European antitrust officials have charged 13 major investment banks with colluding to keep derivatives trading, specifically credit default swaps, away from less profitable, more transparent public markets.
These credit default swaps (CDS) are a sensitive topic because they are widely known to have worsened the housing crash and deepened the global recession. They effectively act as an insurance policy against default on a loan, bond, mortgage, or other form of debt. They are also considered among the most lucrative trading derivatives in the world, and the EU has now charged the banks with illegally conspiring to control them.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the EU has charged Bank of America’s (BAC) Merill Lynch division, Barclays (BCS), Bear Stearns (now part of JPMorgan Chase), BNP Paribas (BNP), Citigroup (C), Credit Suisse (CS), Deutsche Bank (DB), Goldman Sachs (GS), HSBS Holdings (HBC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Morgan Stanley (MS), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and UBS AG (UBS). The EU also charged the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, although the ISDA denied any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, none of the banks have issued public comments on the charges.
The EU stated on its website that the aforementioned investment banks “delayed the emergence of exchange trading of these financial products because they feared that it would reduce their revenues. This, at least, is our preliminary conclusion.”
While the EU’s investigation remains ongoing, the banks don’t have much of a case. Investors and world governments are outraged that these dangerous CDS’s are still traded through nontransparent, over-the-counter exchanges, especially given the damage they caused during during 2008 and 2009.
The EU also warned, “If it is confirmed that banks collectively blocked exchanges from the CDS market, breaching the prohibition of anticompetitive agreements enshrined in the Treaty, it would be unacceptable and the Commission could decide to impose sanctions.”
The investment banks, however, didn’t fret Monday’s announcement, as most of their stocks traded up with the market. Citigroup rose 1.6 percent, JPMorgan Chase rose .4 percent, Morgan Stanley rose 1.4 percent, while almost all ten of the other accused banks traded positively as well.