The Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) has released today that it issued the first seven decisions in its five benchmark and interest rate derivatives investigations. The grounds for the decisions are not yet available.
The COMCO’s decisions relate to illegal anti-competitive agreements with regard to the benchmarks Swiss franc LIBOR and YEN TIBOR as well as to the interest rate derivatives of the Swiss franc spread, the EURIBOR and the Yen LIBOR / Euroyen TIBOR.
The proceedings originally arose from one investigation opened back in 2012 that, however, revealed several unconnected facts with regard to the complex benchmarks and interest rate derivatives markets. This ultimately led to the split into five investigations that the COMCO now closed in full or partly, i.e. at least against some of the investigated 16 banks and 5 brokers.
For the COMCO, the decisions put a first important end to four years of intense investigation. Foreign competition authorities, including the European Commission, already issued decisions in identical or similar matters and the Swiss interest rate derivatives market plays an important role in Europe and even worldwide. The proceedings themselves were complex as well. The COMCO had to deal with and negotiate amicable settlements with several parties in parallel, different undertakings qualified for full immunity, others for a partial reduction of a fine and for some markets, different parties were involved at different times of the specific overall infringement period.
The decisions at hand demonstrate that the Swiss competition authorities have the expertise required to handle such complex investigations and assessments. They also revealed with a clear signal to the banking and finance industry that even in a highly regulated market, competition law rules apply beside the market or prudential regulation, and that specific compliance processes are required also in that regard.
The decisions of the COMCO are not yet final and binding and may be appealed before the Federal Administrative Court. Anyhow, the EURIBOR and Yen LIBOR / Euroyen TIBOR cartel investigations are being continued against the non-settling parties.