The EC is actively investigating the financial services sector, and it is likely that more cases will be forthcoming. Two current cases involve specific companies and a key area of EC concern, financial data/market infrastructure. The Standard & Poor’s investigation concerns the distribution of International Securities Identification Numbers developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). The second case involves Thomson Reuters and concerns the restrictions the company imposes on the use of Reuters Instrument Codes (RICs).
In addition, the EC has opened at least two general investigations. One is into Credit Default Swaps (CDS) – the first time it has looked at the markets for derivatives. Part of the CDS investigation involves 16 investment banks and Markit, the leading provider of financial information in the CDS market. The second part involves nine large banks – all of them also part of the first investigation – and the agreements they concluded when a company called The Clearing Corporation was sold to Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). The second investigation, according to press reports, is looking at whether banks manipulated the daily London interbank offered rate (Libor), which is an issue also being examined by other regulators.
The financial crisis has forced a regulatory focus on financial services in the EU, and these cases and EC statements indicate that competition law enforcement will strongly back this up over the next few years. Companies active in this sector would be well-advised to audit their EU activities so as to pre-empt any concerns.