Exposing "The Legend" - How Traders 'Spoofed' The Precious Metals Markets

Following last week's admission by a former Deutsche Bank trader that he and many other traders conspired to manipulate the precious metals markets, court documents expose chat messages that show the level of rigging and how an uknown trader known as "the legend" taught them the "tricks from the... master."

The Deutsche Bank trader, David Liew, pleaded guilty in federal court in Chicago to conspiring to spoof gold, silver, platinum and palladium futures, according to court papers. Bloomberg notes that spoofing involves traders placing orders that they never intend to fill, in an attempt to manipulate the price.

Following an introductory period that included orientation and training, LIEW was eventually assigned to the metals trading desk (which included base metals and precious metals trading) in approximately December 2009. During the Relevant Period, LIEW was employed by Bank A as a metals trader in the Asia-Pacific region, and his primary duties included precious metals market making and futures trading.

 

...

 

Between in or around December 2009 and in or around February 2012 (the "Relevant Period"), in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastem Division, and elsewhere, defendant DAVID LIEW did knowingly and intentionally conspire and agree with other precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, and palladium) traders to: (a) knowingly execute, and attempt to execute, a scheme and artifice to defraud, and for obtaining money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and in furtherance of the scheme and artifice to defraud, knowingly transmit, and cause to be transmitted, in interstate and foreign commerce, by means of wire communications, certain signs, signals and sounds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343,which scheme affected a financial institution; and (b) knowingly engage in trading, practice, and conduct, on and subject to the rules of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange ("CME"), that was, was of the character of, and was commonly known to the trade as, spoofing, that is, bidding or offering with the intent to cancel the bid or offer before execution, by causing to be transmitted to the CME precious metals futures contract orders that LIEW and his coconspirators intended to cancel before execution and not as part of any legitimate, good-faith attempt to execute any part of the orders, in violation of Title 7, United States Code, Sections 6c(a)(5)(C) and 13(a)(2); all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

 

...

 

Defendant LIEW's employer, Bank A, was one of the largest global banking and financial services companies in the world. Bank A's primary precious metals trading desks were located in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Asia-Pacific region.

 

Defendant LIEW and other precious metals traders, including traders at Bank A, engaged in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and spoofing, in the trading of precious metals futures contracts traded on the CME.

 

Defendant LIEW placed, and conspired to place, hundreds of orders to buy or to sell precious metals futures contracts that he intended to cancel and not to execute at the time he placed the orders (the "Spoof Orders").

And now, as Bloomberg reports, after pleading guilty to fraud charges last week and agreeing to cooperate, Liew has become a prime government witness for U.S. prosecutors investigating whether traders at the world’s biggest banks conspired to manipulate prices in silver, gold, platinum and palladium.

His chats with colleagues -- part of an FBI affidavit filed in Chicago and placed under seal -- provide a window into the investigation by the Justice Department, which began looking into such activities at a dozen of the biggest global banks two years ago.

"Tricks from the ...master," Liew typed in a chat after working with a colleague to move gold futures prices while Liew executed a trade. In the course of a year, Liew and his colleagues used fake orders to try to manipulate prices, an illegal practice called spoofing, more than 50 times.

 

In his court plea, Liew described working with others at his own bank and at two other operations. He refers to “The Legend,” without naming him, at another unidentified global bank. Many details are cloaked.

According to the documents, at least two senior colleagues taught Liew how small orders could be placed and then quickly pulled, pushing prices in a direction to benefit traders with client orders to fill. Within a couple years, he was teaching newer traders to do the same. In all, according to the filings, he attempted to move prices on Chicago’s CME more than 300 times before he left.

After trading silver futures on March 29, 2011, Liew wrote to the trader he called The Legend. "Look at silver … all algo play … basically I sold out … by just having fake bids," according to chats transcribed in the FBI affidavit.

 

By June 2011, Liew had begun teaching others the mechanics of spoofing, according to the FBI affidavit. In a chat with a trader from an unidentified trading firm, Liew explained how he used high-speed traders to move the market to his advantage. "I just spam … then cancel a lot … its actually stupid … cause im risking … but it gets the job done."

 

That August, Liew and a colleague discussed Dodd-Frank and their trading strategy in a chat, then engaged in spoofing to help Liew’s position in gold futures, according to the affidavit. "dodd frank gonna get me fired," Liew wrote.

 

Eight minutes later, Liew wrote, "I bought some gold for us … get ready .. to buy a bit more." The two then spoofed the market through a series of orders, according to the FBI account. Later, they boasted about their profits.

 

"u greedy for 50cents pumpkin … but Im greedy for $5 …lol," Liew wrote. His Deutsche Bank colleague replied, "I think we made … a lot … its ok … ahaha."

As we noted last week, Liew quite his job in July of 2012 to start a tech company, remarking on his personal blog that he was "uncomfortable with some of the things I witnessed/experienced."

Still we are sure that anyone uttering the word "rigged" around these markets will be chopped down to size by the mainstream, despite the reams of evidence (and facts), because all that matters is financial repression, precious metals suppression, and stock market acceleration.