Antitrust: Commission opens formal proceedings
against Standard & Poor's concerning securities
The European Commission has decided to open formal proceedings with respect to Standard & Poor's (S&P) behaviour towards end users of International Securities Identification Numbers (ISINs), for possible breaches of the EC Treaty's rules on abuse of a dominant market position (Article 82). The Commission believes that S&P may abuse its monopoly position as the US national numbering agency by forcing financial institutions (such as banks and investment funds) to pay licensing fees for the use of US ISIN codes in their own databases.
The initiation of proceedings against S&P originates from a complaint filed by several associations representing investors (financial institutions and asset managers). The International Securities Identification Number (ISIN) is a standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to provide unique crossborder identification for securities (shares, bonds, etc.) issued throughout the world. ISINs are attributed by the National Numbering Agency (NNA) of the country of issuance.
S&P runs the CUSIP Service Bureau (CSB) – the US NNA – on behalf of the American Bankers Association (ABA). S&P/CSB is the only US ISIN issuer and the only operator to receive first-hand information from all US securities issuers. S&P/CSB includes the information gathered from securities issuers in a descriptive database ("the S&P ISIN database"), which is then licensed to information services providers such as Bloomberg, Reuters, etc.
It appears at this stage that US ISINs are the only universal or common identifier for US securities and that they are essential for the day-to-day business of financial institutions, including those located in the EU.
The alleged infringement consists of an abuse by S&P of its monopoly position by requesting licensing fees from financial...
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