October 7, 2013 / 4:28 PM / 4 years ago

EU's Almunia says looking into possible forex rigging

BRUSSELS, Oct 7 (Reuters) - European Union regulators are looking into allegations of possible rigging of the $5 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market, the EU’s antitrust chief said on Monday, days after Swiss authorities announced an investigation into the issue.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told an online chat organised by the European Commission that the issue only came to light recently.

“I was informed in the last few days of possible manipulations and possible activities that might constitute breaches of competition rules involving the possible manipulation of certain types of exchange rates,” he said.

“We started looking at it from the very moment that the first information got to us but I can’t anticipate any further because we are starting the examination first to see what are the facts and to see who might have been responsible of any breaches,” he said.

Almunia said he would open an investigation if there was evidence of anti-competitive behaviour.

“If there are any breaches we could act. We are in a very, very preliminary phase ... Let’s see what will be the outcome of the examination of the facts.”

Switzerland’s financial markets regulator said on Friday that it was working with authorities in other countries on the issue. It did not name the banks under investigation.

The currency market, the biggest market in the financial system, is one of the least regulated with most trading taking place away from exchanges.

Almunia, with the power to fine companies up to 10 percent of their global revenue for breaching EU antitrust rules, is also investigating alleged rigging of financial benchmarks. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Ron Askew)

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