Banks look at restricting use of chat rooms

Nov. 11, 2013 at 12:10 PM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Several large U.S. and European banks are discussing changing rules to bar employees from using Internet chat rooms, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

The risk of using chat rooms is that regulatory agencies can use chat room discussions as evidence of illegal collusion between bankers if an issued discussed turns out to be the focus of an investigation at some later date, the Journal said.

JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse Group, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, UBS and Citigroup are among the banks where the issue is in discussion.

Chat rooms have become a key part of the financial industry's infrastructure, with traders using them as a primary tool to communicate with other traders and with clients, the Journal reported.

Using chat rooms, in effect, is like recording a phone conversation, but then leaving that recording lying around, more or less in public.

Regulators have used chat room postings in recent investigations of the currency market and the London inter-bank offered rate or Libor, and average of bank to bank lending rates that is used as a benchmark for trillions of dollars in private and commercial loans.

Several banks have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle charges of Libor manipulation.

Five bank, in total, have paid $3.5 billion to settle Libor cases and European authorities are poised to settle some individual cases in the future for more than $1 billion, the Journal said.

JPMorgan has been considering restricting use of chat rooms for months and will complete a review of the issue in 2014.

Concurrently, Citigroup has restricted use of Bloomberg terminal chat rooms for some foreign-exchange traders, moving them to an in-house system that the bank says will save money and increase privacy.

On the other hand, Citi and Bloomberg launched a multi-bank chat room service this year, the Journal reported.

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