The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday, Sept. 16, accused three senior JPMorgan officials of alleged extortion and price manipulation of metals such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium between 2008 and 2016.
In an official statement, Brian Benczkowski, assistant attorney general, explained that the charges stem from an ongoing investigation into alleged massive fraudulent business practices at JPMorgan that generated “millions of dollars in profits” for the bank and “tens of millions of dollars in losses” for its customers.
In an indictment filed in the Northern District of Illinois, three officials of the company, two current directors and a former director, were charged with a racketeering, conspiracy, and other federal crimes in connection with their alleged manipulation of the markets for precious metals futures contracts.
The defendants are Michael Nowak, former managing director of JPMorgan’s precious metals division, Gregg Smith, and Christopher Jordan—two executive directors in the same department.
Between May 2008 and August 2016, the defendants and their co-conspirators allegedly engaged in widespread spoofing, fraud, and market manipulation while working on JPMorgan’s precious metals desk, according to the statement.
The defendants allegedly placed orders they did not intend to execute in an effort to create liquidity and influence market prices.
Prosecutors charged the top executives with “conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise involved in interstate or foreign commerce through a pattern of racketeering activity,” Bloomberg said.
This indictment refers to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, a rule that is often used against organized crime networks, charging each of their members.
“Based upon the fact it was conduct that was widespread on the desk, it engaged in thousands of transactions that it is precisely the kind of conduct that the RICO statute is meant to punish,” Benczkowski told reporters, according to Bloomberg.
If this law is invoked, JPMorgan could face a deeper legal risk.
Two other former precious metals traders at JPMorgan, John Edmonds and Christian Trunz, pleaded guilty in the past year in connection with this investigation, according to the official statement.
A third precious metals trader, Corey Flaum, who worked with Gregg Smith at Bear Stearns before it was acquired by JPMorgan, pleaded guilty in July.