Credit Suisse Gets EU Antitrust Complaint in FX Probe

(Bloomberg) -- Credit Suisse Group AG said it received a European Union antitrust complaint last week, raising the risk of a fine in a lengthy investigation into the rigging of foreign-exchange rates.

The EU allegations -- known as a statement of objections -- state that Credit Suisse “engaged in anti-competitive practices in connection with its foreign exchange trading business,” the bank said in a regulatory filing Tuesday. The lender said it received the EU complaint on July 26.

While the EU’s antitrust investigation has lagged behind, authorities in the U.S., the U.K. and Switzerland have issued about $10 billion in penalties to a group of banks including Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Barclays Plc for what then U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch in 2015 called a “brazen display of collusion” to game markets.

The EU’s latest step shows the authority could be moving to wrap up its foreign-exchange probe, nearly two years after fining banks over collusion on Libor and Euribor rates. Such documents usually allow target companies to calculate a range for the potential fine, which can help it set aside provisions. The bank can respond to the charges and seek an oral hearing before the EU decides on a penalty.

EU antitrust regulators have already racked up nearly 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in fines from the other rate-rigging cases. Most banks in those probes chose to seek a settlement which sees them admit liability and shun a court appeal in return for a 10-percent discount in their penalties.

Ricardo Cardoso, a spokesman for the EU, confirmed that regulators had sent objections in the case. He declined to say whether other banks were also targeted by the charges. Zurich-based Credit Suisse declined to comment further.

The EU moved towards antitrust settlement talks with banks in the foreign exchange case, people familiar with the investigation said in 2016. While the EU has refused to identify its targets, Barclays Plc and HSBC Holdings Plc have previously said their foreign-exchange trading is being reviewed by the EU, and other banks have said they are cooperating with global regulators on FX probes.

Banks can’t discuss the settlement under threat of losing their right to a 10 percent discount in fines. Credit Suisse’s announcement may show it isn’t settling the case, allowing it freedom to challenge regulators at court.

UBS AG has said it’s been granted conditional immunity by the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division and authorities in other jurisdictions.

Credit Suisse was last month ordered by a Swiss court to hand over currency trading data to Switzerland’s competition watchdog for its probe of possible collusion between eight banks. Credit Suisse was the only bank in the Swiss probe to have challenged the authority’s order.

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