On 31 January 2019, the European Commission announced that it had sent Statements of Objections to eight banks suspected of having participated in and operating a cartel that distorted competition in the market for European government bonds (“EGBs”). If the European Commission confirms the existence of an anticompetitive practice, investors in EGBs may rely on the Commission’s decision for damages claims against the members of the cartel.
The European Commission suspects that during different periods (“in periods”) between 2007 and 2012, eight banks colluded, mainly through online chatrooms, to exchange commercially sensitive information and coordinate trading strategies for EGBs. The Commission has not yet disclosed the identity of these banks. In a press release dated 10 April 2019, the Italian bank UniCredit confirmed that it had received a Statement of Objections from the European Commission.
A Statement of Objections is a formal step in the Commission’s investigation into a suspected violation of European antitrust rules. The purpose of a Statement of Objections is to inform the parties concerned about the concrete allegations against them with a view to enabling them to exercise their rights of defence and to respond to these allegations before the Commission takes a decision.
Details of how the suspected cartel may have actually impacted the market for EGBs – and how this would have resulted in harm to investors – are not yet available. For example, if members of the suspected cartel are found to have colluded to manipulate (increase) bid-ask spreads when bond trading with investors, these investors may have received lower sums when selling EGBs, and paid higher prices when buying EGBs.
Deminor is closely monitoring this investigation and is already gathering and analysing information and evidence from interested parties.