(Bloomberg) --

HSBC Holdings Plc, Credit Suisse Group AG,  Barclays Plc, and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc were fined 344 million euros ($390 million) for their involvement in a foreign-exchange price fixing cartel by the European Commission. 

“The collusive behavior of the five banks undermined the integrity of the financial sector at the expense of the European economy and consumers,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Traders ran the cartels from online chatrooms, swapping sensitive information and trading plans that allowed them to make informed decisions to buy or sell currencies, the regulator said. In this case, the traders occasionally used a chatroom dubbed “Sterling Lads” to plot their buying and selling. 

While still in the hundreds of millions, these cartel fines are lower than a 1.3 billion-euro penalty for banks for rigging Euribor rates and below a record 3.8 billion-euro penalty for collusion between truckmakers

UBS Group AG escaped a 94 million euro fine under the Commission’s leniency provisions for having revealed the existence of the cartel.

  • HSBC was fined 174 million euros
  • Barclays was hit with a 54 million euro fine
  • RBS was charged 32 million euros under an agreed settlement that gave them a 10% reduction in their sanctions, the EU’s executive arm said in a statement
  • Credit Suisse was ordered to pay 83 million euros and received no reduction as part of an ordinary procedure

(Adds detail on cartel from third paragraph. A previous version of the story corrected the spelling of the name in the 2nd paragraph)

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