Saturday, June 3, 2017

Global FX Code of Ethics: If You Have to State the Obvious, You Obviously Have a Real Problem

Annual Manifestation of the Free Market God at the AEA

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that AA has little faith in the myth of the “self-regulating free market”.  Just last week  AA’s scant faith was confirmed yet again.

On 25 May the central bank-led Foreign Exchange Working Group (FXWG) in partnership with the private sector Market Participants Group (MPG) released a global code of conduct for the wholesale foreign exchange (FX) market.
The first principle of six in the Code is Ethics.  
This section of the Code calls on market participants to inter alia “strive for the highest ethical standards”, “the highest professional standards”, as well as “identify and address conflicts of interest”.

But let's let the Code "speak" for itself with AA using boldface to highlight key ideas
“Market Participants should:
  • Act honestly in dealings with Clients and other Market Participants;
  • Act fairly, dealing with Clients and other Market Participants in a consistent and appropriately transparent manner; and
  • Act with integrity, particularly in avoiding and confronting questionable practices and behaviours.”
What this means in fewer words is that market participants should be honest and capable.

Two observations:

First, with reference to the “highest ethical standards” AA is at a loss to understand how being honest is an exemplar of “highest ethical standards”.  Are there ethical standards that allow one to be dishonest or act unfairly?  AA holds that being honest and acting fairly is like being pregnant.  One either is or is not.

Second, the six principles are not listed in alphabetical order.  Does the fact that ethics is placed first reflect an assessment by the FXWG and MPG (though perhaps the latter’s assessment is not as strong as the former’s) that there is a particular problem with ethics or more precisely a lack of ethics? If one has to make a point about what is self-evident, that seems to be an indication implication that practice is lacking.    

Does the need for promulgation of ethical standards refute the dogma of the self-regulating market?  If the market regulates itself, then such problems would be transitory and quickly remedied   

AA's parents and then AA himself spent a not inconsiderable sum on education, a good portion of which funded AA’s direct and indirect studies of economic dogma. 

It is an article of the Free Market faith that market forces driven by intense free market competition, act to indirectly compel ethical behavior among market participants.  Those who are unethical and act unfairly are displaced because customers flock to virtuous participants who act fairly and with high ethical standards.  This occurs even though the latter's salutary behaviour is motivated solely by the pursuit of profit not of virtue.  

That's the theory but this press release seems to confirm not the practice.

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