Societe Generale SA (GLE), France’s second-largest bank, is challenging how European Union regulators calculated its share of a record 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in antitrust fines for rigging benchmark interest rates.
The European Commission made “a manifest error of assessment” in the way it calculated the bank’s sales and allocated the fines among the companies, the Paris-based lender argued in its appeal at the EU General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, according to details of the challenge published in the EU Official Journal today.
The EU fined Societe Generale 446 million euros on Dec. 4 as part of settlements between the EU’s antitrust regulator and eight companies including Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.
The EU court “should exercise its unlimited jurisdiction in order to reduce the applicant’s fine to an appropriate amount reflecting the respective positions of the banks,” Societe Generale argues in the challenge.
The French lender’s appeal is the first legal challenge by a company that agreed to a cartel settlement since the process was introduced by regulators in 2008. In exchange for settling cases, price fixers usually get a 10 percent discount on fines, with bigger reductions available for helping investigators by revealing details of collusion with competitors. Settling firms admit liability and can be sued for damages by price-fixing victims.
Deutsche Bank was fined 725 million euros in the case, the biggest single penalty, and RBS got a 391 million-euro penalty. The combined fines for manipulating the yen London interbank offered rate and Euribor are the largest EU price-fixing penalties.
Societe Generale, which was fined for rigging Euribor, filed the appeal with the EU General Court on Feb. 14.
Libor and Euribor, the Euro Interbank Offered Rate, gauge banks’ estimated cost of borrowing over different periods of time. The rates are a benchmark used to calculate interest payments for financial products including mortgages.
Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the commission in Brussels, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment on the case.
The case is: T-98/14, Pending Case, Societe Generale v. Commission.
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