BRUSSELS, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The European Commission fined three banks -- JPMorgan Chase & Co., HSBC Holdings Plc and Credit Agricole SA -- $520 million for colluding to manipulate a benchmark euro interest rate.
The European Commission determined the banks breached EU antitrust rules with the exchange of sensitive information and colluded on the interest rate's derivative pricing from September 2005 to May 2008. The investigation lasted five years.
U.S. and British regulators earlier accused several financial institutions of manipulating the Libor and Euribor rates.
"A sound and competitive financial sector is essential for investment and growth," the European Union's antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. "Banks have to respect EU competition rules just like any other company operating in the single market."
In statements, Credit Agricole said it would appeal the fine, and JPMorgan and HSBC said they are considering an appeal.
JPMorgan "did not engage in any wrongdoing with respect to the Euribor benchmark," Jennifer Zuccarelli, a spokeswoman for the bank in London, said. "We will continue to vigorously defend our position against these allegations, including through possible appeals to the European courts."
Credit Agricole said it "firmly believes that it did not infringe competition law."
HSBC said it "did not participate in an anti-competitive cartel" as the European Commission has charged.
JPMorgan was fined around $361 million followed by Credit Agricole with $123 million and HSBC around $36 million. HSBC's amount was much lower because it participated in the scheme for just one month compared with five months for the other two.
The fines also were based on the value of the sales for their products.
One day in corporate chat rooms, "they congratulated each other and thanked each other for work well done," Vestager said.
Four other lenders -- Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Societe Generale and the Royal Bank of Scotland -- settled with the European Commission in December of 2013, but JPMorgan, HSBC and Credit Agricole chose not to. Barclays wasn't fined because it alerted the European Commission.
Vestager said traders at all seven banks used "vulgar language" in their interactions, including "a kind of dictionary" to make sure the evidence wasn't lost in translation.
"I think I would be seriously blushing if I were to repeat any of the wording in some of those chat rooms," she said.