Draghi Says Dinner ‘Mistake’ Prompts Review of ECB Speech Rules

ECB Executive Board Member Benoit Coeure
Benoit Coeure, executive board member of the European Central Bank. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

The European Central Bank will revise its rules on speaking engagements after market-sensitive information was given to a limited audience of investors hours before it was released publicly.

The ECB has been asked by the European ombudsman to explain an incident last month, when Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said in a speech at a restricted-access dinner that the central bank would accelerate its asset purchases. Bonds rose and the euro fell when the comments were released the following morning.

“What happened on that occasion was basically a mistake; the text of the speech was meant to go live immediately before the speech,” ECB President Mario Draghi told reporters in Frankfurt on Wednesday after a Governing Council meeting. “This is leading us now to review our rules, to revisit our rules, making them more explicit, and we will shortly come out with a new set of rules as far as speaking engagements are concerned.”

The dinner in London capped a conference co-hosted by a research group financed by hedge fund Brevan Howard Asset Management. The ECB said at the time that the delay in publication was due to an internal procedural error. It also said the speech was under Chatham House Rules, meaning it wouldn’t normally be released at all.

EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, who is tasked with investigating complaints about maladministration in EU institutions, asked the ECB last week to provide more detailed information about the incident and about steps to avoid a repeat. The ECB said it will respond publicly to the request.

Cautious Relations

Current ECB guidelines state that staff members should “maintain caution in their relations with interest groups and the media.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve tells its officials to “refrain from describing their personal views about monetary policy in any meeting or conversation with any individual, firm, or organization who could profit financially from acquiring that information unless those views have already been expressed in their public communications,” according to a document on the Fed’s website.

In the aftermath of the Coeure speech, the ECB announced it would halt the practice of giving advance copies of speeches to selected media organizations under embargo. Draghi was asked about that matter in the press conference as well.

“We are revisiting all our rules including this change,” he replied. “So when our rules are out, have been published, we will discuss them again.”

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