Foreign finance sector in China’s sights as NDRC mulls probe of suspected cartel

20 April 2017 4:54pm

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First published by MLex 19 April 2017 at 11:25 GMT.

Foreign finance industry companies are likely on the radar of China's antitrust regulators, which are said to be questioning whether firms in the sector have engaged in price fixing, MLex has learned.

China's National Development and Reform Commission is said to be launching an initial inquiry into the foreign finance sector, it is understood.

The probe is likely still at an early stage. It is not immediately clear which specific companies the regulator is probing, or whether its enquiries will lead to a full-blown, official investigation of the foreign financial services industry.

The regulator hasn't yet publicized any information on the matter.

Local legal sources said the case was likely related to the manipulation of foreign exchange-related markets and benchmarks such as the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, by several global banks.

The NDRC's Price Supervision and Antimonopoly Bureau has been looking into the Libor for years, MLex has heard. The regulator has shown an interest in the finance sector, and has been following investigations by its EU and US counterparts for a number of years.

About a year ago, some foreign finance sector companies approached Chinese lawyers to do compliance work and facilitate whistleblowing to the NDRC, MLex has heard.

The case is likely being handled by Antitrust Enforcement Division One, which is tasked with handling cases related to service industries.

Cartel conduct in the finance sector was a key focus among Chinese and European officials at the latest 14th EU-China Competition Week summit held last month.

The latest developments come as the Chinese antitrust watchdog has vowed to step up enforcement activity and has named the finance sector among its key enforcement priorities for 2017.

In 2013, Li Zhen, a Yunnan-based lawyer, filed official complaints to Chinese regulators, claiming that Libor manipulation by foreign finance sector companies had caused a serious impact on China.

Also in 2013, The European Commission levied a record antitrust fine of 1.71 billion euros ($2.3 billion) on six European and US banks and brokers for rigging benchmark interest rates.

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