Today, Bloomberg finally caught up to years of “conspiracy theory” reporting.
Cross-posted from Zero Hedge.
There was a time when the merest mention of gold manipulation in “reputable” media was enough to have one branded a perpetual conspiracy theorist with a tinfoil farm out back. That was roughly coincident with a time when Libor, FX, mortgage, and bond market manipulation was also considered unthinkable, when High Frequency Traders were believed to “provide liquidity”, when the stock market was said to not be manipulated by the Fed, and when the ever-confused media, always eager to take “complicated” financial concepts at the face value set by a self-serving establishment, never dared to question anything.
All that changed in November 2018 when a former JPMorgan precious-metals trader admitted he engaged in a six-year spoofing scheme that defrauded investors in gold, silver, platinum, and palladium futures contracts. John Edmonds, then 36, pled guilty under seal in the District of Connecticut to commodities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, commodities price manipulation, and spoofing, a trading technique whereby traders flood the market with “fake” bids or asks to push the price of a given futures contract up or down toward a more advantageous price, and to confuse other traders or HFTs which respond to trader intentions by launching momentum in the other direction. As FBI Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney explained at the time, “with his guilty plea, Edmonds admitted he intended to introduce materially false and misleading information into the commodities markets.”
A little more than a year later, former Deutsche Bank precious metals trader David Liew sat in a federal courtroom telling a jury about how he learned to ‘spoof’ markets from his colleagues, and that he considered the behavior to be “OK” because it was “so commonplace.” Unfortunately for him, federal authorities didn’t see it that way, and have aggressively prosecuted the big dealer banks for market manipulation across a variety of markets. His testimony led to convictions for two of his former coworkers. A few days later, JP Morgan agreed to settle similar allegations with a record $1 billion fine, netting another major victory for the government in the nearly decade-long campaign to root out manipulation from the precious metal markets.
Today, Bloomberg is finally catching up to years of “conspiracy theory” reporting, such as this article published here in 2014 and titled “Gold Rigging By Bullion Banks Exposed: The Complete Chart“, with a sweeping expose about the precious metals manipulation and spoofing scandal, focusing on the precious metals trading desk at JPM and its top trader, Mike Nowak.
And although Bloomberg inexplicably did not mention it even once in its lengthy report, Nowak’s desk was under the direct purview of Blythe Masters, who from 2007 until 2014 was the head of Global Commodities at JPMorgan.
Which is ironic because going all the way back to 2012, the “tinfoil hat” crowd was abuzz with speculation that central banks, perhaps in league with the big broker dealers and occasionally aided by HFT momentum ignition, were conspiring to manipulate precious metals prices. When questioned about this in an interview with CNBC, Masters denied that JPMorgan was engaged in any manipulation, and instead insisted that JPM’s precious metals desk was reputable a “client-driven business.”
“Our business is a client-driven business where we execute on behalf of clients to help them with their…risk management objectives,” Blythe Masters said before going on to claim that the bank runs a “balanced book”, where its long and short positions are always evened out. But the punchline was when Master, who is perhaps best known for discovering the Credit Default Swap, said that manipulating markets to benefit the bank’s positions to the detriment of clients would be “wrong, and we don’t do it.”