There was a time when the merest mention of gold manipulation in "reputable" media was enough to have one branded a perpetual conspiracy theorist with a tinfoil farm out back. That was roughly coincident with a time when Libor, FX, mortgage, and bond market manipulation was also considered unthinkable, when High Frequency Traders were believed to "provide liquidity", or when the stock market was said to not be manipulated by the Fed, and when the ever-confused media, always eager to take "complicated" financial concepts at the face value set by a self-serving establishment, never dared to question anything. Luckily, all that changed in the past several years. and it has gotten to the point where even the bastions of "serious", if 3-5 years delayed, investigation are finally not only asking how is the gold market being manipulated, but are actually providing answers.
Every business day in London, five banks meet to set the price of gold in a ritual that dates back to 1919. Now, dealers and economists say knowledge
gleaned on those calls could give some traders an unfair advantage when buying and selling the precious metal. The London fix, the benchmark rate used by mining companies, jewelers and central banks to buy, sell and value the metal, is published twice daily after a telephone call involving Barclays Plc, Deutsche Bank AG, Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC Holdings Plc and Societe Generale SA.
That much is known. What is certainly known is that any process that involves five banks sitting down (until recently literally) and exchanging information using arcane methods (such as a telephone), on a set schedule that involves a private information blackout phase, even if temporary, and that does not involve instant market feedback, can and will be gamed. "Traders involved in this price-determining process have knowledge which, even for a short time, is superior to other people’s knowledge,” said Thorsten Polleit, chief economist at Frankfurt-based precious-metals broker Degussa Goldhandel GmbH and a former economist at Barclays. “That is the great flaw of the London gold-fixing."