Rabobank hit with $29 million EU fine over 2006-16 bond cartel

By Foo Yun Chee and Sudip Kar-Gupta

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Dutch bank Rabobank was hit with a 26.6-million-euro ($29 million) fine by EU antitrust regulators on Wednesday for taking part in a euro-denominated bonds trading cartel for a decade.

Banks around the world have been fined billions of euros by antitrust enforcers in recent years for rigging key financial benchmarks and currencies.

The European Commission said the cartel, which operated between 2006 and 2016, focused on euro-denominated SSA bonds (Supra-Sovereign, Foreign Sovereign, Sub-Sovereign/Agency bonds) and government guaranteed bonds traded in Europe.

Government guaranteed bonds were issued for a limited period due to the 2008 global financial crisis.

Deutsche Bank staved off a fine of almost 156 million euros after it alerted the European Union’s competition watchdog to the cartel, triggering an investigation in 2017.

“Deutsche Bank has proactively cooperated with the European Commission in this matter and, as a result, has been granted full immunity,” the German bank said.

The traders operated at Deutsche Bank’s EUR SSA desk in Frankfurt and at Rabobank’s Investment Grade Bonds desk in London to exchange information on prices, volumes as well as current and future trading strategies and positions, the Commission said.

It said the traders used Bloomberg emails, instant messages and online chatrooms to communicate.

“Trustworthy and well-functioning bonds trading markets are crucial not only for the national authorities issuing bonds but also for the investors buying and trading,” EU antitrust chief Didier Reynders said in a statement.

($1 = 0.9168 euros)

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee and Sudip Kar-GuptaEditing by Mark Potter)