Business

Penalise 'bad apple' traders, suggests Bank of England

Minouche Shafik Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Minouche Shafik, the Bank's deputy governor, said more may need to be done to discourage "bad apples"

More should be done to punish traders who try to manipulate financial markets, the deputy governor of the Bank of England has said.

Minouche Shafik said the Bank's consultation into rebuilding trust in financial markets, should consider stronger penalties for what she called "bad apples".

Ms Shafik made the suggestion during her first speech as deputy governor.

The Bank's review will focus on fixed income, currency and commodity markets.

The nine-month consultation by the Bank comes in the wake of the Libor scandal which saw banks fined £4bn for manipulating the inter-bank lending - or Libor - rate, which they did to boost profits.

The inquiry - called Making Markets Fair and Effective - was ordered by chancellor George Osborne, who said he wanted to restore the reputation of other UK-based financial markets.

"The integrity of the City matters to Britain. Markets here set the interest rate for people's mortgages, the exchange rates for our exports and holidays, and the commodity prices for the goods we buy," he added.

'Misconduct'

Speaking at the London School of Economics (LSE), Ms Shafik warned that there could easily be a repeat of the Libor scandal.

"The risk is that, as memories of recent enforcement cases fade, bad practices may re-emerge," she said.

"Some say that may already be happening," she added.

And she suggested that the review - which she is heading - should think about increasing sanctions against individuals.

"The review also wants to consider whether more needs to be done to monitor for, and where it is found, punish misconduct," she said.

Any changes as a result of the review would come on top of new laws already brought in by the government.

Under these new laws, senior bank managers could be sent to prison if their conduct leads to the failure of a bank.

Transparency

Image copyright PA
Image caption Benchmarks like ICE Brent affect the price of fuel at the pumps

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Treasury are working on the review with the Bank of England.

Among its recommendations, the review suggests

  • a global code of conduct
  • greater use of electronic surveillance
  • stronger penalties for staff breaching guidelines
  • improved transparency, for example by greater use of electronic platforms
  • improvement of benchmark design

Benchmarks

The Bank has already singled out seven benchmarks, which it believes should be reformed. These are used for the trading of everything from interest rate swaps to foreign exchange, and from gold to oil.

The benchmarks affect millions of people, by determining the price of shopping, or the cost of filling up at the pumps, for example.

Benchmarks ripe for reform?
Name Asset
SONIA - Sterling Overnight Index Average Unsecured overnight sterling lending
RONIA - Repurchase Overnight Index Average Secured overnight sterling lending
ISDAfix - International Swaps and Derivatives Assoc fix Fixed for floating interest rate swaps
WM/Reuters 4pm London Closing Spot Spot price for foreign exchange rates
London Gold Fixing Twice daily fix on gold prices
LBMA Silver Price - London Bullion Market Assoc Daily fix on silver prices
ICE Brent Futures contract on Brent crude oil

The Bank of England proposals will now go out for consultation, before a final report in the summer of 2015.

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