‘Whistleblower’ alleges manipulation of Cboe volatility index

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NEW YORK/BENGALURU (Reuters) – Wall Street’s most generally adopted gauge of future inventory market volatility is being manipulated, inflicting billions of in losses a 12 months to unwary buyers, a legislation agency representing an “nameless whistleblower” alleged in a letter to U.S. monetary regulators and launched on Monday.

The letter, to each the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, was supplied by a Washington-based legislation agency which represents the nameless individual claiming to have held senior roles within the funding enterprise.

Claims within the letter define how buying and selling corporations have taken benefit of the way in which the Cboe Volatility Index .VIX is being calculated to be able to manipulate the index. Financial merchandise that monitor the VIX are on the heart of the present inventory market ructions which have seen U.S. benchmark equities fall out and in of 10 p.c correction territory since late January.

“The flaw permits buying and selling corporations with superior algorithms to maneuver the VIX up or down by merely posting quotes on S&P choices and without having to bodily have interaction in any buying and selling or deploying any capital,” Jason Zuckerman of Zuckerman Law mentioned within the letter.

Cboe Global Markets, house to the VIX, pushed again in opposition to the allegations.

“This letter is replete with inaccurate statements, misconceptions and factual errors, together with a elementary misunderstanding of the connection between the VIX Index, VIX futures and volatility change traded merchandise, amongst different issues,” a Cboe spokeswoman mentioned in an announcement.

The VIX estimates the anticipated near-term volatility conveyed by S&P 500 .SPX index choice costs. The index depends on mid-quote costs of choose out-of-the-money SPX name and put contracts, amongst different issues.

At the time of settlement of VIX futures, the CBOE calculates an official settlement degree of the VIX primarily based on a particular month-to-month settlement public sale of S&P 500 choices.

This settlement worth in the end determines whether or not massive blocks of VIX futures expire nugatory or flip a revenue.

Zuckerman’s letter alleges that buying and selling corporations have manipulated the VIX index to their benefit by posting quotes for S&P 500 choices, with none precise corresponding trades.

But William Speth, vice chairman, head of Research at Cboe, mentioned: “There are structural safeguards constructed into the method of the calculation of the VIX settlement worth that may hinder the kind of manipulation the letter alleges.”

He added that “our regulatory group actively surveils for potential VIX settlement manipulation.”

The letter alleges that manipulation of the volatility index additionally performed a job in latest wild worth strikes of sure volatility-linked change traded merchandise (ETPs).

Two banks, Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN.S) and Nomura Co Ltd (9716.T), final week, mentioned they’d terminate two ETPs that wager on low volatility in inventory costs. The bulletins adopted dives within the ETP costs as the worth of VIX futures soared following a pointy drop in U.S. shares on Feb. 5.

The SEC declined to remark. The CFTC was not instantly reachable for remark.

Reporting Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Additional reporting by Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Sunil Nair and Daniel Bases

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