July 7, 2014 / 5:44 PM / 3 years ago

Gold industry resistant to price benchmark replacement - WGC

* WGC round table attended by 34 delegates

* Enhanced transparency seen as key requirement for reformed system

* Focus on separation between administration and participation

LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) - Gold producers and consumers are resistant to a wholesale redesign of the existing price setting benchmark known as the “fix” despite increasing regulatory glare, a discussion held by the World Gold Council found on Monday.

The debate hosted by the gold mining industry group was attended by 34 delegates from investment funds, refiners, exchanges, and other industry bodies.

The four banks that currently set the globally used gold benchmark twice a day via a conference call - Barclays Plc , HSBC, Bank of Nova Scotia and Societe Generale - were not present, but the WGC said it had had meetings with them separately.

“There was no real view from anyone in the room that the gold fix should be abandoned and we should start redesigning it from scratch,” WGC managing director Natalie Dempster told Reuters.

“There was a very clear consensus that users want reform not replacement.”

The WGC said delegates agreed on the importance of expanding involvement in the process to reflect the full range of market participants, as well as on the need for a transparent benchmark that mitigates reputational risks.

Current administrator the London Gold Market Fixing Limited represents the four price-setting banks, with no effective separation between administration and participation, WGC said.

The forum comes as gold and silver fixes, along with other commodity benchmarks, face increased scrutiny by regulators in Europe and the United States following the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) manipulation case in 2012.

Many aspects of the existing process, however, are viewed favourably by market participants, although some other are in need of reform to be compliant to the 19 principles on financial benchmarks outlined in July 2013 by the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), an umbrella body of market regulators.

IOSCO has set July 2014 as the deadline for benchmarks’ administrators to say whether they will comply to the principles.

SILVER FIX

The discussions are separate to the London Bullion Market Association’s (LBMA) process aimed at finding a replacement for daily silver pricing, which will be disbanded in August.

Members of the association, which count gold and silver fixing banks Bank of Nova Scotia and HSBC Bank and other large bullion-trading banks, discussed seven different proposals from bidders including the London Metal Exchange (LME) and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) at a meeting on Friday.

The winner is expected to be announced in the next two days, sources said, as members are still undecided between three different bids.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions that the LBMA needs answers for from the (bidders) that are at the top of that list ...and they need to meet with regulators,” a source close to the association said.

An electronic solution to the silver fix could be applied to price-setting for gold and platinum group metals, sources said.

But the WGC said that would not necessarily be the case.

“We simply seek to convene a debate on the issue ... the gold and silver markets are very different, and it is not necessarily the case that the solution found to replace the silver fix is then applied to gold at all,” Dempster told Reuters in a previous interview.

She added the group will meet with the LBMA on Thursday and will also “engage with the members and some other players.”

“In the next couple of weeks we will be listening to everyone’s views and preferences and then we will come up with a policy position on what we think a reformed system should be.”

Answering lawmakers’ questions on the trustworthiness of the gold market, a senior official at Britain regulator Financial Conduct said last week that collusion among banks in setting the gold price benchmark was possible but there was no evidence of it.

The FCA in May fined Barclays 26 million pounds for failures in internal controls that allowed a trader to manipulate the setting of gold prices, just a day after the bank was fined for rigging Libor interest rates in 2012. (Reporting by Clara Denina. Editing by David Evans)

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