Thu, Mar 13, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Carney says forex rigging scandal could prove huge

DEFENSIVE:Facing tough questions from members of parliament, the head of the Bank of England backed the bank’s governance structure and speed of its reaction

The Guardian, LONDON

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney on Tuesday was forced to admit that allegations of rigging in foreign exchange markets could prove be a bigger scandal than the manipulation of LIBOR as he sought to rebuff criticism that the bank had been slow to react.

During almost five hours in front of the Treasury Select Committee, Carney also unveiled plans for a new deputy governor to focus on banking and markets as part of an overhaul to bolster the bank’s credibility.

Carney was speaking days after the bank suspended a member of staff in connection with its review of the £3 trillion-a-day (US$4,98 trillion) foreign exchange market and began a formal inquiry into whether its staff knew about potential market rigging.

Facing renewed criticism from committee chairman Andrew Tyrie that the bank’s governance structure was “opaque, complex and byzantinem” Carney said a strategic review to be outlined next week would reinforce compliance, make staff more accountable and create the post of a fourth deputy governor.

The bank was “ruthlessly and relentlessly” investigating what had happened in foreign exchange markets, he said.

“This is as serious as LIBOR, if not more so, because this goes to the heart of integrity of markets,” he told members of parliament. “We cannot come out of this with a shadow of doubt about the integrity of the bank of England.”

The scandal escalated on Tuesday as Bloomberg news agency reported that a senior currency dealer at Lloyds Banking Group had tipped off a trader at oil company BP about a £300 million foreign exchange deal.

Bloomberg cited people with knowledge of the matter saying the Lloyds’ dealer, Martin Chantree, alerted the other trader on Jan. 31 last year that his desk had received instructions to swap more than £300 million for dollars and that they would continue selling regardless of price movements. Lloyds suspended Chantree last month.

Carney’s repeated vows to reinforce integrity follow a warning from one of the Treasury Committee’s MPs, Pat McFadden, that the bank faced “enormous” risks to its reputation from reports of wrongdoing in the foreign exchange market, where London accounts for 40 percent of the trade.

The governor’s comments did little to allay Tyrie’s concerns about the bank’s ability to cope with a new crisis.

“This is the first test for the Bank of England’s new governance structures. Early signs are not encouraging,” the MP said in a statement after the hearing.

He reiterated criticism of the slowness of the bank’s oversight committee to take the lead on accusations of misconduct in the forex markets. An internal inquiry was launched in October last year, but the investigation was moved up to the oversight committee last week.

The committee’s Andrea Leadsom repeated several times a question to Paul Fisher, the bank’s executive director for markets, over why Threadneedle Street did not once deign to follow up the committee’s queries in the wake of the LIBOR scandal over whether other prices may have been rigged.

“It isn’t our job to go out hunting for rigging of markets,” Fisher said.

Tyrie was visibly shocked when questions about monetary policy committee discussions led to the revelation that recordings of the meetings were destroyed once they had been turned into redacted minutes. He said that recordings were of historical value, and was reluctant to accept Fisher’s explanation that attempts to transcribe meetings had failed.

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