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Report: Mexican watchdog finds evidence of rigging in government bond market

Mexican antitrust regulator Cofece has notified seven financial institutions that it discovered probable evidence of efforts to manipulate government bond prices, Bloomberg News reported, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

The watchdog has been investigating the matter for nearly three years and could levy fines of up to 10% of a company's annual Mexican revenue if it finds them guilty.

The Bloomberg report did not name the banks involved, but according to a previous report, Cofece was probing Grupo Financiero HSBC SA de CV, Bank of America México SA, Grupo Financiero BBVA Bancomer SA de CV, Barclays Bank México SA, Grupo Financiero Citibanamex SA de CV, Grupo Financiero Santander Mexico SAB de CV and Banco JP Morgan SA for allegedly monopolistic practices in the trading of government securities in 2017.

In November 2018, Mexican banking and securities commission CNBV issued more than $1 million in fines on several global banks, as well as on traders and brokers, for simulating transactions to boost government bond trading volumes. However, the CNBV did not pursue criminal charges as it was unable to find proof of price manipulation.

A U.S. district judge recently dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that accused 10 companies of rigging the market for Mexican government bonds. The lawsuit was filed by eight pension funds alleging that the companies profited from the market manipulation.