Europe hits 5 banks with $1.2 billion fine over currency trading cartel

Five global banks have been slapped with a €1.07 billion ($1.2 billion) fine in Europe for running cartels that coordinated currency trading.

The European Commission announced Thursday that it will hit JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Barclays, RBS and Japan’s MUFG with the penalties following an investigation into collusion in the foreign exchange market.

The biggest fines were handed to Citi and RBS, which will owe about €310.8 million ($348 million) and €249.2 million ($279 million), respectively.

UBS, the whistleblower in the case, was not fined.

The Commission said traders exchanged sensitive information and coordinated their activities in chatrooms on Bloomberg terminals. That gave the traders access to privileged information that helped them decide what currencies to buy and sell, and when.

“These cartel decisions send a clear message that the Commission will not tolerate collusive behavior in any sector of the financial markets,” the Commission’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The chat rooms, which had names such as “Three way banana split” and “Essex Express ‘n the Jimmy,” were active between 2007 and 2013.