Exchange joins anti-fraud group

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THE LONDON Stock Exchange has signed a cross-border agreement designed to help to crack down on international insider dealing rings and other abuses. Regulators say the exchange's decision to join the US-based Intermarket Surveillance Group will speed up investigations into fraud.

Previous attempts by stock markets to share information have become submerged in bureaucracy and frustrated the efforts of investigators to react swiftly on suspicions of insider trading or other abuses.

The ISG was founded in 1982 by nine principal securities markets in the US in order that regulators could monitor share trading in any company at exchanges throughout the country. Stock exchanges in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal later became affiliates. Now the ISG is talking to exchanges in Europe. Amsterdam is already a member. Affiliates can only deal with the ISG in the US, and cannot exchange information between themselves.

Authorities have been alarmed at the potential for market abuse following the globalisation of the investment business. Insider dealing rings in the US, and the Maxwell affair have caused concern.

Jeffrey Schroer, chairman of the ISG, said: 'As the amount of cross-border trading becomes greater . . . it is imperative that all markets broaden their surveillance capabilities to ensure the protection of public investors.'

Investigators in London are confident that ISG membership will be a significant advance. One said: 'It used to be so slow getting information.' But now if investigators suspect wrongdoing in the market they can telephone their opposite number in the US to get same- day information.