Pollsters under fire over hedge fund Brexit bets

Nicky Morgan MP
Nicky Morgan MP

Polling companies are facing Parliamentary scrutiny over the sale of private polls to hedge funds during the Brexit referendum, which were used to place huge bets on the pound.

MP Nicky Morgan, chair of the powerful Treasury Committee, has written to British Polling Council president Sir John Curtice, warning that the use of private polling data during election and referendum campaigns could pose a risk to the integrity of financial markets.

It follows a report by Bloomberg into private polling data sold by the likes of YouGov, Survation and ICM in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit vote.

They were bought by hedge funds eager to cash in on extreme volatility in currency markets and profit from the result of the EU referendum, with several commissioning private exit polls in order to bet on the price of sterling.

The pound was trading above $1.50 on the eve of the vote, before tumbling to $1.32 when it became clear that Leave was to emerge victorious, netting millions for those on the right side of the bet.

“The integrity of UK financial markets is a key concern of the Treasury Committee, and the Bloomberg report raises concerns in this regard,” Ms Morgan said.

“During election and referendum campaigns, polling companies present themselves as neutral observers of public opinion. Yet behind the scenes, they are selling private polling data to hedge funds to make profitable trades.”