CFTC fines Russia bank $5 million for $36 billion of phony ruble-dollar trades –

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission fined a Russia bank $6 million Monday for executing "fictitious and noncompetitive" Russian Ruble - U.S. dollar futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
The CFTC brought the enforcement action against VTB Bank, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia, and its subsidiary VTB Capital PLC.
VTB Capital is a U.K.-incorporated bank.
The CFTC’s order required VTB Bank and VTB Capital to jointly and severally pay a $5 million civil penalty.
VTB Bank didn't have the capital base to hedge a large position in ruble - dollar contracts, the CFTC said.
So between December 2010 and June 2013, VTB Bank and VTB Capital executed on the CME over 100 block trades in RUB/USD futures contracts, with a notional value of about $36 billion.
The purpose of the trades was to transfer VTB’s cross-currency risk to VTB Capital at prices more favorable than VTB could have obtained from third-parties.
VTB Capital then hedged the cross-currency risk in OTC swaps with various international banks.
That allowed VTB Bank to accomplish through risk-free, non-arms-length transactions in the futures market what it couldn't do through the swaps market.
The block trades were fictitious sales, the CFTC said. They were done without risk to VTB Bank and reported by the CME at prices that weren't bona fide prices.
Non-competitive and fictitious trades violate CFTC rules.
VTB is the former Vneshtorgbank. The Russian government controls most of the stock in VTB. The Bank of Moscow is VTB's biggest subsidiary.

The CFTC said VTB Bank and VTB Capital cooperated with the U.S. investigation.
The UK Financial Conduct Authority helped the CFTC in the investigation.
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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He'll be the keynote speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.
http://www.fcpablog.com/blog/2016/9/23/cftc-fines-russia-bank-5-million-for-36-billion-of-phony-rub.html 

OPEN A FOREX ACCOUNT - YOU JUST MIGHT GET LUCKY

Slowly… Then All At Once

The staggering incoherence of the election campaign only mirrors the shocking incapacity of the American public, from top to bottom, to process the tendings of our time. The chief tending is permanent worldwide economic contraction. Having hit the resource wall, especially of affordable oil, the global techno-industrial economy has sucked a valve in its engine.
For sure there are ways for human beings to inhabit this planet, perhaps in a civilized mode, but not at the gigantic scale of the current economic regime. The fate of this order has nothing to do with our wishes or preferences. It’s going down whether we like it or not because it was such a violent anomaly in world history and the salient question is: how do we manage our journey to a new disposition of things. Neither Trump or Clinton show that they have a clue about the situation.
The quandary I describe is often labeled the end of growth. The semantic impact of this phrase tends to paralyze even well-educated minds, most particularly the eminent econ professors, the Yale lawyers-turned-politicos, the Wall Street Journal editors, the corporate poobahs of the “C-Suites,” the hedge fund maverick-geniuses, and the bureaucratic errand boys (and girls) of Washington. In the absence of this “growth,” as defined by the employment and productivity statistics extruded like poisoned bratwursts from the sausage grinders of government agencies, this elite can see only the yawning abyss. The poverty of imagination among our elites is really something to behold.
As is usually the case with troubled, over-ripe societies, these elites have begun to resort to magic to prop up failing living arrangements. This is why the Federal Reserve, once an obscure institution deep in the background of normal life, has come downstage front and center, holding the rest of us literally spellbound with its incantations against the intractable ravages of debt deflation. (For a brilliant gloss on this phenomenon, read Ben Hunt’s essay “Magical thinking” at the Epsilon Theory website.)
One way out of this quandary would be to substitute the word “activity” for “growth.” A society of human beings can choose different activities that would produce different effects than the techno-industrial model of behavior. They can organize ten-acre farms instead of cell phone game app companies. They can do physical labor instead of watching television. They can build compact walkable towns instead of suburban wastelands (probably even out of the salvaged detritus of those wastelands). They can put on plays, concerts, sing-alongs, and puppet shows instead of Super Bowl halftime shows and Internet porn videos. They can make things of quality by hand instead of stamping out a million things guaranteed to fall apart next week. None of these alt-activities would be classifiable as “growth” in the current mode. In fact, they are consistent with the reality of contraction. And they could produce a workable and satisfying living arrangement.
The rackets and swindles unleashed in our futile quest to keep up appearances have disabled the financial operating system that the regime depends on. It’s all an illusion sustained by accounting fraud to conceal promises that won’t be kept. All the mighty efforts of central bank authorities to borrow “wealth” from the future in the form of “money” — to “paper over” the absence of growth — will not conceal the impossibility of paying that borrowed money back. The future’s revenge for these empty promises will be the disclosure that the supposed wealth is not really there — especially as represented in currencies, stock shares, bonds, and other ephemeral “instruments” designed to be storage vehicles for wealth. The stocks are not worth what they pretend. The bonds will never be paid off. The currencies will not store value. How did this happen? Slowly, then all at once.
We’re on a collision course with these stark realities. They are coinciding with the sickening vectors of national politics in a great wave of latent consequences built up by the sheer inertia of the scale at which we have been doing things. Trump, convinced of his own brilliance, knows nothing, and wears his incoherence like a medal of honor. Clinton literally personifies the horror of these coiled consequences waiting to spring — and the pretense that everything will continue to be okay with her in the White House (not). When these two gargoyle combatants meet in the debate arena a week from now, you will hear nothing about the journey we’re on to a different way of life.
But there is a clear synergy between the mismanagement of our money and the mismanagement of our politics. They have the ability to amplify each other’s disorders. The awful vibe from this depraved election might be enough to bring down markets and banks. The markets and banks are unstable enough to affect the election.
In history, elites commonly fail spectacularly. Ask yourself: how could these two ancient institutions, the Democratic and Republican parties, cough up such human hairballs? And having done so, do they deserve to continue to exist? And if they go up in a vapor, along with incomes and savings, what happens next?
Enter the generals.

