May 26, 2016 / 1:02 PM / a year ago

Don't lie, don't cheat, don't start rumours, says new FX code

* Full code: here

* Update on adherence: here

* Overview: here

By Patrick Graham

LONDON, May 26 (Reuters) - The first global code of conduct for currency trading has banned dealers from lying and starting false rumours as part of a raft of new guidelines aimed at rebuilding trust in the world's biggest financial market.

The document, launched on Thursday after evolving from a handful of regional codes used previously, focuses largely on the detail of how banks deal with clients' orders and what market participants can and cannot say to one another.

On those issues alone, it includes dozens of individual directives organised under 11 broader "principles", as well as an extended annex of specific examples of appropriate and inappropriate formulas for discussing market moves.

But it leaves the big issue of governance, and how the code will be policed, for further work over the next year. The issue of high-speed electronic trading, which has changed the face of the industry over the past decade, is also left for later.

The code is part of the industry's response to charges of market manipulation and misuse of confidential customer order information which saw seven of the world's top banks fined around $10 billion at the end of a huge global inquiry last year.

"The foreign exchange industry has suffered from a lack of trust," Reserve Bank of Australia Assistant Governor Guy Debelle, who chaired the panel of 21 central banks working on the document since last July, told reporters on a conference call. "The market needs to rebuild that trust."

Sharing of confidential client order information via FX traders' electronic chatrooms with names such as "The Cartel" and "The Bandits' Club", particularly around the benchmark currency rates known as the 4 o'clock London fix, was central to the scandal.

On top of the bank fines, dozens of traders were fired and the setting of daily market benchmarks was rethought.

But many traders say that the resulting fear of talking freely about the market has increased the risk of trading and discouraged some of the speculation which made the market able to swallow large orders easily without volatile moves in prices.

The code specifies, for example, that information contained in banks' research can only be shared after it is published, and client order information can only be shared "sensitively" and if there is a "valid reason" for doing so.

MARKET COLOUR

Perhaps the most nebulous area of communication surrounds "market colour", which traders have said in the past led to banks and clients revealing details of particular orders which were moving currencies at a given time.

Whether banks' senior management and even Bank of England officials condoned this degree of information-sharing has been a grey area in the row over market manipulation, and formed part of a number of traders' defence cases.

According to the Code, the seeking and sharing of market colour is appropriate as long as it is "properly aggregated or anonymized and restricted to seeking information on market liquidity and sharing market views and opinions without disclosing specific trading positions or intention to trade."

Discussion of broad types of clients is appropriate, but use of language that would allow the listener to deduce the identity of the client concerned is not.

Among other things, participants are also expressly banned from lying to others or starting rumours about reasons for market moves that they know to be untrue, in aid of moving the broader market.

David Puth, head of global settlement bank CLS and chair of the panel of 35 banks and other participants who contributed to the work, told Reuters he hoped the code would allow the $5 trillion a day market to grow again after a static three years hampered by doubts over what is allowed and what isn't.

"I hope the work we have done will lead to an (overall) increase in volume. It is certainly a goal and I do feel that the code will lead to a more smooth-flowing market," he said.

Additional reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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