Banks will see fine on interest fixing: Report
Istanbul’s Levent is the home for the bases of many Turkish banks, some of which face an interest fixing probe. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELTurkey’s Competition Board has concluded that 12 banks in the country colluded to determine interest rates, a Hürriyet columnist reported Nov. 2, even as the board’s president called such reports mere speculation.
The banks may face billions of liras in fines if the investigation is finalized next year as expected. The fines will prove a heavy blow to the Turkish banking in general as the banks under investigation dominate nearly the entire sector, columnist Erdal Sağlam, who also writes for the Daily News, said on Nov. 1.
The banks are alleged to have interest rates on many loan types, including credit cards. The banks under investigation include Akbank, Denizbank, Finansbank, HSBC Bank, ING Bank, TEB, Garanti Bank, Halkbank, İşbank, Vakıflar Bank, Yapı Kredi Bank and Ziraat Bank. Garanti Payment Systems and Garanti Mortgage, subsidiaries of Garanti Bank, are also subject to the probe, which commenced on Nov. 2 last year.
A second round of bank statements was taken during the week of the recent Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. “Fines may be imposed or not imposed. Above all, it is not possible to say anything about the amount of the fine. If the penalty amount is not stated [in official reports], then [media reports] are speculative,” the Competition Board’s President Nurettin Kaldırımcı told Anatolia news agency.
Delay in decision date
Such media reports are based on rapporteurs’ views, he said, noting that neither those reports nor the defense process had been completed.
“We had said the investigation would be completed in January at the earliest. But [now] it is not likely to be finalized before February or March,” he said.
The banks will submit their third statement, which may be followed by a verbal defense.
Sağlam said the general managers of some of the banks seemed pessimistic because they believed that officials were determined to impose fines on banks.
The board has seen email traffic between senior executives, including general managers, as well as public statements, one unidentified general manager told Sağlam, adding that the board reached a conclusion that the banks had jointly determined interest rates based on these documents.
The correspondence does, however, include statements regarding interest-rate fixing, that bank general manager said.
“There are such talks, but everybody knows that bankers agree on doing one thing then scratch each other’s eyes out afterwards. There is no other sector that has such intense competition,” the general manager said.