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JPMorgan Chase & Co. Agrees To Pay $920 Million in Connection with Schemes to Defraud Precious Metals and U.S. Treasuries Markets

Gerald Scroop

September 29, 2020

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMorgan), a New York, New York-based global banking and financial services firm, has entered into a resolution with the Department of Justice to resolve criminal charges related to two distinct schemes to defraud: the first involving tens of thousands of episodes of unlawful trading in the markets for precious metals futures contracts, and the second involving thousands of episodes of unlawful trading in the markets for U.S. Treasury futures contracts and in the secondary (cash) market for U.S. Treasury notes and bonds.

JPMorgan entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in connection with a criminal information filed today in the District of Connecticut charging the company with two counts of wire fraud.  Under the terms of the DPA, JPMorgan will pay over $920 million in a criminal monetary penalty, criminal disgorgement, and victim compensation, with the criminal monetary penalty credited against payments made to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) under a separate agreement with the CFTC being announced today and with part of the criminal disgorgement credited against payments made to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) under a separate agreement with the SEC being announced today.

“For over eight years, traders on JP Morgan’s precious metals and U.S. Treasuries desks engaged in separate schemes to defraud other market participants that involved thousands of instances of unlawful trading meant to enhance profits and avoid losses,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “Today’s resolution — which includes a significant criminal monetary penalty, compensation for victims, and requires JP Morgan to disgorge its unlawful gains — reflects the nature and seriousness of the bank’s offenses and represents a milestone in the department’s ongoing efforts to ensure the integrity of public markets critical to our financial system.”    

“JPMorgan engaged in two separate years-long market manipulation schemes,” said U.S. Attorney John H. Durham of the District of Connecticut.  “Not only will the company pay a substantial financial penalty and return money to victims, but this agreement requires JPMorgan to self-report violations of the federal anti-fraud laws and cooperate in any future criminal investigations.  I thank the FBI for its dedication in investigating these deceptive trading practices and other sophisticated financial crimes.”

“For nearly a decade, a significant number of JP Morgan traders and sales personnel openly disregarded U.S. laws that serve to protect against illegal activity in the marketplace,” said Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office.  “Today’s deferred prosecution agreement, in which JP Morgan Chase and Co. agreed to pay nearly one billion dollars in penalties and victim compensation, is a stark reminder to others that allegations of this nature will be aggressively investigated and pursued.”

According to admissions and court documents, between approximately March 2008 and August 2016, numerous traders and sales personnel on JPMorgan’s precious metals desk located in New York, London, and Singapore engaged in a scheme to defraud in connection with the purchase and sale of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium futures contracts (collectively, precious metals futures contracts) that traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange Inc. and Commodity Exchange Inc., which are commodities exchanges operated by the CME Group Inc.  In tens of thousands of instances, traders on the precious metals desk placed orders to buy and sell precious metals futures contracts with the intent to cancel those orders before execution, including in an attempt to profit by deceiving other market participants through injecting false and misleading information concerning the existence of genuine supply and demand for precious metals futures contracts.  In addition, on certain occasions, traders on the precious metals desk engaged in trading activity that was intended to deliberately trigger or defend barrier options held by JPMorgan and thereby avoid losses.

One of the traders on the precious metals desk, John Edmonds, 38, of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty on Oct. 9, 2018, to one count of commodities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, commodities fraud, commodities price manipulation, and spoofing, and his sentencing, at this time, has not been scheduled before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny of the District of Connecticut.  Another one of the traders on the precious metals desk, Christian Trunz, 35, of New York, New York, pleaded guilty on Aug. 20, 2019, to one count of conspiracy to engage in spoofing and one count of spoofing in connection with his precious metals futures contracts trading at JPMorgan and another financial services firm, and his sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2021, before U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson of the Eastern District of New York. 

