ISDAfix-Referenzwert

ISDAfix benchmark reference.

The International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc., website at ISDA.org said the ISDAfix is “the leading benchmark for annual swap rates for swap transactions worldwide.” Bloomberg* BusinessWeek.com’s April 2013 article called ISDAfix “a benchmark in the $379 trillion market for interest rate swaps, which corporations and governments use to fine-tune their borrowing costs.” Süddeutsche Zeitung’s August 2013 estimate was that a $450 trillion market was affected by this benchmark. A Reuters.com* Jan. 2014 market estimate was even higher: “The organization’s ISDAfix benchmark is an important reference point underlying contracts in the $630 trillion derivatives market, and ICAP collects data for the U.S. dollar-denominated part of it.”

The data used to set the US$ section of the ISDAfix benchmark were provided by thirteen banks to the New Jersey office of a U.K. broker or “intermediary trader” known as ICAP. U.K. financial data company Thomson Reuters* calculated the benchmark prices from ICAP’s banks’ data for the US$ section and from data it collected directly from banks for the other currencies. ICAP published its ISDAfix benchmark prices on a Reuters page every morning at 11 a.m. and updated them throughout the day based on reported transactions. ICAP’s data entry was not automated.

The S.Z. said Germany’s BaFin finance regulator started investigating ISDAfix fixing after Bloomberg reported that the U.S.A.’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission financial regulator was investigating perhaps fifteen banks and about a dozen current and former ICAP traders for possible pricing collusion.

Background from Bloomberg BusinessWeek.com:

“In their simplest form, swaps are used by investors to exchange a fixed interest rate for a floating one, or vice versa. They also come in profoundly more complicated flavors, and altogether they constitute more than half of the $639 trillion global derivatives market. ISDAfix, used by traders to settle contracts and value positions, is commonly found in hybrid securities known as structured notes that are popular with wealthy investors. While they affect everything from pension annuities to commercial real estate investments, ISDAfix rates are esoteric even by the standards of structured finance. …

“…Banks could earn millions by persuading ICAP brokers to delay their manual entry of data. Publishing stale prices can boost profits for banks dramatically. On a $500 million swap that matures in 20 years, for example, a delay that prevents the instrument from moving one basis point (0.01 percent) equals $1 million in profit for the dealer. […Also, ICAP’s] brokers match dealers by phone, then enter transactions into the 19901 screen by hand. The firm is paid commissions based on the size of the trades it matches.”

FT.com described a 2010 FT.com article saying that “prices capable of influencing Isdafix through the rate-setting process sometimes appeared to move in ways beneficial to a handful of banks.”

The ICAP brokerage was also hired to execute many ISDAfix-related trades for reasons that could have included exerting extra influence on ICAP-mediated benchmarks, said an online article from Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal*.

A 25 Sep 2013 Bloomberg.com article seemed to indicate that brokers were particularly able to game off-market trading price benchmarks, particularly in slow economic times when those relying on brokers’ reported pricing data had fewer sales of their own to glean comparable pricing data from. “To promote market integrity, it is critical that benchmark interest rates be anchored in observable transactions,” said C.F.T.C. chair Gary Gensler in 2013.

Update on 26 Sep 2013: ICAP was fined £55 million “for control failures that allowed employees to engage in Libor rigging” said an online Financial Times article. After admitting L.I.B.O.R. control failures, which the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority also called a poor compliance culture, the huge brokerage firm argued against reducing its ISDAfix role, saying that would give undue influence to the banks submitting ISDAfix pricing data. ICAP, the world’s largest broker for interbank transactions, couldn’t have been gaming the ISDAfix benchmark’s timing because people would have noticed, ICAP said.

Update on 26 Jan 2014: It was announced that ICAP was to be removed from its middleman role in ISDAfix, which was to be restructured so that banks would submit US$ pricing data to Thomson Reuters directly, said Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ.com. Thomson Reuters has been collecting the non-US$ ISDAfix data directly from banks for years, said Reuters.com, but the US$ data from ICAP for >15 years: “[ICAP] had been providing ‘snapshots’ using transaction-based information from its BrokerTec platform in addition to information from recent deals, the second source said, but the process would now return purely to a poll of participating banks.” Apparently the snapshots involved removing some outliers and averaging the data. ICAP said, “We appreciate ISDA’s interest in having a consistent polling process across each of the relevant currencies and fixings.”

