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HSBC Euribor fine overturned by General Court


On 24 September 2019 the General Court handed down judgment in HSBC Holdings v Commission EU:T:2019:675, allowing part of HSBC’s appeal and setting aside the penalty imposed on HSBC in its entirety.

The case arose from a decision of the European Commission in 2016 finding that HSBC and six other banks had infringed Article 101(1) TFEU in the Euro interest rate derivatives (EIRD) sector. The Commission found that the banks had attempted to manipulate the level of the Euro Interbank Offered Rate (Euribor) and engaged in unrelated exchanges of information in relation to EIRDs. The Commission imposed on HSBC a fine of over €33 million.

HSBC brought an action for the annulment of the Commission’s 2016 decision.

The Court upheld the Commission’s finding of an infringement by object in relation to the single manipulation of Euribor in which HSBC participated, and two unrelated exchanges of information concerning the “mid” of certain EIRDs. The Court agreed with HSBC, however, that the Commission had erred in finding that the object of two exchanges of information on trading positions was to restrict competition. Neither exchange was related to any Euribor manipulation or reduced uncertainty in such a way as to allow an inference of a distortion of pricing components in the EIRD sector.

The Court also found that HSBC’s participation in a single and continuous infringement was more limited than described by the Commission in its decision.

The Court then proceeded to set aside the fine imposed on HSBC, on the basis of a lack of reasoning in a central element of the Commission’s calculation of the fine.

The judgment is here.

Kelyn Bacon QC and David Bailey (instructed by Norton Rose Fulbright) represented HSBC.