Bank of England admits press briefing feeds hacked with hedge funds given early access

A photo taken on Dec 16, 2019, shows Bank of England (BoE) Governor Mark Carney arriving for a BoE Financial Stability Report news conference in London. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - The Bank of England (BoE) admitted a rogue supplier has been misusing feeds of its press briefings, allowing high-speed traders access to market-sensitive information seconds before rivals.

Following a report in The Times newspaper, the UK central bank said a third-party supplier had accessed a back-up audio feed of some of its press conferences without consent, and supplied it to "other external clients".

Briefings by BoE Governor Mark Carney and other top central bank officials often move markets including the pound and UK government bonds, and access to them early would potentially allow traders to make millions.

Carney is due to leave the bank - which makes a policy announcement at noon - within weeks. His replacement is expected to be announced soon following last week's national election.

The third-party supplier, whom the BoE did not name, had been misusing the audio feed since earlier this year, the central bank said in a statement.

"This wholly unacceptable use of the audio feed was without the Bank's knowledge or consent, and is being investigated further," it added.

The feed was intended as a fallback option if the BoE's official video feed of the press conference went down, according to The Times.

A spokesman for the Bank told Reuters on Thursday (Dec 19) that it had referred the misuse of the feed to the Financial Conduct Authority.

The FCA, the body responsible for regulating markets and traders, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The supplier in question had been sending the feed to high-speed traders who seek to benefit from receiving comments of the bank's governor before others can, according to The Times.

The BoE curbed the supplier's access once the misuse was identified to it by the newspaper and said that the supplier did not distribute feeds from its most recent news conference and will not be involved in any conferences in the future.

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