On Monday morning we reported that a number of traders - currently or formerly employed by UBS, HSBC and Deutsche Bank (as usual, no JPMorgan US banks were touched) - would be perp-walked and charged in an unprecedented cross-agency crackdown between the CFTC, DOJ and FBI seeking to punish spoofers of futures. This was confirmed moments ago by a CFTC press release which announced criminal and civil enforcement actions against three banks and six individuals involved in commodities fraud and spoofing schemes.
Here is what got far less publicity: it wasn't just any futures that were spoofed - all the banks and traders busted were charged for spoofing the precious metals market, i.e. gold and silver. We bring this up because there are still the occasional idiots out there who say gold and silver were never manipulated.
The banks in question, and their penalties:
Deutsche Bank will pay a $30 million civil monetary penalty and undertake remedial relief. The Orders finds that "from at least February 2008 and continuing through at least September 2014, DB AG, by and through certain precious metals traders (Traders), engaged in a scheme to manipulate the price of precious metals futures contracts by utilizing a variety of manual spoofing techniques with respect to precious metals futures contracts traded on the Commodity Exchange, Inc. (COMEX), and by trading in a manner to trigger customer stop-loss orders."
UBS will pay a $15 million civil monetary penalty and undertake remedial relief. The Order finds that from "January 2008 through at least December 2013, UBS, by and through the acts of certain precious metals traders on the spot desk (Traders), attempted to manipulate the price of precious metals futures contracts by utilizing a variety of manual spoofing techniques with respect to precious metals futures contracts traded on the Commodity Exchange, Inc. (COMEX), including gold and silver, and by trading in a manner to trigger customer stop-loss orders."
HSBC will pay a civil monetary penalty of $1.6 million, and cease and desist from violating the Commodity Exchange Act’s prohibition against spoofing, after an Order found HSBC engaged in numerous acts of "spoofing with respect to certain futures products in gold and other precious metals traded on the Commodity Exchange, Inc. (COMEX). The Order finds that HSBC engaged in this activity through one of its traders based in HSBC’s New York office."
For those keeping count, this is roughly the 4th time HSBC has been found guilty of manipulating markets after the bank nearly lost its charter and swore it would never manipulate markets again.
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And here are the 6 traders who spoof and otherwise manipulated the precious metals market:
The CFTC today announced the filing of a federal court enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against Krishna Mohan of New York City, New York, charging him with spoofing (bidding or offering with the intent to cancel before execution) and engaging in a manipulative and deceptive scheme in the E-mini Dow ($5) futures contract market on the Chicago Board of Trade and the E-mini NASDAQ 100 futures contract market on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
The CFTC today announced the filing of a federal court enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against Defendant Jiongsheng Zhao, of Australia, charging him with spoofing and engaging in a manipulative and deceptive scheme in the E-mini S&P 500 futures contract market on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).
James Vorley & Cedric Chanu
The CFTC announced the filing of a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against James Vorley, a U.K. resident, and Cedric Chanu, a United Arab Emirates resident, charging them with spoofing and engaging in a manipulative and deceptive scheme in the precious metals futures markets.
Jitesh Thakkar & Edge Financial Technologies
The CFTC today announced the filing of a federal court enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, charging Jitesh Thakkar of Naperville, Illinois, and his company, Edge Financial Technologies, Inc. (Edge), with aiding and abetting spoofing and a manipulative and deceptive scheme in the E-mini S&P futures contract market on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (E-mini S&P).
An amusing tangent: recall that according to court docs related to the prosecution of "May 2010" flash crash scapegoat Navinder Sarao, the former S&P spoofer allegedly asked the abovementioned founder of the trading-software company Edge Financial Technologies Inc. to modify a program to allow him to automate some trading functions.
The CFTC and Department of Justice said in their complaint that those modifications were designed to help him spoof the markets more efficiently.
It gets better: as the WSJ reported, the now arrested Jitesh Thakkar, the founder of Edge Financial and a former member of a CFTC technology-advisory committee, said in an interview that the CFTC had sent [Sarao] a letter asking him to retain all documents related to Mr. Sarao.
“I’ve spoken out against spoofing,” he said. “We didn’t create anything that does anything illegal.”
Two years later Thakkar was arrested for just that, but it also now appears that Thakkar may have used Sarao's algo himself.
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Finally, our old friend, Andre Flotron, formerly of UBS, who as we reported on several prior occasions was arrested and charged with gold-rigging after a lengthy career of doing just that at the largest Swiss bank:
The CFTC announced the filing of a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut against Andre Flotron, of Switzerland, charging him with engaging in a manipulative and deceptive scheme and spoofing in the precious metals futures markets on a registered entity.
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Meanwhile, the S&P500 manipulation by the Fed and spoofing by HFTs continues apace, and will as long as the market keeps levitating because it is only when stocks crash, that the fingerpointing begins.
SummaryThe world forgot about the tZERO ICO.tZERO recently announced a partnership with BOX Digital Markets.They raised $250M, reaching their goal (according to sources).There is nothing stopping tZERO and OSTK from a 10x or 20x return.The crypto marke...
We've been closely watching the Crypto Currency Market if you can call it that, with all the fake data, fraud, and related problems. One thing stands out - it's not so different than FX, commodities, futures, or stocks. Market dyn...
