After almost two and a half years of investigation, the Turkish
Competition Board announced on 8 March 2013 the outcome of the
high-profile investigation against 12 Turkish banks, including
three state-owned banks, private Turkish banks, and numerous
international banks operating in Turkey.
Finding that the defendants have infringed competition laws by a
collusion to harmonize their trade terms for cash deposit
interests, credits, and credit card fees, the Turkish Competition
Board levied turnover-based monetary fines against all 12 of the
investigated banks, at different rates and nominal values.
The total amount of the fine is an unprecedented TRY 1.1 billion
(around USD 670 million; EUR 481 million). This record-breaking
fine has now taken the lead as the highest fine in the Competition
Authority's enforcement history. The fine actually overtook the
previous highest fine by more than quadrupling it. The decision
also marks the highest fine ever imposed on a single undertaking.
Up to now, the highest fine on a single undertaking was TRY 92
million (USD 55 million; EUR 39 million), which was levied in 2011
against Turkcell, the leading Turkish GSM operator. Now, the
decision breaks that record with Garanti Bankası, one of the
biggest private Turkish banks, which received TRY 213 million
(around USD 127 million; EUR 92 million), more than double of the
previous highest fine on a single undertaking. The decision also
sets a record in that it single-handedly surpasses the sum of all
fines imposed in the history of the Turkish antitrust enforcement
in total. Before the decision, 189 investigations resulted in fines
of TRY 865 million in total. That means one single investigation
very significantly (by almost 30%) surpassed the total fines in 189
investigations in aggregation.
The turnover-based rates vary between 1.5% and 0.3% of the
defendants' 2011 turnovers.
The finding of the violation was unanimous for six of the banks;
whereas the decision was taken by majority for the other six banks.
It appears that the Competition Board refused to set the basic
level of the fine between 2% and 4%, which is the base rate
normally applicable to cartels, subject to aggravating and
mitigating circumstances. By doing so, the Competition Board has
acknowledged that the violation does not constitute a cartel.
It could be underlined that by quadrupling their track-record
for highest ever fine in an investigation in Turkey, the Turkish
Competition Authority has demonstrated that they will not be
intimidated by the sheer level of monetary values. That said, it is
very questionable as to whether this is an investigation truly
calling for such a rigid approach. This is now a matter for the
administrative courts to review and decide.
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