In a shocking development - shocking because as everyone obviously knows market are never rigged or manipulated - late on Friday Reuters reported that the CFTC was set to announce it has fined European lenders UBS, HSBC and Deutsche Bank millions of dollars each for "spoofing" and manipulation in the U.S. futures market.
The enforcement action by the U.S. derivatives regulator was said to be the result of a multi-agency investigation that also involved the Department of Justice and the FBI - the first of its kind for the CFTC.
Reuters also reported that the fines for UBS and Deutsche Bank would be north of ten million, while the fine for HSBC will be slightly less than that. Spoofing, as a reminder, involves placing bids to buy or offers to sell futures contracts with the intent to cancel them before execution. By creating an illusion of demand, spoofers can influence prices to benefit their market positions. Spoofing is what Navinder Sarao was criminally accused of doing when he singlehandedly launched the May 2010 flash crash, for which he is now imprisoned.
And yes, spoofing is a criminal offense under a provision implemented as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform.
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Following the Reuters report, many asked why Sarao was arrested and jailed, while major banks caught spoofing and manipulating futures will get away with paying a fine that is a tiny fraction of how much they made from rigging markets in the first place.
Well, it appears that someone else is going to jail after all, because as Reuters followed up this morning, US authorities were set to arrest several people on Monday as part of the spoofing and manipulation probe. The individuals who are set to be perp walked, were previously employed as traders by UBS, Deutsche Bank and HSBC, and will be charged as part of the multi-agency probe,
Last August, a U.S. appeals court upheld the conviction of former New Jersey-based high-speed trader Michael Coscia who was the first individual to be criminally prosecuted for spoofing in the US, aside from Sarao of course.
This is the first time the CFTC, DOJ and FBI have worked together to bring both criminal and civil charges against multiple companies and individuals, sources said.
As Reuters adds, "the bank investigations have been going on for more than a year, but the CFTC has pursued the charges against the traders as part of a more recent effort led by the agency's head of enforcement, James McDonald, to hold individual employees accountable for corporate wrongdoing, two of the sources said."
McDonald, a former prosecutor in the Southern District of New York who was appointed to the CFTC role in March, has said he aims to achieve that by encouraging companies and staff to report their own wrongdoing and cooperate with investigators in return for more lenient penalties.
Once the names of market riggers are revealed we will promptly follow up, although we are sad to advise readers that the biggest manipulator of all will sadly be spared.