Are you shocked, shocked to discover that the Federal Reserve's monetary policy decisions might have been leaked between 1997 and 2013? Me neither.
Gennaro Bernile, Jianfeng Hu and Yuehua Tang at Singapore Management University analyzed market moves around the times when the Fed was about to release the results of its Open Market Committee deliberations:
"Consistent with information leakage, we find robust evidence of informed trading during lockup periods ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) monetary policy announcements," the study says.
For "informed trading" read "somehow, the Fed details given out in locked rooms to journalists whose computers were still running and connected made its way to select trading rooms." The Singapore University gang reckon the potential profits at between $14 million and $256 million, though they confess that those figures are no more than "back-of-the-envelope calculations."
So it turns out that the world's most important central bank is front and center in yet another market-manipulation indignity. Moreover, the study absolves other U.S. government agencies, finding no similar evidence of insider trading around economic news releases for unemployment, inflation or gross domestic product, making it specifically a Fed problem.
From rigged money-market rates, fiddled currency values, stockpiled commodities to manipulate prices, economic releases bought early and flash boys with unfair millisecond advantages, there seems to be no end to the ways in which the world of finance can shame itself. (It seems only fair to acknowledge that whoever was in that locked Fed room shooting out secrets seems likely to have at least been masquerading as a journalist, and may even have been a professional scribbler.)
Maybe I'm suffering from outrage fatigue; I'm disappointed in myself for not being shocked. Of all the paraphernalia that makes money go round, I would have hoped central bank intelligence would be sacrosanct. That's why this study's findings mark a new low in the parade of financial-market abuses -- or high, perhaps, if you were one of the lucky recipients of a sneaky peak at the forthcoming Fed funds rate.
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