The London Metal Exchange's new chief executive said he was ready to fight multiple lawsuits brought over its global ware-housing network, and that critics should not expect a silver bullet to fix their concerns with it.
The world's biggest and oldest metals marketplace has come under increasing regulatory and legal scrutiny over its metal storage practices, with complaints about long queues to withdraw physical metal from warehouses.
Clients of the warehouses say the system inflates prices for aluminium even though the market is in global oversupply. This has resulted in Unites States-based lawsuits by consumers, distributors and others, alleging aluminium price-fixing and anti-competitive behaviour by investment banks, large trading houses and the LME itself.
"What is absolutely clear with these lawsuits in America is there is no basis for including the LME in these suits. We are going to be defending that," Garry Jones said. "There is no smoking gun. There was no complicity. We're going to have a hell of a defence for that. And it's annoying because it will take management time. We are confident of being right."
The LME, acquired by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing last year for US$2.2 billion, has proposed rules to overhaul its delivery system from next April that would force warehouses to release more stocks once the wait-time breaches 100 days. But the proposals have also been criticised by major producers and end-users of metal. Consumers, including brewer MillerCoors and aluminium products' maker Novelis, want drastic changes to warehousing rules to bring down what they pay to get metal, known as a premium.
Russia's Rusal, the world's largest aluminium producer, publicly lobbied for the LME to leave its warehousing rules unchanged or risk damaging the whole market. Alcoa also laid out its opposition to the potential changes.
But Jones said whatever the exchange did, or did not do, would not satisfy everyone. "I think they feel by shouting loudly and making a big fuss it's going to influence things, and it's not really. We won't come up with a silver bullet that will please everyone but I hope we come up with a reasonable plan."
CME Group has said it plans to launch a physically deliverable aluminium futures contract that could compete with the London exchange's US$54 billion market.
Jones said: "If a well-capitalised competitor competes with you, obviously you have to take it seriously."
The New York Mercantile Exchange, owned by CME, struggled for 10 years before being delisted in 2009. It was unable to lure users away from London.