Wall Street’s 0.01%: The Guru Who Only Talks to Hedge-Fund Elite

Jens Nordvig, one of the hottest prognosticators in finance, will sell anyone his secret sauce for winning trades for $30,000 a year.

But if you want unfettered access to his best ideas and personal touch—the kind that the deep-pocketed hedge funds covet—be prepared to shell out about 20 times more.

That two-pronged approach to research, off-limits (at least officially) at Wall Street banks, captures one of the most striking shifts in finance today: the rise of a class system where entire businesses cater to only the highest-paying clients. Of course, haves and have-nots have long existed in the world of finance. But the widening gap within Wall Street itself, between what the privileged few and most others get, is creating a new financial elite—what amounts to the 1 percent of the 1 percent.

And if you’re not part of the 0.01 percent, the next best thing is to sell to it.

“Investors either get personalized advice from someone they really trust, or it’s the data tools, good robots—and the price of those two things are different,” the 42-year-old Dane explained from his WeWork office in Manhattan’s Flatiron district one recent afternoon.

For Nordvig, who left Nomura Holdings Inc. in January after five years as Wall Street’s top-ranked currency strategist, it meant leveraging that standing to build his firm, Exante Data, around a rarefied group of the brightest hedge-fund names— and the money they dole out.

Exante counts Key Square, founded by George Soros protege Scott Bessent, and Adam Levinson’s Graticule, a Singapore-based firm spun out of Fortress Investment Group, among its clients, according to conversations with investors and people familiar with the matter. Graticule didn’t reply to requests for comment.

Nordvig declined to identify specific firms, but says there are just “five to seven” large institutions, whose fees covered most of his startup costs. And by design, he isn’t accepting any new business. That’s because while Exante’s six employees are focused on its analytics rollout, Nordvig devotes the majority of his time advising his marquee customers.

He’s in touch with them on an almost daily basis and is just a phone call or instant message away—any time, 24/7. His research is tailor-made to suit each one’s needs and Nordvig says he’ll often spend hours at a time with a single firm debating macroeconomic policy and trade strategies.

In late July, Nordvig was up until midnight defending his high-stakes call to a hedge-fund client in Asia that the Bank of Japan would stand pat, rather than announce a new set of aggressive stimulus measures as everyone expected. (He dissuaded the firm from shorting the yen, which proved to be prescient as the Japanese currency surged following the non-event.)

“At banks, it’s mass production. It’s Target versus Hermès.”
So far, his backers like what they see.

“Jens is one of the great thinkers in the market,” said Key Square’s Bessent, who oversaw Soros’ personal fortune before starting his own billion-dollar macro fund this year. “Part of what we did was we got him to control his number of clients. At banks, it’s mass production. It’s Target versus Hermès.”

Nordvig isn’t shy about what he brings to the table. Prior to his years at Nomura, he spent almost a decade at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where he rose to become co-head of global currency research and made his name with bold calls and savvy analysis. In between, he did a brief stint at Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates. And Nordvig brushes off the perception among both admirers and critics that he can, at times, be just a bit too brazen in promoting himself. To him, it’s just part of the cutthroat nature of finance.

“I have a track record of being quite detail-oriented, precise in my analysis and also able to develop new frameworks for thinking about things, and at the same time being quite pragmatic,” he said. “I’ve set up the advisory business so that the people I deal with are some of the biggest macro investors in the world, and I know their interests fit with how I think.”

