Barclays fined on failure linked to gold price rigging

London (AFP) - Scandal-hit Barclays has been fined more than £26 million after a former trader at the bank attempted to manipulate the price of gold, Britain's financial regulator said Friday.

The Financial Conduct Authority said in a statement that it had fined Barclays £26.03 million ($43.87 million, 32.18 million euros) "for failing to adequately manage conflicts of interest between itself and its customers as well as systems and controls failings" in relation to a fixed London pricing of gold over a nine-year period to 2013.

This is a fresh blow for Barclays, which was at the heart of the Libor interest-rate rigging scandal in 2012. The troubled British bank is also facing investigations along with other major lenders over possible manipulation of foreign exchange trades.

Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins expressed "regret" at the outcome.

The FCA said it had fined former Barclays trader Daniel James Plunkett £95,600 and banned him from working within any "regulated activity" after noting that on June 28, 2012, he "exploited the weaknesses in Barclays? systems and controls to seek to influence that day?s 3:00 pm Gold Fixing and thereby profited at a customer?s expense".

In a separate twist, Plunkett's attempted manipulation occurred the day after the FCA had published its actions against Barclays over Libor.

"The investigation and outcomes in that case meant that the firm, and Plunkett, were clearly on notice of the potential for conflicts of interests around benchmarks," said Tracey McDermott, the FCA's director of enforcement and financial crime.

The benchmark gold fixing price is set twice daily by four banks, including Barclays, at 10:30 am London time (0930 GMT) and 3:00 pm.

"The Gold Fixing is an important price-setting mechanism which provides market users with the opportunity to buy and sell gold at a single quoted price," the FCA said in Friday's statement.

The price of gold was fixed at $1,291.50 an ounce at 3:00 pm on the London Bullion Market, which compared with $1,298.50 at 3:00 pm on Thursday.

- Finance sector 'sullied' -

McDermott said of the latest bad news to hit Barclays: "A firm?s lack of controls and a trader?s disregard for a customer?s interests have allowed the financial services industry?s reputation to be sullied again.

"Plunkett has paid a heavy price for putting his own interests above the integrity of the market and Barclays? customer. Traders who might be tempted to exploit their clients for a quick buck should be in no doubt -- such behaviour will cost you your reputation and your livelihood."

In a separate statement, Jenkins said: ?We very much regret the situation that led to this settlement."

The Barclays chief added: ?While there is much more to do to achieve the deep-rooted cultural change we embarked upon at the start of 2013, Barclays today has significantly changed for the better."

- Barclays shares higher -

Investors appeared to shrug off the fine, with Barclays' share price showing a gain of 1.21 percent to 246.25 pence on London's FTSE 100 index, which was down 0.16 percent overall to 6,809.47 points in late afternoon deals.

But Barclays has struggled to recover from the Libor fallout and earlier this month said it would shrink its investment bank in a radical restructuring that will axe 19,000 jobs across the entire group over the next two years.

Jenkins is on a mission to reduce the influence of Barclays' investment bank since replacing Bob Diamond -- the much-maligned former chief executive who was forced to resign over the Libor scandal.

It is also creating a "bad" bank for non-core assets with a total value of £115 billion that will be sold or simply allowed to run down.

The Libor scandal erupted two years ago when Barclays was fined £290 million by British and US regulators for attempted manipulation of Libor and Euribor interbank rates between 2005 and 2009. Euribor is the eurozone equivalent of Libor.