Price Fixing – and Central Bank Number-Fudging – Stories Starting to Go Viral
Bloomberg reports today:
The London gold fix, the benchmark used by miners, jewelers and central banks to value the metal, may have been manipulated for a decade by the banks setting it, researchers say.
Unusual trading patterns around 3 p.m. in London, when the so-called afternoon fix is set on a private conference call between five of the biggest gold dealers, are a sign of collusive behavior and should be investigated, New York University’s Stern School of Business Professor Rosa Abrantes-Metz and Albert Metz, a managing director at Moody’s Investors Service, wrote in a draft research paper.
“The structure of the benchmark is certainly conducive to collusion and manipulation, and the empirical data are consistent with price artificiality,” they say in the report, which hasn’t yet been submitted for publication. “It is likely that co-operation between participants may be occurring.”
Abrantes-Metz and Metz screened intraday trading in the spot gold market from 2001 to 2013 for sudden, unexplained moves that may indicate illegal behavior. From 2004, they observed frequent spikes in spot gold prices during the afternoon call. The moves weren’t replicated during the morning call and hadn’t happened before 2004, they found.
Large price moves during the afternoon call were also overwhelmingly in the same direction: down. On days when the authors identified large price moves during the fix, they were downwards at least two-thirds of the time in six different years between 2004 and 2013. In 2010, large moves during the fix were negative 92 percent of the time, the authors found.
The authors are heavy-weights:
Abrantes-Metz advises the European Union and the International Organization of Securities Commissions on financial benchmarks. Her 2008 paper “Libor Manipulation?” helped uncover the rigging of the London interbank offered rate, which has led financial firms including Barclays Plc and UBS AG to be fined about $6 billion in total. She is a paid expert witness to lawyers, providing economic analysis for litigation. Metz heads credit policy research at ratings company Moody’s.
Another – perhaps even bigger – gold scandal is also starting to go mainstream: the Fed and other central banks don’t really have all of the gold which they claim to hold.