ISDA said moving ISDAfix pricing data for all currencies to Reuters is a first step toward their goal of defining the benchmark based on actual trades (“live prices from trading venues” said FT.com), not just data submitted by banks. The new system will also be automated: “The second stage will be the move to an automated, market-based ISDAfix rate setting process, which is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2014,” said an ISDA spokesperson. ISDA said they will create a code of conduct and oversight committee for the benchmark.

ICAP’s C.E.O. Michael Spencer helped create the ISDAfix benchmark fifteen years ago. Reporting on the ISDAfix benchmark described ISDA as the benchmark’s “overseer” and as a lobbying group.

Update on 09 Mar 2014: Thomson Reuters has been granted U.K. regulatory approval to create a benchmark services subsidiary to handle the ~160 benchmarks the company helps calculate, including L.I.B.O.R. International benchmark regulations are about to be tightened this summer, according to a letter sent last summer by the International Organization of Securities Commissions (“a global body of central banks. They include oversight of third parties and policies for managing conflicts of interest” –FT.com) warning companies they had one year before new stricter rules. “Administrators of financial market benchmarks have to prove by the July deadline that they have improved systems for monitoring submitted figures,” said FT.com.

* The U.K.’s Reuters press agency was reporting on financial news related to the ISDAfix and it belongs to Thomson Reuters (since the Canadian Thomson Corp. bought Reuters in 2008). The parent company of Bloomberg News “competes with ICAP in some businesses, including foreign-exchange and swaps trading, and with Thomson Reuters in providing financial news and data” according to their disclaimer in an ISDAfix article. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. owns the Wall Street Journal and owned Dow Jones from 2007 to 2010, when it sold it to the C.M.E., Chicago Mercantile Exchange/Chicago Board of Trade group.

(EESS dah feex   ref ah R-R-RENTS veaht.)

Den Schluss schmeissen

Foreigner German for “banging the close.”

Banging the close was one of two unethical things several currency market traders said they could do to game exchange rates because a handful of large banks controlled half the market, according to a June 2013 article in FAZ.net. Traders at the big banks could input trades before and after a huge trade’s 60-second window and have an effect on the rate, despite the fact that “The benchmark exchange rates are based on actual transactions and not on banks’ estimates like the L.I.B.O.R. reference rate is.” The second thing was to arrange their day’s work around a pending large trade; they would get a poorer exchange rate for the client in order to buy back her sold currency more cheaply than would have been the case.

The June 2013 article also said authorities were investigating benchmark manipulation in crude oil and swap markets.

(Dane   SHLOOSS   shmigh sen.)

Straftatbestand

A criminal offense, fulfilling the conditions to meet the definition of a crime.

The outgoing E.U. parliament voted to pass draft rules making it a crime to manipulate interest rates in the European Union. After approval by the Member States, countries will have two years to implement the new rules, and their minimum penalty of at least four years in jail, into national laws. Countries may impose stricter penalties.

The E.U. parliament’s press release said the passed legislation criminalized more than interest rate manipulation:

“The draft rules lay down tougher criminal penalties, including prison terms, for serious market abuses such as unlawful disclosure of information, insider dealing or market manipulation and also inciting, aiding or abetting them.”

[…]

“Market manipulation offences punishable by a four-year jail term would include entering into a transaction or placing an order which gives false or misleading signals about the supply, demand or price of one or more financial instruments or providing false or misleading inputs to manipulate the calculation of benchmarks, such as the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or Euro Interbank Offered Rate (EURIBOR).

“Insider dealing offences punishable by fouryears’ imprisonment include those in which inside information is used with intent to buy or sell financial instruments or to cancel or amend an order.”

(SHTROFF tot beh SHTOND.)

