A Montclair, New Jersey, man and a colleague from Scarsdale, New York, are facing jail time over conduct for which their Wall Street company paid more than $920 million in a criminal fine.
A federal jury in the Northern District of Illinois convicted two former precious metals traders at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMorgan) on Wednesday, August 10, 2022, of fraud, attempted price manipulation, and spoofing in a multi-year market manipulation scheme of precious metals futures contracts that spanned over eight years and involved thousands of unlawful trading sequences.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Michael Nowak, 47, of Montclair, New Jersey, was a managing director and ran JPMorgan’s global precious metals desk.
Gregg Smith, 57, of Scarsdale, New York, was an executive director and trader on JPMorgan’s precious metals desk in New York.
The scheme enabled the nation’s largest bank by assets to profit handsomely as investors suffered losses. Nowak, who supervised Smith and others on J.P. Morgan’s precious metals desk, placed thousands of fake orders in the precious metals futures markets.
The evidence at trial showed that between approximately May 2008 and August 2016, the defendants, along with other traders on the JPMorgan precious metals desk, engaged in widespread spoofing, market manipulation, and fraud scheme.
The defendants placed orders that they intended to cancel before execution in order to drive prices on orders they intended to execute on the opposite side of the market.
The defendants engaged in thousands of deceptive trading sequences for gold, silver, platinum, and palladium futures contracts traded through the New York Mercantile Exchange Inc. (NYMEX) and Commodity Exchange Inc. (COMEX), which are commodities exchanges operated by CME Group Inc.
These deceptive orders were intended to inject false and misleading information about the genuine supply and demand for precious metals futures contracts into the markets.
“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 A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “With this verdict, the Department has secured convictions of ten former traders at Wall Street financial institutions, including JPMorgan, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, The Bank of Nova Scotia, and Morgan Stanley. These convictions underscore the Department’s commitment to prosecuting those who undermine the investing public’s trust in the integrity of our commodities markets.”
“For years the defendants allegedly placed thousands of false orders for precious metals, creating a ruse that lured others into making disadvantageous trades” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Today’s conviction demonstrates that no matter how complex or long-running a scheme is, the FBI is committed to bringing those involved in crimes like this to justice.”
Following a three-week trial, Smith was convicted 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 convicted 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. Sentencing dates have not yet been set.
Two other former JPMorgan precious metals traders, John Edmonds and Christian Trunz, were previously convicted in related cases.
In October 2018, Edmonds pleaded guilty in the District of Connecticut to one count of commodities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, commodities fraud, price manipulation, and spoofing.
In August 2019, Trunz pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to one count of conspiracy to engage in spoofing and one count of spoofing. Edmonds and Trunz are awaiting sentencing.
In September 2020, JPMorgan admitted to committing wire fraud in connection with: (1) unlawful trading in the markets for precious metals futures contracts; and (2) 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 three-year deferred prosecution agreement through which it paid more than $920 million in a criminal monetary penalty, criminal disgorgement, and victim compensation, with parallel resolutions by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities Exchange Commission, announced on the same day.
The FBI’s New York Field Office investigated the case. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Enforcement provided assistance in this matter.
Market Integrity & Major Frauds Unit Chief Avi Perry and Trial Attorneys Matthew Sullivan, Lucy Jennings, and Christopher Fenton of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting 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-fraud/victim-witness-program for more information.