By Hugh Son and Dan Mangan
An ex-J.P. Morgan Chase trader has admitted to manipulating the U.S. markets of an array of precious metals for about seven years -- and he has implicated his supervisors at the bank.
John Edmonds, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of commodities fraud and one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, price manipulation and spoofing, according to a Tuesday release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Edmonds spent 13 years at New York-based J.P. Morgan until leaving last year, according to his LinkedIn account.
As part of his plea, Edmonds said that from 2009 through 2015 he conspired with other J.P. Morgan traders to manipulate the prices of gold, silver, platinum and palladium futures contracts on exchanges run by the CME Group. He and others routinely placed orders that were quickly cancelled before the trades were executed, a price-distorting practice known as spoofing.
"For years, John Edmonds engaged in a sophisticated scheme to manipulate the market for precious metals futures contracts for his own gain by placing orders that were never intended to be executed," Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in the release.
Of note for J.P. Morgan, the world's biggest investment bank by revenue: Edmonds, a relatively junior employee with the title of vice president, said that he learned this practice from more senior traders and that his supervisors at the firm knew of his actions.
Further, Edmond's case stemmed from an "ongoing investigation" run by the FBI's New York field office, the Justice Department said.
Edmonds pleaded guilty under a charging document known as an "information." Prosecutors routinely use them to charge defendants who have agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation of other people or entities.
His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 19. Edmonds faces up to 30 years in prison but is likely to receive less time than that. The guilty plea was entered under seal Oct. 9 and unsealed on Tuesday.
New York-based J.P. Morgan declined to comment on the case through a spokesman. It was reported earlier by the Financial Times.
J.P. Morgan learned about this case only recently, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. A recent regulatory filing from the bank didn't make any mention of the issue.
In January, the CFTC hit Deutsche Bank, UBS and HSBC with fines totalling $46.6m for manipulation and spoofing of the precious metals futures markets.