Brussels - JPMorgan Chase, HSBC Holdings and Crédit Agricole were accused yesterday by the EU’s antitrust arm of colluding to manipulate interbank lending rates.

The trio received competition complaints alleging that they participated in a cartel to rig the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor. The so-called statement of objections is the next step in the EU enforcement process after the lenders dropped out of settlement talks last year.

The European Commission “has concerns that the three banks may have taken part in a collusive scheme which aimed at distorting the normal course of pricing components for euro interest rate derivatives”, it said. While six financial firms, including Société Générale, agreed in December last year to a combined record of e1.7 billion (R24.3bn) in fines in the Euribor case and a similar yen-based rate probe, the regulator’s attempt to get a clean sweep of settlements was ruined by the drop-outs. The EU’s case was further undermined when Société Générale appealed its penalty in the courts.

HSBC fell 1 percent by 1.04pm in London trading while Crédit Agricole slipped 0.5 percent in Paris.

JPMorgan and HSBC said they would defend themselves against the EU allegations.

“JPMorgan Chase has co-operated fully with the European Commission throughout its investigation,” the US company said.

Crédit Agricole said: “We shall examine the content as soon as we have received the documents.” – Bloomberg