Traders at some of the world’s biggest banks manipulated benchmark foreign-exchange rates used to set the value of trillions of dollars of investments, according to five dealers with knowledge of the practice.
Employees have been front-running client orders and rigging WM/Reuters rates by pushing through trades before and during the 60-second windows when the benchmarks are set, said the current and former traders, who requested anonymity because the practice is controversial. Dealers colluded with counterparts to boost chances of moving the rates, said two of the people, who worked in the industry for a total of more than 20 years.
A contract signed by Thomson Reuters, the news agency and data provider, and the University of Michigan, which produces the widely cited economic statistic, stipulates that the data will be posted on the web for the general public at 10 a.m. on the days it is released.
Five minutes before that, at 9:55 a.m., the data is distributed on a conference call for Thomson Reuters' paying clients, who are given certain headline numbers.
But the contract carves out an even more elite group of clients, who subscribe to the "ultra-low latency distribution platform," or high-speed data feed, offered by Thomson Reuters. Those most elite clients receive the information in a specialized format tailor-made for computer-driven algorithmic trading at 9:54:58.000, according to the terms of the contract. On occasion, they could get the data even earlier—the contract allows for a plus or minus 500 milliseconds margin of error.
The only winning move is not to play.