Societe Generale SA, France’s second-largest bank, is fighting the way European Union regulators decided on its share of record 1.7 billion-euro ($2.3 billion) antitrust fines for rigging benchmark interest rates.
Societe Generale is challenging “the method of calculation used by the European Commission to determine the amount” of its 446 million-euro penalty levied on Dec. 4, the Paris-based bank said in a statement today. The EU decision was part of settlements with eight companies, including Deutsche Bank AG and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.
The French lender’s appeal is the first legal challenge by a company in 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.
“It is striking that the company only received a reduction of 5 percent” for helping the commission compared with discounts of 50 percent for RBS and 30 percent for Deutsche Bank, said Simon Hirsbrunner, a lawyer at Heuking Kuehn Lueer Wojtek in Brussels. “Maybe the company feels that it didn’t gain very much during the commission proceedings and has possibly more to win before the court.”
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, the Luxembourg-based tribunal’s press office said.
Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, declined to comment.
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.