Romania’s competition watchdog, the Competition Council, recently launched an investigation into how the country’s 10 main banks calculate the lending reference rate ROBOR.
ROBOR is the average interest rate at which contributing banks to the calculation of this index are willing to lend to other contributing banks in the form of deposits in RON. The 10 banks are: Banca Transylvania, BCR, BRD-Societe Generale, ING Bank, Raiffeisen Bank, CEC Bank, UniCredit Bank, OTP Bank Romania, Eximbank and Intesa Sanpaolo Romania.
According to Profit.ro, a similar investigation began in October 2008, during the previous financial crisis, when the National Bank of Romania (BNR) fined Raiffeisen Bank and BRD for anti-competitive practices. Both banks contested the fines and managed to have them abolished (Raiffeisen) or greatly reduced (BRD).
The preliminary investigation, which was revealed in 2019, showed that the Competition Council suspected that the banks had entered into an agreement to artificially raise interest rates. However, in the end, auditors determined that the international financial crisis was actually responsible for the increased interest rates.
The current investigation comes after the head of Romania’s central bank, Mugur Isarescu, criticized the banks over the summer, saying they set ROBOR too high, too quickly, past the BNR’s key interest rate.
The 10 banks that collectively determine ROBOR employ specialized personnel with appropriate training in financial markets to calculate ROBOR. The employees in question are given independence from any other entity of the bank including the lending branch. According to Hotnews, they also have specific codes of conduct to adhere to strict internal controls.
ROBOR has jumped from around 4.26% in March last year to 8.44% currently. On October 6, 2022, BNR fixed the key interest rate at 6.25%.
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