Travers Smith appointed to review BoE forex fixing claims

Travers Smith has been appointed to lead an independent review into allegations the Bank of England allowed fixing of the multi-trillion dollar foreign exchange (forex) market.

The bank suspended a worker last week amid allegations that workers were involved with manipulating the forex market. The Oversight Committee of the Bank’s Court of Directors has been tasked with leading the review and appointed Travers Smith last week with preparing a report.

The bank is also expected to name an external legal heavyweight to run an independent assessment of the =bank’s actions, which could be a judge, academic or City executive.

In a grilling by MPs on the Treasury Committee yesterday (11 March), governor Mark Carney said the bank would restructure after claims officials knew about alleged foreign exchange rate fixing.

Carney told the committee the bank would create a new deputy governor position with responsibility for markets and banking.

The hearing was aimed at finding out what bank officials knew about the fixing claims. Carney said he became aware of the allegations on 16 October, when the Financial Conduct Authority also launched a probe into fixing. 

However following a Freedom of Information request, the minutes of a 2006 meeting were published revealing that some officials were aware of rigging attempts as early as then.

The minutes of a meeting of the bank’s forex Joint Standing Committee’s chief dealers sub-group say the group, chaired by BoE chief dealer Martin Mallett, discussed “evidence of attempts to move the market around popular fixing times by players that had no particular interest in that fix. It was noted that ‘fixing business’ generally was becoming increasingly fraught due to this behaviour.”

The bank launched an internal review into allegations at the end of 2013 advised by Travers Smith. To date the bank has examined approximately 15,000 emails, 21,000 Bloomberg and Reuters chat room records and more than 40 hours of telephone call recordings.

The Travers Smith partners most connected to the BoE are head of banking and corporate recovery Jeremy Walsh and corporate finance partner Anthony Foster, who spent a year on secondment at the bank during the financial crisis. 

The firm refused to comment on which partners were leading the report. On 5 March the bank said: “The Bank of England does not condone any form of market manipulation in any context whatsoever. The bank has today re-iterated its guidance to staff regarding management of records and escalation of important information.  Those policies have been updated in recent months.”