EU antitrust regulators investigate precious metals trading

BRUSSELS, Aug 25 (Reuters) - European Union antitrust authorities are investigating possible anti-competitive practices in precious metals trading as they joined other regulators in a crackdown on possible rigging of the markets.

The European Commission’s action follows a record 1.7 billion euro ($1.9 billion) fine against six financial institutions in 2013 for manipulating Libor and Euribor interest rate benchmarks.

Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are also investigating suspected rigging of the foreign exchange market.

“The Commission is currently investigating alleged anti-competitive behaviour in precious metals spot trading in the European Economic Area (EEA),” Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an email.

He did not name the banks. The EEA refers to the 28-country European Union, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

HSBC said this month that various regulators, competition and law enforcement authorities in the US and the EU were investigating its precious metals operations.

“In April 2015, the European Commission issued a request for information seeking certain information related to HSBC’s precious metals operations. HSBC is cooperating with the authorities,” it said.

It said it was unable to predict the timing of any resolution and the impact on the bank, which it said “could be significant.”

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, Germany’s Bafin and Switzerland’s FINMA are also looking into precious metals trading and commodity benchmarks.

British bank Barclays said in March that it has provided information to the U.S. Department of Justice related to its precious metals activity. ($1 = 0.8715 euros) (Additional reporting by Steve Slater in London; Editing by Keith Weir)