CMA fines ION Investment Group over Broadway Technology deal

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) today issued a notice to ION Investment Group Limited and ION Trading Technologies Limited that it has imposed a penalty on ION under section 94A of the Enterprise Act 2002 (EA02) because it considers that ION has, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply in certain respects with the requirements imposed on it by the initial enforcement order (IEO) issued by the CMA in April 2020.

The penalty is a fixed amount of £325,000.

The CMA has found that, after the IEO came into force on 2 April 2020, ION and Broadway continued their pre-existing very close collaboration on the draft response to a bid proposal. The response submitted by Broadway on 3 April 2020, was the result of extensive and detailed exchanges after the IEO came into force between ION and Broadway, including contributions from ION, on its content.

Specifically, Broadway sought to gain a competitive advantage (over rival bids) as a result of the Merger, noting that ‘As part of ION Group, Broadway provides a wide range of capabilities through partners, including [ION division]’ and that ‘Broadway, as a member of the ION Group is the only vendor that can offer a complete and proven […] solution’.

In view of the above, the CMA has decided that ION has failed to comply with the IEO.

Also, in the course of its investigation of this matter, the CMA made various requests for information and documents in relation to compliance with the IEO. In addition, the CMA was provided with periodic statements of compliance as required by the IEO.

However, in various responses provided to the CMA and in the Compliance Statements covering the time periods of key events which are the subject of this decision, there were material inaccuracies and / or omissions. ION thereby failed to comply with paragraph 7 of the IEO.

The CMA has decided that ION has no reasonable excuse for its failures to comply with the IEO. The regulator has carefully considered several submissions made by ION and concluded that the explanations provided do not amount to a reasonable excuse. Moreover, the failures were not caused by a significant and genuinely unforeseeable or unusual event. Nor were they caused by events beyond the control of ION.

The regulator has decided that it is appropriate to impose a penalty for each breach in the interests of general deterrence and because of the serious and flagrant nature of the failures to comply with the IEO.

ION Investment Group Limited and Broadway Technology Holdings provide specialist trading systems to financial organisations, such as banks, that allow the trading of FX and fixed income securities such as government bonds.

Following an initial Phase 1 investigation in July 2020, the CMA identified competition concerns in ION’s completed purchase of Broadway in the supply of fixed income electronic trading systems. ION is by far the largest supplier of these systems and Broadway is one of only two significant competitors.

The regulator was concerned that the deal could therefore leave customers facing a significantly reduced choice of supplier with the potential for higher prices or more onerous terms and conditions on their services.

In response to these concerns, ION has offered to sell Broadway’s FI business including the underlying software and the brand to a buyer consortium led by Broadway’s CEO. This has been approved by the CMA.

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