It was about a month ago when it was revealed that the infamous JPMorgan physical commodities group, plagued by both perpetual accusations of precious metal manipulation and legal charges most recently with FERC for $410 million that it had manipulated electricity markets, was in exclusive talks to be sold to Geneva-based Marcuria Group. It was also revealed that Blythe Masters, JPMorgan’s commodities chief, "probably won’t join Mercuria as part of the deal." Of course, we all learned the very next day that Ms. Masters - an affirmed commodities market manipulator - and soon to be out of a job, had shockingly intended to join the CFTC trading commission as an advisor, a decisions which was promptly reversed following an epic outcry on the internet. This is all great news, but one thing remained unclear: just who is this mysterious Swiss-based company that is about to leave Blythe without a job? Today, courtesy of Bloomberg we have the answer.
"The Vampire Squid Strikes Again"- Matt Taibbi Takes On Blythe Masters And The Banker Commodity CartelSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/13/2014 17:15 -0400
The story of how JPMorgan, Goldman and the rest of the Too Big To Fails and Prosecutes, cornered, monopolized and became a full-blown cartel - with the Fed's explicit blessing - in the physical commodity market is nothing new to regular readers: to those new to this story, we suggest reading of our story from June 2011 (over two and a half years ago), "Goldman, JP Morgan Have Now Become A Commodity Cartel As They Slowly Recreate De Beers' Diamond Monopoly." That, or Matt Taibbi's latest article written in his usual florid and accessible style, in which he explains how the "Vampire Squid strikes again" courtesy of the "loophole that destroyed the world" to wit: "it would take half a generation – till now, basically – to understand the most explosive part of the bill, which additionally legalized new forms of monopoly, allowing banks to merge with heavy industry. A tiny provision in the bill also permitted commercial banks to delve into any activity that is "complementary to a financial activity and does not pose a substantial risk to the safety or soundness of depository institutions or the financial system generally." Complementary to a financial activity. What the hell did that mean?... Fifteen years later, in fact, it now looks like Wall Street and its lawyers took the term to be a synonym for ruthless campaigns of world domination."
Trust is gone and credit is going and debt is sitting between a rock and a hard place with its grubby hands pressed together, praying that it will be forgiven, forgotten, or overlooked a little while longer. By the way, the reason trust and credit are gone is because oil is no longer cheap and world economies can’t grow anymore. They can’t afford to run the day-to-day operations of a techno-industrial society. They can only pretend to afford it. The stock markets are mere scorecards for players who can only lie and cheat now to keep the game going. Somewhere beyond all the legerdemain and fraud, however, there remains a real world that is not going away. We just don’t know what it will look like when the smog of fraud clears.
Get a load of those commodities...
Following our post yesterday which included the occasional F-bomb, the reaction was sharp and severe. So severe in fact that less than 24 hours later, Blythe Master has withdrawn from the CFTC. The culprit for Masters' resignation in just 24 hours? A very angry Twitter.
We thought today's newsflow and "market action" ranked pretty high on the absurd surrealism scale. And then we saw this.
BLYTHE MASTERS TO JOIN CFTC GLOBAL MARKETS COMMITTEE
JPMORGAN’S BLYTHE MASTERS TO JOIN CFTC ADVISORY COMMITTEE
It's almost as if they are explicitly telling the handful of people who still care about this entire charade a resounding "fuck you."
Unlike on the two prior occasions when the "mysterious" (coughBIScough) gold seller sold so much gold he briefly broke the gold market not once but twice, this morning's concerted gold selling episodes, which briefly took gold to a three month low, were unable to obliterate the entire bid stack (at least for now) and crush enough liquidity to force the CME to announce another "stop logic" 10-20 second trading halt. However, there were some other peculiarities surrounding today's now recurring morning gold battering (which as we noted in a market where the CME no longer supervises any and all manipulation, were and are certain to continue). Specifically, what is curious is that starting at 3:48 am Eastern Time, Nanex found "six instances (there may be more) of 1 second periods in Gold futures with a high number of trades (700 or more)." As those who have been covering our coverage of HFT manipulation will note, these are precisely the kinds of momentum ignition, and not rational price discovery, events that seek to manipulate prevailing prices lower (or higher). The good news is that as everyone knows, aside from equity, electricity, FX, libor, aluminum, and credit derivative markets (in just the case of JPM) gold is never manipulated: Blythe Masters promised. So there's that.
"By late April 2012, JPMorgan senior management knew that the firm's Investment Banking unit used far more conservative prices when valuing the same kind of derivatives held in the CIO portfolio, and that applying the Investment Bank valuations would have led to approximately $750 million in additional losses for the CIO in the first quarter of 2012." Translated: Jamie Dimon lied to Congress.
