Bank of England press conferences leaked to traders before broadcast

UK regulators are looking into the unauthorized use of audio feeds from Bank of England press conferences that could have given traders access to market-sensitive remarks by policymakers seconds before the rest of the world.

The Bank of England said Thursday that an audio feed of some of its press conferences had been leaked to “external clients” by the third party supplier of the feed since earlier this year.

“This wholly unacceptable use of the audio feed was without the Bank’s knowledge or consent, and is being investigated further,” the Bank of England said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the central bank said it has referred the matter for investigation to the Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates UK financial markets. The regulator said in an emailed statement that it is “looking at the issue.”

The Times was the first to report the breach. The British newspaper said that high-speed traders, who hoped to profit by being first to act on Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s comments to journalists, were the recipients of the audio feed.

The central bank said that the leaks related only to press conferences that followed monetary policy statements where announcements on interest rates are made.

These press events are closely followed by market watchers for clues on the future direction that interest rates might take. Market participants use this information to trade currencies, government bonds and other financial assets.

The audio feed had been installed to act as a backup in case the video recordings of the press conferences failed, the central bank said, adding that the third party supplier’s access has been permanently disabled and that it did not have access to the most recent press conference on the Financial Stability Report.

Bloomberg manages the live video footage of the press conferences, but is not responsible for the backup audio feed, a Bank of England spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the European Central Bank told CNN Business it has offered a fast audio feed of its press conferences since September, after it suspected that people other than journalists in the room were accessing live audio transmissions 20 to 30 seconds ahead of video broadcasts. The audio feed is freely available on the ECB’s website.