Clear attempt to manipulate precious metals benchmarks at UBS

Posted on :Nov 12, 2014

By: Jan Harvey

Reuters

November 12, 2014

(Reuters) – Swiss regulator FINMA said on Wednesday that it found a “clear attempt” to manipulate precious metals benchmarks during its investigation into precious metals and foreign exchange trading at UBS (UBSN.VX).

The benchmark known as the gold “fix” is used to ascertain reference prices twice daily for the precious metals industry. Along with other precious metal benchmarks, it has come under increased regulatory scrutiny since the Libor manipulation scandal broke in the foreign exchange market in 2012.

“The behaviour patterns in precious metals were somewhat similar to the behaviour patterns in foreign exchange,” FINMA director Mark Branson said in a conference call with journalists.

He said that as UBS has precious metals and foreign exchange desks under combined leadership, it was not surprising to find similar behaviour.

“But we have also seen a clear attempt to manipulate fixes in the precious metal market.”

The Swiss watchdog said earlier that a recent probe showed UBS tried to manipulate foreign exchange benchmarks and staff acted against client interests. It ordered the bank to hand over 134 million Swiss francs ($139 million) in a forex probe.

UBS said in its annual report in May that it had widened an internal probe of its foreign exchange operations to include precious metals trading.

The gold fix was until this year set by five banks via a twice-daily conference call. Similar mechanisms existed for silver, platinum and palladium. UBS was not among the fixing members.

Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) said in January it was putting its seat at the process up for sale, but failed to find a buyer, leaving the fixing process with only four members.

Members later announced they would disband the process, which will be replaced later this year by an electronic platform operated by U.S. bourse Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).

Gold trading has been under increased regulatory scrutiny this year. Barclays Plc was fined 26 million pounds ($43.8 million) in May for failures in internal controls that allowed a trader to manipulate the setting of gold prices.

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