Bank of England and U.K. Treasury Probe Potential Information Leak 
A pedestrian crosses the road in front of the Bank of England in the City of London, U.K. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

Bank of England and U.K. Treasury Probe Potential Information Leak 

The Bank of England and U.K. Treasury are both investigating a possible leak detailing the central bank’s plans to expand its bond buying by a surprising amount.

Officials at the two institutions are enraged with a story in the Sun newspaper saying the BOE was set to increase the program’s size by more than economists estimated. The report, published hours before Thursday’s market-moving announcement, cited unidentified people with knowledge of the policy meeting’s outcome. The pound briefly fell after it was released.

Bank of England and U.K. Treasury Probe Potential Information Leak 

Decisions by central banks such as the BOE and the U.S. Federal Reserve are closely-guarded secrets because of the huge implications for financial markets worth trillions of dollars. The BOE’s nine-member Monetary Policy Committee decided on the increase on Wednesday.

“It weakens the institution as a whole and its messaging,” said Liam O’Donnell, a money manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “There certainly seems to have been a genuine leak. There is clearly a risk that the market could be spoofed going forward, and it could make future decisions more dangerous from a market-trading impact point of view.”

The report is the latest example of potential leaks of sensitive information in the U.K.

The government is also looking into a leak last weekend of plans to put England in another lockdown, forcing it to bring forward the official announcement before the start of restrictions Thursday. The early information may have inspired panic-buying in shops and surge of people visiting restaurants and pubs before they closed for a month.

Governor Andrew Bailey said the central bank would look into the matter. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is also furious, and the Treasury is probing the leak, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A BOE spokesman declined to comment beyond Bailey’s remarks, while the Treasury didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Sun reported that officials were expected to announce an increase of around 150 billion pounds ($195 billion), and possibly as high as 200 billion pounds, which would have been twice as mich as economists had anticipated.

The pound fell as much as 0.4% against the dollar after the publication of the story. Sterling then rose after the BOE announcement, which saw it deliver a boost of 150 billion pounds.

The Sun also included details of policies to be announced by Sunak later Thursday.

Minutes of the BOE decision showed that, in line with usual practice, a Treasury representative was present at the meeting. The central bank’s announcement was published alongside an exchange of letters between Bailey and Sunak that authorized the QE increase.

The central bank came under scrutiny last year after reports a third-party supplier had gained unauthorized access to the BOE’s faster, backup audio feed, potentially giving traders an edge on words spoken by the governor. U.K. regulators found in September that there was no leak of inside information.

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