Hungary's competition office fines 11 banks total of $43 million for collusion in mortgages

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungary’s competition watchdog says it has fined 11 banks a total of 9.48 billion forints ($43 million) for collusion in connection with their clients’ repayments of mortgages denominated in foreign currencies.

Tuesday’s ruling by the Competition Office says that in late 2011 the banks colluded to curb new loan options that would have helped clients take advantage of a government program allowing holders of mortgages in foreign currencies to make a one-time payment cancelling their loans at exchange rates far below market levels. Most of the exchange rate losses had to be swallowed by the banks.

Some of the lenders, including OTP Bank, which was fined 3.9 billion forints, and Erste Bank (fined 1.7 billion forints) said they would appeal the ruling.