BRUSSELS, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The European Union’s antitrust authority said on Thursday that it had charged eight unnamed banks with operating a cartel in trading euro zone government bonds between 2007 and 2012.
In a statement, the European Commission said some traders at the banks exchanged commercially sensitive information and coordinated trading strategies on the euro-denominated bonds, mainly through online chatrooms.
In a separate previous case, the Commission charged Deutsche Bank, Credit Agricole, Credit Suisse and a fourth bank in December with being part of a bond cartel, also citing traders using chatrooms.
If found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules, the banks could face fines up to 10 percent of their global turnover.
“The Commission has concerns that, at different periods between 2007 and 2012, the eight banks participated in a collusive scheme that aimed at distorting competition when acquiring and trading European government bonds,” the Commission said.
“Traders employed by the banks exchanged commercially sensitive information and coordinated on trading strategies. These contacts would have taken place mainly - but not exclusively - through online chatrooms.”
The Commission added that its charges did not imply that anti-competitive conduct was a general practice in the euro zone government bond sector. The period in question was a time of intense activity in euro zone government bonds as several euro area governments ran into difficulties in servicing their debt. (Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)