Whatever the case, there is little doubt the appetite for bespoke research like Nordvig’s is growing. Banks are slashing costs, cutting jobs and abandoning their ambitions to be all things to all customers in the face of a slew of regulations over issues like selective access and excessive risk-taking. An industry-wide slump in revenue since the financial crisis has also prompted bank executives to rethink the value of the commission-based model, where investment research is offered for free in return for trade orders.

Many firms have eliminated analysts as they scale back research spending—making personalized service and attention all the more valuable. Some like Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley have drawn up preferred client lists with code names such as “Focus Five” and “supercore” for top clients.

“It’s a changing landscape,” said Matthew Feldmann, a consultant at Scepter Partners, a multi-family office, and a former money manager at Citadel and Brevan Howard. “People like Jens have found a niche area where all you need is a few wealthy individual customers.”

Perhaps just as important is the proliferation of automated trading strategies and machine-driven data mining, which has replaced many traditional roles that used to exist on Wall Street (not to mention made it harder for hedge funds to outperform as technology makes financial data almost ubiquitous).

Nordvig’s old job at Goldman Sachs exemplified that bygone era. As recently as 2007, he’d stand in the middle of the trading floor with mic in hand on the first Friday of every month, just before the 8:30 a.m. payrolls report. His task? Shout out his immediate take. If the U.S. added more jobs than expected, he’d cry “buy dollar-yen!” and within seconds, Goldman Sachs’s traders would hit the button on their keyboards to put in the order.

“We used to be able to make so much money by just being fast,” he said. Yet today, it’s all done by robots.

Amid the upheaval, Nordvig is confident his experience and smarts will ensure his high-priced advice remains in demand. But he’s not taking any chances.

After years of lackluster returns and faced with the biggest withdrawals since the financial crisis, hedge funds are looking for any edge they can find. These days, that often comes from the world of quantitative analysis. Even legendary names like Paul Tudor Jones, who made their fortunes the old-fashioned way, are hiring a bevy of programmers and mathematicians to build out more sophisticated, computer-driven strategies.

But not everybody has the research budgets to hire scores of Ph.D.s or pay for Nordvig’s white-glove service. That’s where the “data” in Exante Data comes in (Exante is derived from “ex ante,” Latin for “before the event”). Plenty of research superstars have decamped from Wall Street to set up boutique advisory firms, but Exante’s two-tier model is rare. Once the data business is fully up and running, Nordvig promises to give mere mortals on Wall Street the same type of data-mining tools once available only to the biggest quant shops.

Nordvig says he has one overriding advantage: he simply understands markets better.
Yet competition on the data front is heating up. Scores of startups are already scraping data and turning the information into actionable ideas. Goldman Sachs is the biggest investor in Kensho Technologies Inc., which analyzes historical trading patterns to predict how assets react to events like policy meetings and economic releases. An outfit called SpaceKnow Inc. uses satellite images of factories to gauge economic activity in export-oriented countries like China.

Nordvig, in his typical cocksure manner, says he has one overriding advantage: he simply understands markets better.

In coming months, Exante will launch its first data product for the masses. According to Nordvig, his data scientists have come up with a complex algorithm that precisely estimates how much the yuan exchange rate is influenced by China’s buying or selling of dollars, on a daily basis.

There’s nothing publicly available that comes close to measuring intervention in such detail. But Nordvig says his algo succeeds because it can capture anomalies in yuan trading, like a sudden widening in bid-ask spreads, and then compare the data against freely-traded markets in big financial centers.

While the tool can’t yet gauge intervention in offshore yuan and currency forwards, his backtested results show it closely tracks less frequently released official figures. And knowing beforehand can make a huge difference. Case in point: In August 2015, the People’s Bank of China unexpectedly engineered a weakening of the yuan, which blindsided investors and sent financial markets worldwide into a tailspin.

“This is about knowing what topics are important to the clients you serve,” Nordvig said.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-09-15/wall-street-s-0-01-the-guru-who-only-talks-to-hedge-fund-elite

There’s a $300 Billion Exodus From Money Markets Ahead

With a seismic overhaul of the $2.6 trillion money-market industry weeks away from kicking in, money managers are bracing for a last-minute exodus of as much as $300 billion from funds in regulators’ cross hairs.
Prime funds, which seek higher yields by buying securities like commercial paper, are at the center of the upheaval. Their assets have already plunged by almost $700 billion since the start of 2015, to $789 billion, Investment Company Institute data show. The outflow has rippled across financial markets, shattering demand for banks’ and other companies’ short-term debt and raising their funding costs.
The transformation of the money-fund industry, where investors turn to park cash, is a result of regulators’ efforts to make the financial system safer in the aftermath of the credit crisis. The key date is Oct. 14, when rules take effect mandating that institutional prime and tax-exempt funds end an over-30-year tradition of fixing shares at $1. Funds that hold only government debt will be able to maintain that level. Companies such as Federated Investors Inc. and Fidelity Investments, which have already reduced or altered prime offerings, are preparing in case investors yank more money as the new era approaches.
“All managers, like ourselves, are positioning around the uncertainty of the exact magnitude of the outflows,” said Peter Yi, director of short-term fixed income at Chicago-based Northern Trust Corp., which manages $906 billion.

