The very foundations of the modern financial system are being shaken; through scandals, market crisis, new regulation, social changes, and technology; all playing a part in permanently evolving how the global financial system operates. One of the most well known traditions in precious metals is the daily "Gold Fix," where the dealers would literally decide together what the daily price would be. Now, Deutsche Bank is exiting this process, among concern about manipulation charges and who knows what else is going on behind the scenes. But DB's departure is a milestone in the evolution into the new paradigm of global finance, whatever form it end up taking in the end.
Germany's blowback against gold manipulation is accelerating. Following yesterday's report that Bafin took a hard line against precious metals manipulation, after its president Eike Koenig said possible manipulation of precious metals "is worse than the Libor-rigging scandal", today the response has trickled down to Germany and Europe's largest bank, Deutsche Bank, which announced that it would withdraw from the appropriately named gold and silver price "fixing", as European regulators investigate suspected manipulation of precious metals prices by banks. As a reminder, Deutsche is one of five banks involved in the twice-daily gold fix for global price setting and said it was quitting the process after withdrawing from the bulk of its commodities business. The scramble away from gold fixing was certainly assisted by the recent first (of many) manipulation expose in the legacy media, when Bloomberg revealed "How Gold Price Is Manipulated During The "London Fix." And sure enough, with Germany already very sensitive to the topic of its gold repatriation, and specifically why it is taking so long, it was only a matter of time before any German involvement in gold manipulation escalated to the very top.
"Deutsche Bank is withdrawing its participation in the gold and silver benchmark setting process following the significant scaling back of our commodities business. We remain fully committed to our precious metals business," it said in a statement.
In mid-December, German banking regulator Bafin demanded documents from Deutsche Bank under an inquiry into suspected manipulation of benchmark gold and silver prices by banks, the Financial Times reported, citing sources.
Bafin declined to comment on Friday, but its President Elke Koenig said the previous day that it was understandable that the topic was attracting widespread concern.
"These allegations (about currencies and precious metals) are particularly serious, because such reference values are based - unlike LIBOR and Euribor - typically on real transactions in liquid markets and not on estimates of the banks," she said in a speech
Needless to say, manipulation of the gold market would not be exactly novel to a bank which has also been named in cases related to the sub-prime crisis, credit default swaps, mortgages, tax evasion and a decade-old lawsuit suit brought by the heirs of late media mogul Leo Kirch, who accuse the bank of undermining the business.
Reuters also reports that Deutsche is now actively marketing its gold and silver fixing seats to another LBMA member, however now that the cat is out of the bag on the gold fixing manipulation scheme (the first of many), it is likely that others will seek to follow in Deutsche's footsteps and seek to put as much distance between themselves and the wood-paneled room once located in the Rothschild office on St. Swithin's Lane in London.
We wonder which of these five gentlemen is from Deutsche?
So if everyone exits the London fixing market, what happens then?
"It wouldn't surprise me if the other banks were looking at pulling out as well. Why would they want the aggravation?" said the source, who declined to be named.
"The more worrying point is that, if you don't have the fixing, what do you have? There's a lot of contractual business done on the gold fix, and if you've got no basis for where the price is, someone is going to lose out."
Well considering that the fixing process over the years was manipulation pure and simple, those who will lose out are the... manipulators? it would seem rather logical. And speaking of manipulation, if indeed Germany is so keen on breaking the manipulators' back, perhaps it can demand that the pace of its gold returns from the NY Fed and Paris accelerates. It may be surprised at what it finds.