June 30, 2014 / 2:21 PM / 4 years ago

EU's Almunia aims to wrap up remaining rate-fixing cases by October

LONDON, June 30 (Reuters) - Europe’s antitrust chief said on Monday that he aimed to wrap up the remaining interest rate rigging cases against HSBC, JPMorgan, Credit Agricole and brokerage ICAP before he leaves office in October.

In May, the European Commission charged HSBC - Europe’s biggest bank - alongside U.S. peer JPMorgan and France’s Credit Agricole with rigging benchmark interest rates linked to the euro, five months after handing down a record 1.7-billion-euro fine against six other financial institutions for Euribor and Libor offences.

The European Union competition watchdog also issued charges against ICAP early this month for suspected manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate - known as Libor - set for the yen.

Libor rates are the average interest rates estimated by leading banks in London that they would be charged if borrowing five main currencies from other banks. Libor and Euribor - the Euro Interbank Offered Rate, published by the European Banking Federation - are central cogs in the global financial system and are used to help price loans and swaps worldwide.

Unlike the other financial firms, which included Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Citigroup , HSBC, JPMorgan, Credit Agricole and ICAP refused to settle the case in December last year, which would have earned them a 10 percent cut in fines. Sanctions can reach up to 10 percent of a company’s turnover if it is found guilty of breaching EU rules.

European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he may be able to decide on the remaining cases towards the end of the year.

“Probably before the end of the mandate of this commission, there will be some news,” Almunia told a Chatham House conference. The current Commission’s mandate ends on October 31.

The EU probes are part of a global investigation. Authorities around the world have already fined 10 banks and brokerages $6.0 billion and charged 16 people. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Sophie Walker)

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