November 19, 2018

November 19, 2018

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November 16, 2018

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The Government Suffers a Spoofing Setback

On April 25, 2018, a New Haven federal jury acquitted a former trader with a global bank accused of scheming to manipulate the precious metals futures markets with “spoofing,” a trading tactic that involves the use of allegedly deceptive bids or offers to feign the appearance of supply or demand. This appears to be one of the first setbacks for the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”), and futures self-regulatory organizations since they began aggressively investigating and civilly and criminally charging futures traders with spoofing several years ago. After successfully defeating Michael Coscia’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, this aggression accelerated with the CFTC’s and DOJ’s coordinated charges in January against several firms and traders. This verdict, however, may cause them to re-visit their aggression and certain strategies.

While it is virtually impossible to fully comprehend the decision-making process behind a jury’s decision, several of the defense strategies apparently proved successful and may present strategies for others to apply in the future. Specifically, the defense themes included strenuously arguing that:

            * The prosecution’s trading analysis was “prosecution by statistics” and that people should not be “convict[ed] with charts and graphs”; and

            * The prosecution’s trading analysis amounted to an exercise in cherry-picking a few hundred trades out of more than 300,000 without presenting them in the full context.

Lastly, while the CFTC announced new advisories touting the benefits of cooperation, another defense strategy applied here involved vigorously attacking two prosecution witnesses who had “struck deals” with the government. All of these strategies proved successful as the jury returned its not guilty verdict one day after the trial concluded with closing arguments.

We will have to wait to see what, if any, impact this verdict has on other spoofing investigations and cases. In the meantime, however, the defense strategies applied here can be studied and applied to the defense of other spoofing cases being pursued by the CFTC and DOJ.

©2018 Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. All Rights Reserved

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About this Author

James G. Lundy, Drinker Biddle, regulatory investigations lawyer, financial services compliance attorney
Partner

James G. Lundy represents clients in Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), self-regulatory organization, and other financial regulatory agency investigations and examinations, and compliance and governance counseling, white collar criminal investigations, and complex business litigation.

With 12 years of senior SEC experience and more than two years of in-house experience at a futures and securities brokerage firm, Jim has developed an in-depth working knowledge of the various...

312-569-1120
Mary P. Hansen, White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney, Drinker Biddle Law Firm
Partner

Mary Hansen is a partner on the firm’s White Collar Criminal Defense & Corporate Investigations team, where she focuses her practice on defending clients in regulatory investigations as well as white collar criminal proceedings in the securities industry.  She also assists clients with internal investigations and compliance and prevention strategies.

Prior to joining the firm, Mary was an Assistant Director of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement, where she was a member of the division’s Market Abuse and Municipal Securities and Public Pensions units.

215-988-3317