June 3, 2015 / 1:54 PM / in 3 years

UK watchdog proposes new rules to avoid excessive fees for benchmarks

LONDON, June 3 (Reuters) - Britain’s financial watchdog has proposed rules to ensure that widely-followed market benchmarks like Libor interest rates, gold or oil are available to all at a fair price.

After banks were fined for trying to rig the Libor interest rate benchmark and currency markets, Britain has required eight major market benchmarks to be run by an independent administrator to reduce the chances of manipulation.

A unit of ICE exchange now runs Libor or London Interbank Offered Rate, and the daily LBMA (London Bullion Market Association) gold price, which replaced the century-old ‘fix’ in March.

The London Metal Exchange has become the administrator for platinum and palladium twice-daily auctions, while the CME Group and Thomson Reuters started to run the LBMA silver benchmark in August 2014.

The administrators of the silver price charge $20 a month for real time access.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said concerns have been raised about the unconstrained ability of these administrators to set prices for benchmarks.

“We have subsequently reflected on this issue further and determined that there is likely to be merit in additional rules,” the FCA said in a consultation paper published on Wednesday.

Libor and the other seven indices run by administrators are used by many thousands of market participants across the world to help price financial contract worth trillions of dollars.

The paper sets out proposals for “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” access to regulated benchmarks, to limit the ability of administrators to “exploit their market power in a way that might hinder effective competition”.

“Different fees can be charged to different users only where this is objectively justified having regard to reasonable commercial grounds such as the quantity, scope or field of use requested,” the proposed rule says.

The FCA said there was a need to ensure that benchmark administrators do not earn excessive returns or distort competition in other ways.

From April this year the FCA was given a suite of powers and sanctions to ensure there is effective competition on the markets it regulates.

“By putting in place a rule and guidance in advance, we intend to reduce uncertainty as to what price a benchmark administrator may charge,” it said. (Additional reporting by Clara Denina; Editing by Keith Weir)

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