Fed probes early release of FOMC minutes, appears to be accident

The Federal Reserve launched an investigation on Wednesday into one of the central bank's worst security lapses in years but said it believed that the early release of minutes of a market-sensitive policy meeting had been "entirely accidental."

"At this time we do not know whether there was any trading related to inadvertent early distribution of the minutes," a Fed spokesman said. "We will be working with market regulators, the SEC and CFTC, to ensure they have the information they need to evaluate the incident."

The Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission was not immediately available to respond to a request for information.

The Fed on Wednesday released the minutes of its March 19-20 Federal Open Market Committee meeting several hours ahead of schedule, after discovering early on Wednesday morning that more than 100 people - primarily congressional staffers and employees of trade associations - had received them on Tuesday afternoon.

These people would normally have received the minutes after their scheduled released time of 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Additional reporting by Sarah Lynch and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Tim Ahmann)