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FX abuses persist even after $10 billion in fines, traders say

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Lananh Nguyen
Bloomberg News
Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Add Andy Maack of Vanguard Group Inc. to the list of a dozen or so executives who say that routine misbehavior in the $5.1 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market persists even after banks paid $10 billion in penalties and a trader was sent to prison.

It's been a year since regulators and industry participants published the FX Global Code, a set of voluntary guidelines aimed at improving standards in the unregulated, over-the-counter market that was rife with misdeeds. While the cleanup effort has helped make the business more transparent, it hasn't done enough to curb the most dubious practices, said Maack, Vanguard's global head of foreign-exchange trading.

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"I would have a tough time signing that document," Maack said in an interview. "It needs to go further."

Maack pointed to the controversial and widely used practices of last look and front-running as the most objectionable. A dozen industry participants agreed with him. Last look allows dealers to back out of losing trades. Front-running, sometimes called pre-hedging, is a practice in which traders make deals using advance knowledge of clients' private order information. The code allows both under certain circumstances.

"I'm uncomfortable with a code that makes last look an acceptable practice," Maack said. "I'm uncomfortable with a code that makes pre-hedging an acceptable practice." ...

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