L.I.B.O.R.-Klagen

L.I.B.O.R. lawsuits.

The U.S. company Fannie Mae has filed complaints seeking about half a billion euros in damages from multiple banks around the world for L.I.B.O.R. benchmark interest rate manipulation. Deutsche Bank is one of the defendants.

Update on 01 Nov 2013: ZDF heute journal financial correspondent Frank Bethmann said the many banks found to have participated in L.I.B.O.R. manipulation have been fined about 2.7 billion euros total by the world’s bank oversight authorities alone so far. Now more and more company lawsuits keep “fluttering in,” making them possibly the costlier threat. He said Deutsche Bank had now set aside 4.1 billion euros for legal fees. “But that shirt could prove too short as well, particularly in the U.S.A.”

Update on 06 Nov 2013: FAZ.net reported that insiders told Reuters news agency that before 2014 the E.U. competition commissioner wants to fine six banks a total of 1.5 billion euros for L.I.B.O.R. benchmark manipulation, including Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland (R.B.S.), the Dutch Rabobank (“genossenschaftlich” bank meaning it started life as a mutual?), and the “broker” I.C.A.P. The Swiss bank U.B.S. will be excused from this fine—said to be the largest bank fine in E.U. history—because they were the first to testify. These six banks admitted this particular wrongdoing and as a result the E.U. said it will reduce those fines by 10%.

This set of fines is for the yen L.I.B.O.R. manipulation subscandal of the L.I.B.O.R. manipulation scandal. Deutsche Bank may be facing additional U.K. and U.S. fines for U.S. dollar L.I.B.O.R. manipulation.

Financial regulators around the world are also investigating more than a dozen banks for Eur.I.B.O.R. benchmark manipulation. On 06 Nov 2013 FAZ.net reported that insiders said the E.U. Commission was negotiating fines to half a dozen banks for that as well, including Deutsche Bank and possibly Royal Bank of Scotland and Société Générale. FAZ.net reported the U.K.’s Financial Times reported each of these six will have to pay up to 800 million euros for that set of fines. And that Bloomberg.com reported the British bank H.B.S.C. had withdrawn from those fine negotiations, giving up the proffered 10% fine rebate for admitting wrongdoing.

German Wikipedia said the Eur.I.B.O.R. is set on the basis of data submitted by 32 European “credit institutions,” minus the top 15% and bottom 15% outliers, to the “information agency” Thomson Reuters. The Eur.I.B.O.R. is then published by Reuters.

English Wikipedia said the Eur.I.B.O.R. was created by combining “domestic” benchmark rates, such as from Paris, Frankfurt and Helsinki, in 1999. It said there is still a separate Euro L.I.B.O.R. set in London, based on data from 16 banks.

(LEE boar CLOG en.)

Preisagenturen, die den täglichen Referenzpreis von Öl ermitteln

“Price agencies that determine the daily reference price of oil.”

An F.A.Z. article described the way price agencies such as Platts, mainly Platts but also e.g. Argus and I.C.I.S., set a daily world reference price for oil using sales data provided by “market participants.” An expert commented to the newspaper that estimated data are also allowed to flow into those equations because not everyone makes a sale in every oil product type every day. Yet oil sellers have the unhealthy incentive of being able to sell their oil products at higher prices for the next 24 hours after submitting higher price data to the price agencies. Oil financial product sellers that are somehow involved with these price agencies, or somehow involved with the market participants supplying the data used in the agencies’ price-setting formulas, would presumably have similar inflationary incentives.

(PRIZE ogg en TOUR en,   dee   dane   TAY glichh en   ref ah RENTS prize   foor   ILL   ə MITT ell n.)

Goldpreis, Silberpreis

Price of gold, price of silver.

In March 2013 the U.S.A.’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission was looking into, but not formally investigating, possible gold and silver price manipulations in London, the world’s largest gold market. The F.A.Z. mentioned they were especially interested in the “too-intransparent” way the spot price for a troy ounce of gold is set in London twice a day by five banks: Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC Holdings, PLC, Bank of Nova Scotia and Société Générale S.A. The silver price in London is set once per day, at noon, by Bank of Nova Scotia, Deutsche Bank and HSBC. A March 2013 article in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal mentioned that the market prices for these metals were important also for the estimated ~$198 million in derivative contracts held by commercial banks in the U.S.A. in September 2012, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (O.C.C.).

