So toxic is the reputation of currency traders that an international watchdog has today published a list of dos and dont's in a vain attempt to whip the flash boys into shape.
The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), often dubbed the central bank for central banks, has put together a lofty "FX global code" which sets out some basic behaviours that traders and market watchers should abide by.
The main aim is to ensure everybody goes about their business ethically, professionally, and with integrity. In short, BIS is basically calling on insiders to stop screwing over their clients, trying to manipulate exchange rates, skimming off the top and sharing confidential information.
The rules apply as much to what traders are allowed to say as to what they are allowed to do.
On the execution side of things, BIS wants to put an end to so-called "market participants" playing the game with more than one hat on - trading with an eye on their own, their institution's and their client's money all at the same time.
"Market participants should identify actual and potential conflicts of interest that may compromise or be perceived to compromise [their] ethical or professional judgement," BIS said.
This includes an outright statement banning attempts to rig exchange rates, and also deems it unacceptable to try to influence the exchange rate by putting large buy or sell orders in around the fixing windows.
The banned list
- Don't: Buy or sell larger amounts of currency than is in a client's interest within seconds of the currency fix "with the intent of inflating or deflating the price"
- Don't: Act with other market participants to inflate or deflate a fix against the interests or a client
- Don't: Try to influence "stop loss" levels or try to clear the market to force a sharp drop once a currency hits a certain level
- Don't: Try to hard mark up values or commissions
On the communication side, it's all about those shady goings on in the corners of chat rooms and Bloomberg terminals.
The code states: "Market participants should communicate in a manner that is clear, accurate, professional and not misleading."
This translates into not providing information which could identify clients, or seek, in another way, to attempt to influence the exchange rate through the information they share with other participants.
Do as I say
1. Don't say: "We've just seen large USD/KRW demand from so-and-so"
1. Do say: "We saw large USD/KRW demand this morning"
2. Don't say: "If you sold €500m for me now, how much do you think you could move the rate?"
2. Do say: "What is liquidity like in EUR/USD in terms of €50m, €100m or €200m?"
3. Don't say: "I'm publishing a new bullish trade recommendation later today"
3. Do say: "Did you receive the bullish trade recommendation I published earlier today?"
The group of central bank governors working on the proposals said: "We expect market participants will evolve their practises to be consistent with the principles contained in the FX Global Code in order to promote a robust, fair, liquid, open, and transparent market underpinned by high ethical standards."
Thomson Reuters, which has a network of trading terminals that facilitate $370bn (£252bn) of currency trading every day, said it would establish "clear rules and increase transparency across out transactions venues".