$300 Billion

While Yi sees the additional outflow from prime-fund investors potentially reaching $200 billion in the next 30 days, TD Securities predicted in a Sept. 7 note that it may tally as much as $300 billion.
Yi is preparing by shortening his funds’ weighted average maturity and avoiding short-term debt that matures beyond September. He’s not alone. For the biggest institutional prime funds tracked by Crane Data LLC, the weighted average maturity of holdings fell to an unprecedented 10 days as of Sept. 12. It’s not just floating net-asset values that investors are avoiding. Prime funds can also impose restrictions such as redemption fees.
Amid the tumult, money-fund assets have held steady because most of the cash leaving prime and tax-exempt funds has streamed into less risky offerings focusing on Treasuries and other government-related debt, such as agency securities and repurchase agreements. These funds are exempt from the new rules, which the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued in 2014.
A major repercussion of the flight from prime funds is that there’s less money flowing into commercial paper and certificates of deposit, which banks depend on for funding. As a result, banks’ unsecured lending rates, such as the dollar London interbank offered rate, have soared. Three-month Libor was about 0.85 percent Wednesday, close to the highest since 2009.
Libor may stabilize after mid-October because prime funds may begin to increase purchases of bank IOUs, although the risk of a Federal Reserve interest-rate hike by year-end will keep it elevated, said Seth Roman, who helps oversee five funds with a combined $3.2 billion at Pioneer Investments in Boston.
“You could picture a scenario where Libor ticks down a bit,” Roman said. But “you have to keep in mind that the Fed is in play still.”
Financial firms paying higher rates to attract investors to their IOUs will push three-month Libor to about 0.95 percent by the end of September, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Although bank funding costs are rising, it isn’t a signal of financial strain as in 2008, said Jerome Schneider, head of short-term portfolio management at Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co., which oversees about $1.5 trillion. 
“This is not a credit stress event, it’s a credit repricing due to systemic and structural changes,” he said.
The market for commercial paper has shrunk about 50 percent from its $2.2 trillion peak in 2007, pushing financial firms to diversify funding sources -- choosing longer-term debt and loans in foreign currencies.
At least $269 billion in commercial paper and certificates of deposits held by prime funds will come due before Oct. 14 and most issuers of that debt will need to find financing outside the money-fund industry, JPMorgan predicts.
The hubbub in money markets has its roots in a crucial episode of the financial crisis -- the demise of the $62.5 billion Reserve Fund, which became just the second money fund to lose money, or “break the buck.” The event contributed to the global freeze in credit markets and pushed the Treasury Department to temporarily backstop almost all U.S. money funds.
With the Fed’s target rate still not far from zero, money-fund investors looking to pad returns may overcome their aversion to prime funds. Institutional prime funds’ seven-day yield was 0.24 percent as of Sept. 12, compared with 0.17 percent for government funds, according to Crane Data.
“You’ll see the prime-fund space continue to shrink until we hit mid-October,” said Tracy Hopkins, chief operating officer in New York at BNY Mellon Cash Investment Strategies, a division of Dreyfus Corp.
“After that,” she said, “I would not be surprised to see assets return, once customers get accustomed to the floating NAVs and want to earn incremental yield over government money-market funds.”

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What is Splitting Pennies all about?

Splitting Pennies - Understanding Forex is a book about our global financial system and its direct impact on every human being on this planet Earth.  Every day, our money is worth less and less.  Splitting Pennies explores why, through the prism of its mechanism; Forex.  Forex is the largest business in the world and the least understood.  This is not taught in school - start your journey, and just read.  Splitting Pennies displays practical examples of how many have profited in Forex, the history of Forex, and practical examples of strategies to use for your portfolio.  Readers of the book will know more than a Harvard MBA about Forex, and can consider themselves Sophisticated Forex Investors (SFI).  Complex topics such as currency swaps are broken down in digestible form, for the average investor or for financial professionals.  Splitting Pennies is a must read for those in investment banking, securities, fund management, accounting, banking & finance, and related fields.  But it’s written for the layman, the worker, the average investor – the student in us.