Even as JPMorgan seems set to put its London Whale troubles behind it with a nearly $1 billion imminent settlement, while at the same time throwing two mid-level traders at NY prosecutors and washing its hands of the whole tempest in a teapot affair, a curious snag has appeared. The CFTC, which in the past has never had a problem with promptly settling any market manipulation abuse with any bank in exchange for a small cash-greased slap on the hand, is suddenly a sticking point in JPM's ability to just walk away from the biggest prop trading Snafu in history. As WSJ reports, "the CFTC is focusing on the bank's increasingly aggressive trades made over several months early last year, when it added tens of billions of dollars to its derivatives positions—contracts tied to investment-grade corporate bonds, these people say. The CFTC is likely to use new powers granted by the Dodd-Frank law that allow it to charge firms for recklessly manipulating markets, say people familiar with the agency's thinking."
It is somewhat ironic that none other than CNBC is reporting the news (which was suggested here months ago in "Will JPMorgan's "Enron" Be The End Of Blythe Masters?") that as part of its divestment of its physical commodities unit announced previously, JPMorgan may also seek to cover up any trace of market manipulation in the division recently embroiled in the aluminum cartel scandal (which we reported on in June 2011 and which story recently rose to prominence as a result of follow up reporting by the NYT) by getting rid of none other than Blythe Masters.
DOJ Picks Up Where FERC Left Off: Begins Investigation Of JPMorgan's "Enronesque" Energy Market ManipulationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/19/2013 18:50 -0400
On July 30, when FERC announced that it had agreed to resolve it allegations of JPMorgan manipulation of the energy market for a $410 million fine, with the bank neither admitting nor denying guilt, we posited that the only question on Jamie Dimon's mind was whether to pay the fine from petty cash or just to charge it on his corporate Amex. Three weeks later he may have some other questions swirling in his head, such as "whose Christmas lobbying stocking did I not fill with campaign donations?" after the WSJ reported that it is no longer FERC, but the DOJ itself, led by Preet Bharara, which is investigating whether JPM manipulated energy markets. Ironically, this is a deja vu of the SAC take down by the same Bharara, when a few months after SAC settled with the SEC it was shocked to be crushed by the Department of Justice which pulled an "Arthur Anderson" on it and for all intents and purposes shut it down (although with nobody sent to prison). It remains to be seen if Bharara will have the balls to take this prosecution to the next level and whether after he made SAC into Arthur Anderson, he will make JPMorgan into the New Normal's Enron and whether Jamie Dimon or Blythe Masters will be the next Lay and/or Skilling. One can hope.
Just flashing red headlines for now:
- JPMORGAN ACCUSED BY U.S. REGULATOR OF MANIPULATING POWER MARKET
- JPMORGAN ACCUSED OF MANIPULATIVE ENERGY-BIDDING STRATEGIES
- JPMORGAN ACCUSED OF ENERGY-MARKET MANIPULATION IN 2010 AND 2011
- U.S. FERC ANNOUNCES JPMORGAN ALLEGED VIOLATIONS IN E-MAIL
And now we look forward to learning how many hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of cents the settlement will be, which will also include a full wristslapping pardon of Blythe Masters of course.
Back in June 2011 we first reported how "Goldman, JP Morgan Have Now Become A Commodity Cartel As They Slowly Recreate De Beers' Diamond Monopoly" in an article that explained, with great detail, how Goldman et al engage in artificial commodity traffic bottlenecking (thanks to owning all the key choke points in the commodity logistics chain) in order to generate higher end prices, rental income and numerous additional top and bottom-line externalities and have become the defacto commodity warehouse monopolists. Specifically, we compared this activity to similar cartelling practices used by other vertically integrated commodity cartels such as De Beers: "the obvious purpose of "warehousing" is nothing short of artificially bottlenecking primary supply." Over the weekend, with a 25 month delay, the NYT "discovered" just this, reporting that the abovementioned practice was nothing but "pure gold" to the banks. It sure is, and will continue to be. And while we are happy that the mainstream media finally woke up to this practice which had been known to our readers for over two years, the question is why now? The answer is simple - tomorrow, July 23, the Senate Committee on Banking will hold a hearing titled "Should Banks Control Power Plants, Warehouses, And Oil Refiners."
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Following Barclays' fine of $453 million by FERC for manipulating electric energy prices in California (and other other Western markets), it seems the price of infamy is weighing heavy on Blythe Masters' overlords at JPMorgan in yet another derivative debacle for the "I invented CDS" queen. As we discussed in great detail here, FERC's investigations into JPMorgan's actions saw them pursuing actions against the firm and Ms. Masters. In recent weeks settlement rumors have been heard and now as the NYTimes reports, it appears - in light of last year's PR and P&L 'London Whale' disaster - the best-CEO-in-the-entire-world-so-there is preparing to settle to the tune of $500 million to keep Blythe out of jail. To settle Ms. Masters' alleged “manipulative schemes” that transformed “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers,” and then her giving “false and misleading statements” under oath, must mean she has some serious dirt on Jamie (and his fortress balance sheet and best-in-class risk management).