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies flash-crashed Saturday night, one day after the US Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC) sent subpoenas four cryptocurrency exchanges in an ongoing probe into bitcoin manipulation that began in late July - following the launch of bitcoin futures on the CME, according to the Wall Street Journal.
CME’s bitcoin futures derive their final value from prices at four bitcoin exchanges: Bitstamp, Coinbase, itBit and Kraken. Manipulative trading in those markets could skew the price of bitcoin futures that the government directly regulates.
In delay reaction, Bitcoin fell as much as $433 or 5.6% in Saturday night trading, with some noting that the flash crash happened shortly after a 90th ranked crypto exchange, Coinrail, had suffered a "cyber intrusion", and was likely the more relevant catalyst for the crypto price drop.
While major Cryptocurrencies were down from 4.5 - 5.5%, Bitcoin Cash dropped over 8.4%.
The CTFC subpoenas were issued after several of the exchanges refused to voluntarily share trading data with the CME after being asked last December. Of note, the CFTC regulates the CTC.
According to the WSJ, the CME, which launched bitcoin futures in December, asked the four exchanges to share reams of trading data after its first contract settled in January, people familiar with the matter said. But several of the exchanges declined to comply, arguing the request was intrusive. The exchanges ultimately provided some data, but only after CME limited its request to a few hours of activity, instead of a full day, and restricted to a few market participants, the people added.
What is curious, is that if there was indeed manipulation since the launch of bitcoin futures, it was to the downside, as the price of cryptos peaked around the time the crypto futures were launched, and are down well over 50% in the 6 months since.
Coinbase in particular has been under the watch government regulators. On February 23, Coinbase sent an official notice to around 13,000 customers to notify them they were legally required to turn over their information to the IRS.
The IRS had initially asked Coinbase in July 2017 to hand over even more detailed information on every one of its then over 500,000 users in an attempt catch those cheating on their taxes. However, another court order in Nov. 2017 reduced this number to around 14,000 “high-transacting” users, which the platform now reports as 13,000, in what Coinbase calls a “partial, but still significant, victory for Coinbase and its customers.”
Coinbase told the around 13,000 affected customers that the company would be providing their taxpayer ID, name, birth date, address, and historical transaction records from 2013-2015 to the IRS within 21 days. Coinbase’s letter to these customers encourages them “to seek legal advice from an attorney promptly” if they have any questions. Their website also states that concerns may also be addressed on Coinbase’s Taxes FAQ. The ongoing legal battle between Coinbase and the US government dates back to November, 2016, when the IRS filed a “John Doe summons” in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
And in April, former New York Attorney General, Eric "we could rarely have sex without him beating me" Schneiderman, launched a probe of 13 major cryptocurrency exchanges according to the Wall Street Journal - claiming that investors dealing in the fast-growing markets often don’t have the basic facts needed to protect themselves.
Former AG Schneiderman’s office said the program, called Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative, is part of its responsibility to protect consumers and ensure the integrity of financial markets, and its goal is to ensure that investors can have a better understanding of the risks and protections afforded them on these sites.
CFTC Commissioner: Crypto is a "modern miracle"
While the CFTC, IRS and New York Attorney General's office are all cracking down on cryptocurrency exchanges, it seems to all be part of the government's embrace of virtual currencies. Last week CFTC Commissioner Rostin Benham called cryptocurrencies a "modern miracle" at the Blockchain For Impact Summit held at the UN in New York last week.
But virtual currencies may – will – become part of the economic practices of any country, anywhere. Let me repeat that: these currencies are not going away and they will proliferate to every economy and every part of the planet.Some places, small economies, may become dependent on virtual assets for survival. And, these currencies will be outside traditional monetary intermediaries, like government, banks, investors, ministries, or international organizations.
We are witnessing a technological revolution. Perhaps we are witnessing a modern miracle. -Rostin Benham
Rostin hinted at the upcoming legal action against the exchanges during his speech:
Under the CEA and Commission regulations and related guidance, exchanges have the responsibility to ensure that their Bitcoin futures products and their cash-settlement process are not readily susceptible to manipulation and the entity has sufficient capital to protect itself. The CFTC has the authority to ensure compliance. In addition, the CFTC has legal authority over virtual currency derivatives in support of anti-fraud and manipulation including enforcement authority in the underlying markets.
Meanwhile, the official Bitcoin website removed references to Coinbase, Blockchain.com and Bitpay, according to Crypto News - only one of which, Coinbase, was subpoenaed.
http://Bitcoin.org just removed/censored the 2 largest US Bitcoin companies (@BitPay Payment processing and @coinbase Bitcoin Exchange). It’s a good move: Bitcoin Core is obviously no longer Bitcoin, and should ideally be removed from both @BitPay and @coinbase too.
The CFTC officially recognized bitcoin as a commodity in September of 2015 when it went after Coinflip for operating a platform for trading bitcoin options without the proper authorization. Since the agency effectively asserted its dominance over the bitcoin market with that decision, this is the first time it has given its blessing to an bitcoin options trading platform. Expect a burst of institutional trading activity to follow - especially since they approved institutional options trading in July.