Finally, as part of the investigation, the department obtained a superseding indictment on Nov. 15, 2019 against three former JPMorgan traders, Gregg Smith, Michael Nowak, and Christopher Jordan, and one former salesperson, Jeffrey Ruffo, in the Northern District of Illinois that charged them for their alleged participation in a racketeering conspiracy and other federal crimes in connection with the manipulation of the precious metals futures contracts markets.  An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Also according to admissions and court documents, between approximately April 2008 and January 2016, traders on JPMorgan’s U.S. Treasuries desk located in New York and London engaged in a scheme to defraud in connection with the purchase and sale of U.S. Treasury futures contracts that traded on the Chicago Board of Trade, which is a commodities exchange operated by the CME Group Inc., and of U.S. Treasury notes and bonds traded in the secondary cash market (the U.S. Treasury futures, notes, and bonds, collectively, U.S. Treasury Products).  In thousands of instances, traders on the U.S. Treasuries desk placed orders to buy and sell U.S. Treasury Products with the intent to cancel those orders before execution, including in an attempt to profit by deceiving other market participants through injecting false and misleading information concerning the existence of genuine supply and demand for U.S. Treasury Products.

As part of the DPA, JPMorgan, and its subsidiaries JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (JPMC) and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (JPMS) have agreed to, among other things, continue to cooperate with the Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut in any ongoing or future investigations and prosecutions concerning JPMorgan, JPMC, JPMS, and their subsidiaries and affiliates, and their officers, directors, employees and agents.  As part of its cooperation,  JPMorgan, JPMC, and JPMS are required to report evidence or allegations of conduct which may constitute a violation of the wire fraud statute, the anti-fraud, anti-spoofing and/or anti-manipulation provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act, the securities and commodities fraud statute, and federal securities laws prohibiting manipulative and deceptive devices.  In addition, JPMorgan, JPMC, and JPMS have also agreed to enhance their compliance program where necessary and appropriate, and to report to the government regarding remediation and implementation of their enhanced compliance program.

The department reached this resolution with JPMorgan based on a number of factors, including the nature and seriousness of the offense conduct, which spanned eight years and involved tens of thousands of instances of unlawful trading activity; JPMorgan’s failure to fully and voluntarily self‑disclose the offense conduct to the department; JPMorgan’s prior criminal history, including a guilty plea on May 20, 2015, for similar misconduct involving manipulative and deceptive trading practices in the foreign currency exchange spot market (FX Guilty Plea); and the fact that substantially all of the offense conduct occurred prior to the FX Guilty Plea. 

JPMorgan received credit for its cooperation with the department’s investigation and for the remedial measures taken by JPMorgan, JPMC, and JPMS, including suspending and ultimately terminating individuals involved in the offense conduct, adopting heightened internal controls, and substantially increasing the resources devoted to compliance.  Significantly, since the time of the offense conduct, and following the FX Guilty Plea, JPMorgan, JPMC, and JPMS engaged in a systematic effort to reassess and enhance their market conduct compliance program and internal controls.  These enhancements included hiring hundreds of new compliance officers, improving their anti-fraud and manipulation training and policies, revising their trade and electronic communications surveillance programs, implementing tools and processes to facilitate closer supervision of traders, taking into account employees’ commitment to compliance in promotion and compensation decisions, and implementing independent quality assurance testing of non-escalated and escalated surveillance alerts.  Based on JPMorgan’s, JPMC’s and JPMS’ remediation and the state of their compliance program, the department determined that an independent compliance monitor was unnecessary. 

Today, the CFTC announced a separate settlement with JPMorgan, JPMC, and JPMS in connection with a related, parallel proceeding.  Under the terms of that resolution, JPMorgan agreed to pay approximately $920 million, which includes a civil monetary penalty of approximately $436 million, as well as restitution and disgorgement that will be credited to any such payments made to the department under the DPA.  Also, the SEC announced today a separate settlement with JPMS in connection with a related, parallel proceeding regarding trading activity in the secondary cash market for U.S. Treasury notes and bonds.  Under the terms of that resolution, JPMS agreed to pay $10 million in disgorgement and a civil monetary penalty of $25 million.

The FBI’s New York Field Office investigated this case.  Assistant Chief Avi Perry and Trial Attorney Matthew F. Sullivan of the Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Francis of the District of Connecticut prosecuted the case.  

Individuals who believe that they may be a victim in this case should visit the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness website at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-vns/case/jpmorgan-dpa or call (888) 549-3945.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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