June 12th, 2017
It must have been painfully awkward for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Last year, Deutsche Bank settled a civil suit involving blatant market rigging and turned over reams of information, including chat logs and voice recordings. The trove contained plenty of damning evidence which had gone overlooked by the CFTC.
CFTC investigators supposedly spent 5 years searching for illegal market manipulation, but somehow, managed to find nothing.
The cheating became hard to ignore after Deutsche Bank turned over voice recordings and 350,000 pages of documents which revealed bank trading desks being run like the back office of a crooked casino.
Here is one of the chat log gems between David Liew (Trader B) and an accomplice at UBS, where they coordinate trades and joke about it with a play on the timeless Ghostbusters song:
UBS [Trader A]: and if u have stops...
UBS [Trader A]: oh boy
Deutsche Bank [Trader B]: HAHA
Deutsche Bank [Trader B]: who ya gonna call!
Deutsche Bank [Trader B]: STOP BUSTERS
Deutsche Bank [Trader B]: deh deh deh deh dehdehdeh deh deh deh deh dehdehdeh
Deutsche Bank [Trader B]: haha16
This and records of many other similarly incriminating exchanges left CFTC officials little choice but to reverse themselves and finally take some action. On June 2nd, the Commission announced a settlement with a single trader named David Liew.
Nevertheless James McDonald, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement, seemed proud. He announced, “Today’s enforcement action demonstrates that the Commission will aggressively pursue individuals who manipulate and spoof in our markets.”
Nowhere in his statement will you find him giving proper credit to the cheated bank clients who did the actual heavy lifting. After making complaints to the CFTC, they hired some attorneys and pursued the civil action which produced the mountains of evidence the CFTC relied upon.
In any event, more enforcement action may be on the way. A number of other traders and banks have been implicated in market rigging.
More stuff that will be hard for the bureaucrats and Wall Street job seekers at the CFTC to ignore.
The sanctions against David Liew do represent a small step toward more honest metals markets. We’ll get more excited if we see high level executives being prosecuted and banks losing their licenses to trade. But we aren’t holding our breath.
The civil courts have a much better chance of making the crooked banks accountable than the captured CFTC.