The C.F.T.C. started investigating whether the price of silver had been gamed in 2008 after the silver price fell sharply. No results were ever announced from that investigation, nor was it ever officially closed.

Update on 25 Sep 2013: The C.F.T.C. officially closed its five-year investigation into gaming of silver market prices “without bringing any enforcement actions” reported Bloomberg.com.

Update on 27 Nov 2013: Germany’s BaFin financial regulator announced they would be investigating possible manipulation of gold and silver prices, which Handelsblatt.com said would be called das Goldfixing and das Silberfixing in German. BaFin said that they could not comment on the ongoing investigation but that they were interested in benchmark manipulation in Europe, including benchmarks for the so-called noble metals, currencies and interest rates. Gold and silver prices had been being set by benchmarks controlled by only a handfull of European banks, the Handelsblatt said Wall Street Journal Deutschland said, and alleged that British financial authorities were looking into gold and silver price gaming as well.

Update on 09 May 2014: A wave of U.S. lawsuits is said to be rolling toward the five banks that set the gold price twice each day in London.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine reported on the findings of one analyst, who will be testifying for the plaintiffs, from examining publicly available gold price data from 2010 to 2013. The banks’ twice-daily phone conferences to set the price could take two minutes or two hours, but averaged 15 minutes. During that time, there were bigger fluctuations in the gold price than during the rest of the day when the phone conferences weren’t taking place. The price moved up and down but mostly downward. After the teleconference, the price settled back to where it was before the meeting. During the phone conferences, the banks had access to information their customers did not: the volume of gold being traded, and the prices at which they were trading. That information wasn’t supposed to be shared, but. The U.S. plaintiffs say, look at L.I.B.O.R.

Deutsche Bank is now withdrawing from the five banks, leaving four banks: Barclays, HSBC, Bank of Nova Scotia and Société Générale.

Update on 16 Aug 2014: The price of silver will now be set electronically by auction, in a service offered by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Thomson Reuters.

(GOALED prize,   ZILLLL beh prize)

Erdgaspreis

Price of natural gas. A March 2013 article in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal mentioned that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said the Libor benchmarks manipulation scandal came to their attention after “firms and traders” were sanctioned for reporting false data to energy index compilers in attempts to manipulate natural gas prices between 2003 and 2005.

(ED gauze prize.)

Spotmarkt

Spot market, where financial instruments or commodities are sold for immediate delivery, unlike the futures market where they are sold for delivery at a later date. Wikipedia said a spot market can be an organized market, an exchange or over-the-counter (O.T.C.).

Regarding the spot market price of aluminum: Goldman Sachs was accused of bottlenecking aluminum at Goldman’s Metro International aluminum warehouses outside Detroit, increasing customers’ delivery wait times since purchasing M.I. in 2010 from six weeks to sixteen months by first lowering prices to attract a stockpile (“50,000 tons in 2008” to “~1.5 million currently”) and then, actually, trucking a minimum daily regulatory-defined shipment amount of 3000 tons back and forth among the 27 warehouses. There were also accusations of understaffing, reduced shifts and prioritizing putting aluminum into storage over taking it out. The shuttle-shuffled delays raised a premium added to the price of all aluminum, driving up the spot market price “according to an arcane formula” even for metals bought directly from mines or refineries to bypass these warehouses. While delaying delivery the warehouses also continued charging rent on the stored metal. Perfectly legal according to current international regulations, apparently set by the London Metal Exchange.

