The Bank of England says it has closed down a backup audio feed used for its news conferences after it was alerted to apparent misuse by hedge funds.
The Bank released a statement overnight, after being contacted by The Times, to say the line had been terminated.
The newspaper reported that the third party supplier of the audio channel was understood to be connected to a market news service promising to give its clients a time advantage over their rivals while engaged in so-called high-frequency trading.
Those paying for the audio feed would receive details of the Bank’s news conferences fractionally before those using the television feed.
The supplier, the newspaper said, charged each client a subscription fee and up to £5,000 per use.
The Bank had the audio system installed in case the television feed – managed by Bloomberg – failed.
The misuse claims represent a big embarrassment for the Bank as its remit includes the promotion of fair and efficient functioning of financial markets.
The Bank insisted it “operates the highest standards of information security around the release of the market sensitive decisions”.
Its statement read: “Following concerns raised with the Bank, we have recently identified that an audio feed of certain of the Bank press conferences – installed only to act as a back-up in case the video feed failed – has been misused by a third party supplier to the Bank since earlier this year to supply services to other external clients.
“This wholly unacceptable use of the audio feed was without the Bank’s knowledge or consent, and is being investigated further.
“On identifying this, the Bank immediately disabled the third party supplier’s access.
“As a result, the third party supplier did not have any access to the most recent press conference and will no longer play any part in any of the Bank’s future press conferences.”
The revelation was made hours before the Bank releases its latest interest rate decision – widely tipped to remain unchanged.
The meeting of the monetary policy committee was not due to be followed by a news conference because December’s meeting does not include the publication of a quarterly Monetary Policy Report – formerly known as the Inflation Report.