Barclays Bank fined £26m for gold price failings

Barclays branch Image copyright PA

Barclays Bank has been fined £26m by UK regulators after one of its traders was discovered attempting to fix the price of gold.

The trader, who has been sacked, exploited weaknesses in the system to profit at a customer's expense, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said.

The incident occurred in June 2012, the day after the bank was fined a record £290m for attempting to rig Libor.

Barclays said it "very much regrets the situation" that led to the fine.

The FCA found the bank failed to "adequately manage conflicts of interest between itself and its customers", in relation to fixing the price of gold.

"Barclays has undertaken a significant amount of work to enhance our systems and controls and is committed to the highest standards across all of our operations," said Antony Jenkins, group chief executive.

The FCA also fined the trader, Daniel James Plunkett, £96,500.

"A firm's lack of controls and a trader's disregard for a customer's interests have allowed the financial services industry's reputation to be sullied again," said Tracey McDermott, the FCA's director of enforcement and financial crime.

"Barclays' failure to identify and manage the risks in its business was extremely disappointing."

Barclays and Mr Plunkett agreed to settle at an early stage, thereby qualifying for a 30% discount on their fines.

Fake orders

Mr Plunkett was a director on the precious metals desk.

He was responsible for pricing and managing Barclays' risk on a contract that was specifically linked to the price of gold at 3:00p.m. on 28 June 2012.

If the gold price was above $1,558.96 (£925.57) at that time then Barclays would be required to make a payment of $3.9m to its customer.

But if the price was below that benchmark Barclays would not have to make the payment.

Mr Plunkett created fake orders with the intent of pushing the price of gold below $1,588.96, which he succeeded in doing.

The result was Barclays was not obligated to make the $3.9m payment to its customer, and Mr Plunkett booked a profit of $1.75m for the bank.

When the customer learned of this, an explanation was sought from Barclays. The concerns were then relayed to Mr Plunkett on 28 and 29 June 2012.

The FCA said he misled both Barclays and the regulator by providing a false account of events and failing to admit that he had placed the fake orders.

Gold Fixing is a price setting mechanism that allows investors to buy and sell gold at a single quoted price.

Barclays joined the mechanism in 2004. The other members are HSBC, Societe Generale and Scotiabank. Deutsche Bank was part of the group but has since left.

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