The London Metal Exchange might need more disentanglement from the entities it is supposed to regulate. According to the NYTimes.com article, it still receives 1% of the rents collected by the ~700 warehouses it regulates around the world. Until 2012 it was owned by its member regulees, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays and Citigroup. Many of its metals warehousing regulations were written by a board populated by executives from banks, trading companies and storage companies. In July 2012 the L.M.E. was sold to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, part-owned by the Hong Kong government, for ~$2 billion. A NYTimes.com description of the 2012 sale said it “will allow the Asian company to control the world’s largest futures trading exchange for metals like aluminum, copper and zinc, as emerging market demand for commodities remains strong.” In 2012 Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing was supposedly hoping to get an exemption from Chinese laws preventing foreign companies from owning these sorts of metals warehouses in China.

The U.S.’s Federal Reserve Board could, said NYTimes.com, quit extending exemptions that allow banks like Goldman Sachs to invest in nonfinancial enterprises. Though the Fed’s stated conditions in allowing banks to diversify into commodities investment were “only if there was no risk to the banking system” and if the deals “could ‘reasonably be expected to produce benefits to the public, such as greater convenience, increased competition, or gains in efficiency, that outweigh possible adverse effects, such as undue concentration of resources, decreased or unfair competition, conflicts of interests, or unsound banking practices,'” yet many people would say its deregulation achieves the opposite effects, that big “diversified” banks’ risk management still appears to endanger U.S. and world economies and now banks’ having bought up important infrastructure might be presenting them with irresistable temptations such as artificial bottlenecking or even information advantages not all traders always refrain from using.

Update on 25 Jul 2013: The U.S. Senate’s banking committee has criticized that the Federal Reserve is not communicating well with them. However, wrote the F.A.Z., the U.S. Congress could pass its own banking reregulation rules without waiting for the Federal Reserve.

It’s unclear whether shadow trades are involved here, but it’s also unclear why everyone hasn’t gone broke if this is how they’re doing business:

“Industry analysts and company insiders say that the vast majority of the aluminum being moved around Metro’s warehouses is owned not by manufacturers or wholesalers, but by banks, hedge funds and traders. They buy caches of aluminum in financing deals. Once those deals end and their metal makes it through the queue, the owners can choose to renew them, a process known as rewarranting.”

If Goldman is indeed paying aluminum owners, fellow speculators, to rewarrant their metal and leave it in the warehouses piling up rent owed to Goldman, that might indicate some creative profits or at least useful losses are being made.

Aluminum is economically important enough that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has been giving aluminum refineries, notoriously high-volume electricity consumers, various electricity rebates that must be paid for by individual consumers or “ratepayers” in their home electricity bills because, Germany’s government said, the preservation of the aluminium supply was that significant for their economy as a whole.

(SHPOTT mocked.)

Außerbörslicher Schattenhandel

“Off-market shadow trading,” which der Spiegel says is also known as over-the-counter trading, done directly between speculators such as bank traders. May exceed trading in the (regulated) markets.

E.U. and U.S.A. regulators agree that they want to regulate O.T.C. trading. An F.A.Z. op-ed discussing recent U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (F.E.R.C.) fines mentioned that other U.S. financial authorities that could impose fines on international financial companies such as banks include the S.E.C. (Securities and Exchange Commission) and C.F.T.C. (Commodity Futures Trading Commission). It cited a quite-large Financial Times estimate of the size of global O.T.C. trading amounting to well over half a quadrillion dollars.

Regarding shadow-sector speculation in electricity: on 24 Jul 2013 the F.E.R.C.’s fine was upheld to London-based Barclays bank of nearly half a billion dollars to the bank (and $15 million to one manager and $1 million each to three traders) for benchmark manipulation affecting U.S. electricity markets between 2006 and 2008, including taking on-market losses in order to increase the value of off-market O.T.C. bets. Barclays intended to keep fighting the fine, however, and if the bank doesn’t pay it within the 30-day deadline the case could go to a U.S. federal court which could reset the fine. In January 2013 Deutsche Bank negotiated a settlement with the F.E.R.C. for the same electricity market gaming and received a fine of ~$1.5 million. On 24 Jul 2013 JP Morgan Chase was still negotiating with the F.E.R.C. about their fine for manipulating electricity prices in California and the Midwest; originally the settlement was said to be at nearly a billion but Chase succeeded in negotiating it down to less than one billion dollars though so far still more than Barclays’s ~$480 million.

