Two former precious metals traders at JPMorgan Chase were found guilty of fraud, attempted price manipulation, and spoofing as part of a near decade-long market manipulation scheme involving thousands of illegal trades.
A federal jury in the Northern District of Illinois convicted Gregg Smith, a former executive director and trader on JPMorgan’s precious metals desk in New York, and Michael Nowak, a former managing director at JPMorgan’s global precious metals desk, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a press release Wednesday.
The guilty verdicts follow a $920 million fine against JPMorgan in September 2020 levied by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which worked in conjunction with the Securities and Exchange Commission and DOJ.
Between May 2008 and August 2016, Smith and Nowak, along with other traders, placed orders they intended to cancel before execution to manipulate prices, according to the DOJ, engaging in thousands of deceptive trades for gold, silver, platinum, and palladium futures contracts.
“Today’s jury verdict demonstrates that those who seek to manipulate our public financial markets will be held accountable and brought to justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. of the DOJ’s Criminal Division in a statement. “With this verdict, the department has secured convictions of 10 former traders at Wall Street financial institutions, including JPMorgan, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, The Bank of Nova Scotia, and Morgan Stanley.”
Smith was found guilty of one count of attempted price manipulation, one count of spoofing, one count of commodities fraud, and eight counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution. Nowak was found guilty of one count of attempted price manipulation, one count of spoofing, one count of commodities fraud, and 10 counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution. They both await sentencing.
Two other former JPMorgan precious metals traders, John Edmonds and Christian Trunz, previously entered formal cooperation agreements with the CFTC and pleaded guilty in federal court to charges related to the scheme. Edmonds and Trunz also await sentencing.
JPMorgan was faulted for lacking the ability to track spoofing trades prior to 2014, and even after adding a new surveillance tool, it still failed to detect and stop the illegal conduct, the CFTC said in September 2020.
The firm admitted to committing wire fraud in connection with unlawful trading in the markets for precious metals futures contracts and unlawful trading in the markets for U.S. Treasury futures contracts and in the secondary (cash) market for U.S. Treasury notes and bonds.
At the time, JPMorgan agreed to implement remedial measures, including “hiring hundreds of new compliance officers, significantly increasing compliance and internal audit’s budget, and increasing its audit headcount,” according to the CFTC’s order.
Daniel Pinto, co-president of JPMorgan and chief executive of its corporate and investment bank, issued a statement at the time, calling the traders’ conduct “unacceptable” and noting they were “no longer with the firm.”