RBS (now known as NatWest), Natixis and WestLB (now known as Portigon) also took part in the cartel.

NatWest escaped a 260-million-euro fine as it alerted the cartel to the EU competition watchdog. Bank of America and Natixis were also not fined either because their infringement falls outside the limitation period for imposition of fines, the Commission said. It said Portigon, the legal and economic successor to WestLB, received a zero fine as it did not generate any net turnover in the last business year.

"A well-functioning European government bonds market is paramount both for the eurozone member states issuing these bonds to generate liquidity and the investors buying and trading them," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. The Commission said the cartel ran from 2007 to 2011, with traders from the banks informing each other on their prices and volumes offered in the run-up to the auctions and the prices shown to their customers or to the market in general.

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