BUSINESS IN SHORT

Antimonopoly Office fines three banks

SLOVAKIA's Antimonopoly Office (PMÚ) has imposed fines totalling €10,191,800 on three Slovak banks – Slovenská Sporiteľňa, ČSOB and VÚB – the TASR newswire reported.

SLOVAKIA's Antimonopoly Office (PMÚ) has imposed fines totalling €10,191,800 on three Slovak banks – Slovenská Sporiteľňa, ČSOB and VÚB – the TASR newswire reported.

According to the PMÚ, the three banks had signed a cartel agreement which consisted of terminating the current account agreements of Akcenta CZ and refusing to re-sign them. PMÚ regards the procedures used by the banks as a most serious violation of the rules of economic competition because it included an agreement on division of the market.

“The entrepreneurs violated the law by exchanging sensitive information with each other and coordinating their procedures with a view to trammel Akcenta as their competitor in the market of cashless foreign currency operations services,” PMÚ spokesperson Alexandra Bernáthová said.

Important evidence was said to be testimony of a ČSOB representative about a meeting of employees of all three banks held in Bratislava on May 10, 2007 at which time a common procedure was agreed upon by these banks regarding termination of current account agreements and not consummating new agreements for current accounts for Akcenta CZ, explained Bernáthová.

External and internal e-mail correspondence and other internal documents acquired by the PMÚ during its investigation of the banks also served as evidence.

The three banks denied the accusations.

“VÚB’s decision not to maintain the accounts for Akcenta isn’t the result of any agreement, but rather of prudent entrepreneurship, as the bank is committed to this by the valid legislation,” said VÚB spokesperson Alena Walterová.

“Slovenská Sporiteľňa abides by ethical banking codes, based on respecting valid legislation and transparent entrepreneurship,” said Slovenská Sporiteľňa spokesman Štefan Frimmer, adding that the bank plans to submit an appeal against the PMÚ's decision.

ČSOB said that Akcenta’s accounts were cancelled in accord with the law, a fact that it says has also been confirmed by courts.

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