Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, 25 June 2019
Merrill Lynch Commodities Inc. (MLCI), a global commodities trading business, has agreed to pay $25 million to resolve the government’s investigation into a multi-year scheme by MLCI precious metals traders to mislead the market for precious metals futures contracts traded on the Commodity Exchange Inc. (COMEX), announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office.
According to MLCI’s admissions, beginning by at least 2008 and continuing through 2014, precious metals traders employed by MLCI schemed to deceive other market participants by injecting materially false and misleading information into the precious metals futures market. They did so by placing fraudulent orders for precious metals futures contracts that, at the time the traders placed the orders, they intended to cancel before execution. In doing so, the traders intended to “spoof” or manipulate the market by creating the false impression of increased supply or demand and, in turn, to fraudulently induce other market participants to buy and to sell futures contracts at quantities, prices and times that they otherwise likely would not have done so. Over the relevant period, the traders placed thousands of fraudulent orders.
MLCI entered into a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) and agreed to pay a combined $25 million in criminal fines, restitution and forfeiture of trading profits. Under the terms of the NPA, MLCI and its parent company, Bank of America Corporation (BAC), have agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation of individuals and to report to the Department evidence or allegations of violations of the wire fraud statute, securities and commodities fraud statute, and anti-spoofing provision of the Commodity Exchange Act in BAC’s Global Markets’ Commodities Business, whose function is to conduct wholesale, principal trading and sales of commodities. MLCI and BAC also agreed to enhance their existing compliance program and internal controls, where necessary and appropriate, to ensure they are designed to detect and deter, among other things, manipulative conduct in BAC’s Global Markets Commodities Business.