As expected, JP Morgan has just agreed to pay $920 million in fines – a record penality for allegations of systematic market manipulation – as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in Connecticut, bringing to a close a yearslong investigation into “spoofing” and other market manipulation tactics in the precious metals and Treasury markets.
Over the past decade, holding megabank trading desks accountable for routine manipulation of FX, Libor and other markets has been a priority for prosecutors, ever since – it seems – the springtime “flash crash” of 2010 shone an uncomfortable spotlight on ‘spoofing’ a technique whereby traders submit orders they never intended to fill solely for the purpose of trying to move the price of a given currency, futures contract etc. in a direction that favors one of their positions. For example, a trader who’s looking to sell a big slug of front-month gold futures might layer in dozens of “buy” orders to try and push the price up to hit his sell ‘offer’. The trick is, traders need to make sure none of these fraudulent offers ever get filled.