Mexico bankers react to new details in bond competition probe

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mexican banking association ABM is defending major financial institutions currently under investigation by the country's competition authority Cofece for possible collusion to raise interest rates on bond issuances.

The comments come after Santander México, BBVA, JP Morgan Chase & Co., HSBC, Barclays, Citigroup and Bank of America were named in a leak to Bloomberg as the subjects of the investigation by an undisclosed source.

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ABM representative Marcos Martínez, speaking to local daily El Financiero, rejected the notion that these banks carried out the monopolistic practices described in the Cofece probe. However, the official confirmed that Cofece had requested information from the ABM, without adding details.

"We know nothing," said Martínez, who is also the president of Santander México's administrative council.

José Méndez Fabre, president of the Mexican financial intermediaries association (AMIB), denied having received a request for information from Cofece and said that, to date, they only know that the Cofece is carrying out the investigation.

El Financiero did however report that some of the named banks have already received information requests from Cofece, adding later that sources at least three of the named banks say that they have not.

In the April 19 Cofece announcement, the agency indicated the damage to public finances by potential price fixing "could be grave", noting that the daily volume of operations in the bond market is 100bn pesos (US$5.37bn).

At any given moment, there are approximately US$400bn in government and semi-government peso-denominated bonds in circulation that could be affected by the probe.

Cofece has had a busy month with the financial sector, issuing 1.1bn pesos in fines in early May against four of Mexico's largest Afore pension fund managers and 11 unspecified individuals for colluding to limit the number of account transfers between different Afores.