Update on 30 Jul 2013: JP Morgan Chase’s F.E.R.C. fine for allegedly manipulating U.S. electricity markets was negotiated down to $410 million.

Regarding shadow-sector speculation in food commodities: The day before announcing its largest capital collection in its history as a mutual savings bank, on ~28 May 2013 Germany’s fourth-largest bank at the time published an open letter to the consumer advocacy organization Foodwatch.org saying their bank was joining their country’s second-largest bank and several smaller banks in pledging that they will no longer trade in or sell financial products based on agricultural commodities (such as grains). They recommended other banks also cease doing so in order to keep from driving up world food prices, remarking that investors’ demand to participate in food-based funds is low anyway. D.Z. bank said they have been and will continue to work closely with university academics to study and monitor world agricultural economics and the effects of food speculation. They requested government reregulation of both markets and of off-market trading to re-introduce “position limits” on the amount one entity, such as a hedge fund in the shadow financial sector, could wager on food-based financial products. After deregulation in the early 2000’s, “the speculators’ share in international commodity markets increased from 30% to 80%.”

At the time this D.Z. Bank letter was published, E.U. leaders intended to meet in late June 2013 to agree on regulations imposing these food-trading position limits but, said the head of the bank in question, “the financial sector” had already managed to introduce many loopholes into the drafts— “practically neutralizing the limitations on speculators,” said Foodwatch head Thilo Bode.

(Ow! ss ah BƏZZ lichh ah   SHOTTEN hond ell.)

 

“Nicht mit Ruhm bekleckert”

“Didn’t dribble glory on themselves,” in predicting the 2008 global financial troubles—from Thomas Thiel’s review of social scientist and publicist Werner Rügemer‘s 2012 book about the world’s three major financial ratings agencies.

In his book, Rügemer discussed the “curious financing model” in which clients pay for the grades they receive. Managerially, Rügemer said, many of the same people are members of the boards of the big three ratings agencies, the companies that own the ratings agencies, and the ratings agencies’ clients. Thiel:

“The deeper Rügemer goes into the ownership relationships, the more there unfolds a conglomerate of hedge funds, banks and companies that is worrying in how functionally interwoven it is. Market leader Standard & Poor’s for example belongs to the media house McGraw Hill, which mainly belongs to large investment funds such as BlackRock and Vanguard. These funds own many companies that are regularly/standardly/by default evaluated by the ratings agencies. In addition, many of the same funds are the shareholders behind Moody’s and S&P, such as the investment giant Capital Group. Seated on the supervisory boards (Aufsichtsrat) of the agencies there are companies like Coca-Cola or the pharma company Eli Lilly, plus banks and insurance companies such as Allianz, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.”

McGraw Hill owns another agency that is very important for setting world oil prices: Platts. Der Spiegel said Platts is the world’s largest energy information service. On Tuesday, 14 May 2013, the EU raided Platts’ London offices and offices of three big European oil companies, Shell (Holland), Statoil (Norway) and BP (UK), seeking information about price fixing allegedly achieved by slight distortions of data going into Platts. If said international oil price distortion occurred, it may have started in 2002.

Background info from the Wall Street Journal: the international “physical-oil market” is worth $2.5 trillion. “Index-publishing firms like Platts derive their prices from self-reported transaction data from participants in deals.”

(Nicked   mitt   ROOM   bah KLECK aht.)

Demokratiequalität

“Democracy quality.” Twenty years after “the West” set up ways to monitor, motivate and report on the democratization of former Eastern bloc and other countries around the world, it appears some Western countries could also use some polish. Timm Beichelt of the Europe University in Frankfurt (Oder) wrote inter alia in his essay “Verkannte Parallelen. Transformationsforschung und Europastudien” that many eastern European countries have done quite a good job of organizing new structures while, e.g., France and Italy would have trouble with freedom of the press as measured by now-standard democracy indicators. Italy because of Berlusconi’s media empire, but France…?

(Dame awk rah TEE qvoll ee TATE.)

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