Ex-JPMorgan gold trader found guilty in spoofing trial

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Former JPMorgan Chase & Co. gold and silver trader Christopher Jordan was convicted of wire fraud affecting a financial institution by a federal jury in Chicago, the latest win for US prosecutors in their crackdown on illegal “spoofing” trades and market manipulation.

Jordan was found guilty Friday after a four-day trial in the same courthouse where two of his more senior colleagues on the JPMorgan precious-metals desk were convicted in August on spoofing-related charges for deceptive buy and sell orders. Jordan worked at the bank from 2006 to late 2009.

While his deceptive trades occurred before spoofing was made a crime in 2010, he used the same technique by placing large orders he never intended to execute and quickly canceled so he could make trades on the other side of the market, prosecutors said.

It was part of a “scheme to rig gold and silver markets in his favor,” Assistant US Attorney Lisa Beth Jennings said in her closing statement. “The spoof orders the defendant placed tricked other traders” and were intended to deceive the market about supply and demand, she said.

“We are sorely disappointed by today’s verdict,” said defense lawyer James Benjamin. “Chris Jordan is a good and honorable man who did his job in good faith.”

Jordan’s sentencing was tentatively scheduled for May, 2023.

The government has been targeting alleged market manipulation since the 2008 financial crisis, leading to convictions of traders and settlements with big banks. JPMorgan, the largest US bank, agreed to pay $920 million in 2020 to settle Justice Department spoofing allegations, by far the biggest fine by any financial institution.

Jordan worked on the JPMorgan precious-metals desk for about three years and then spent a few months in 2010 working for Credit Suisse AG. It was during 2008, 2009 and 2010 that prosecutors alleged Jordan was placing orders to buy and sell precious metals without the intent to execute the trades.

Gregg Smith, JPMorgan’s former top precious metals trader, and Michael Nowak, the desk’s chief, were convicted in August. They were found guilty of manipulating markets with bogus “spoofing” orders at the world’s largest bullion bank. A third defendant, precious-metals salesman Jeffrey Ruffo, was acquitted.

At the center of the case was a meeting between Jordan and an FBI agent in 2018, during which prosecutors argued that Jordan admitted to fraudulent trading. Defense attorneys for Jordan said their client never admitted specifically to spoofing or fraud or any other kind of illegal activity — claims that the FBI agent, Jonathan Luca, confirmed during his testimony on the witness stand.

(By Joe Deaux and Kim Chipman)

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