Exclusive: Chatroom evidence questions BoE role in FX probe - sources

Wed Mar 19, 2014 5:01pm EDT
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By Jamie McGeever

LONDON (Reuters) - British regulators are examining evidence relating to a 2012 meeting of currency dealers and Bank of England officials which potentially challenges the central bank's assertion it had not condoned sharing details of client orders.

The practice of sharing details about such orders is at the center of a global rigging probe.

Transcripts of a foreign exchange chatroom, now in the hands of Britain's Financial Conduct Authority, reveal for the first time that an un-named senior dealer who attended the meeting told fellow traders the next day that Bank officials had agreed there were advantages to sharing client order information to minimize market volatility around daily reference rates known as "fixings", two sources familiar with their content told Reuters.

By sharing information during these fixings, traders are able to match trades and minimize price swings, thereby lessening the risk they take on big transactions.

These and other transcripts are now part of the formal investigation by the FCA into allegations of collusion and manipulation of the $5.3 trillion a day global foreign exchange market. Reuters was unable to view the precise words of the senior trader because the transcripts are confidential.

The chatroom transcript, dated April 24, 2012, could now become a central piece of evidence in the probe as it is one of the few pieces of written material from the time of the April 23 meeting in London to have so far come to light.

At stake is whether the Bank of England, in its role as the official monitor of London currency markets that command some 40 percent of the global market, was aware of and condoned activity among market-making banks that is now alleged to have amounted to collusion and manipulation.

A Bank of England spokeswoman said the Bank's oversight committee is conducting an investigation into whether any BoE official was involved in the sharing of confidential client information or aware of the sharing of such information between FX market participants, and therefore it would not be appropriate to comment. The FCA also declined to comment.   Continued...

A man passes the Bank of England in London January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor