Poll­sters re­ject MPs’ claim on hedge fund work

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Anna Isaac

POLL­STERS have hit back at MPs’ sug­ges­tions that they de­lib­er­ately mis­led the UK pub­lic ahead of the Brexit vote in or­der to help boost hedge funds’ prof­its from short­ing the pound.

In re­sponse to a let­ter from Nicky Mor­gan MP, chair­man of the Trea­sury Select Com­mit­tee, the UK’s most re­spected poll­ster Pro­fes­sor Sir John Cur­tice said she had cast doubt on the “pro­fes­sional in­tegrity of the in­dus­try”.

He said her re­marks needed to ei­ther be “sub­stan­ti­ated or with­drawn”.

If pri­vate exit polls were banned this would im­pact not only hedge funds, but also banks, Sir John said. This would “de­bar” such in­sti­tu­tions from be­ing able to “mit­i­gate risk”, he added.

Sir John is Pres­i­dent of the Bri­tish Polling Coun­cil, a vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion which en­forces trans­parency.

Ms Mor­gan wrote to Sir John in Septem­ber, claim­ing that poll­sters’ work for hedge funds in the run-up to the ref­er­en­dum had raised se­ri­ous ques­tions about con­flicts of in­ter­est. Mrs Mor­gan said polling com­pa­nies had pre­sented them­selves as “neu­tral” but “be­hind the scenes, they are sell­ing pri­vate polling data to hedge funds to make prof­itable trades”.

There were re­ported dis­par­i­ties be­tween the pub­licly avail­able polls is­sued by Ip­sos MORI and YouGov, which sug­gested a re­main vote had won in the af­ter­math of the ref­er­en­dum, and the po­si­tion taken by some hedge funds against the pound.

Some fund man­agers, in­clud­ing Crispin Odey, made hun­dreds of mil­lions bet­ting against the pound on the ex­pec­ta­tion of a leave vic­tory.

Rules pro­posed by the Trea­sury Select Com­mit­tee would re­quire polling com­pa­nies to dis­close, when pub­lish­ing any polls, whether they have car­ried out sim­i­lar work for her pri­vate clients.

Sir John de­nied polling was “nec­es­sar­ily” cross-sub­sidised by pri­vate work, though this formed much of the in­dus­try’s ac­tiv­ity.

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