Archive for August 15th, 2008

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More Updates From The US-CFTC Website

August 15, 2008

Two years after the PIPC scam and still no concrete steps have been taken by
the SEC and the members of the Philippine Congress. Are they still waiting for another scam to blow up in their faces before they take some really good measures to stop them? See what the US-CFTC is doing with forex scams in their country.

Release: 5530-08

For Release: August 11, 2008

CFTC Announces Formation of Retail Foreign

Currency Fraud Enforcement Task Force

Washington, DC— The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has formed a special task force charged with investigating and litigating fraud in the off-exchange retail foreign currency (forex) market.

The creation of the task force within the Division of Enforcement comes in the wake of Congress’ passage in June 2008 of “The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008” that clarified and strengthened the CFTC’s jurisdiction over this market. The task force will focus on fraud in the retail forex market and will work cooperatively with other federal and state regulatory and criminal authorities.

“The formation of the CFTC’s new Forex Enforcement Task Force reaffirms our agency’s commitment to stopping unscrupulous individuals working in this space. Not only do forex fraudsters prey upon unsuspecting citizens, but their illegal activities taint the reputations of those working honestly in the futures industry,” said CFTC Commissioner Michael Dunn, head of the agency’s Forex Education and Outreach Task Force. “This announcement sends a clear signal that the CFTC is on the beat, and that our continued and increased cooperation with law enforcement authorities will help put these forex dealers where they belong – in jail.”

“Forex fraud impacts investors of all stripes,” CFTC Acting Director of Enforcement Stephen J. Obie said. “With the creation of the retail forex task force, the CFTC has committed the resources necessary to expand its efforts to identify and prosecute those who commit fraud in the retail forex market.”

Since enactment of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000, the CFTC has filed nearly 100 enforcement actions against firms and individuals selling illegal forex futures and option contracts. To date, the CFTC has obtained judgments in these enforcement actions for civil monetary penalties of approximately $560 million and restitution of investor losses totaling $450 million.

Last Updated: August 8, 2008
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Foreign Currency Trading Update

August 15, 2008

I picked up this all important update from the website of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (http://www.cftc.gov/customerprotection/fraudawarenessandprevention/forex/index.htm).

The Philippine’s Securities Exchange Commission and the Philippine Congress must take the cue from this if they want to put a stop to the likes of Michael Liew in the country: Learn from the past and learn your lessons well.

UPDATE: On May 22, 2008, the Congress passed H.R. 6124, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (also known as “the Farm Bill”) which contains several amendments to the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”). In particular, Title XIII of the Farm Bill (1) clarifies that the CFTC’s anti-fraud authority applies to certain retail off-exchange foreign currency transactions, (2) creates a new registration category for retail foreign exchange dealers, (3) requires registration for those who solicit orders, exercise discretionary trading authority and operate pools with respect to retail off-exchange foreign currency transactions, and (4) imposes minimum capital requirements for futures commission merchants and retail foreign exchange dealers that act as counterparties to such transactions. Parts of the legislation, particularly those confirming the Commission’s anti-fraud authority, were effective upon passage. Other parts of the legislation, such as those requiring the registration of parties engaged in these transactions and minimum capital requirements, will only be effective upon the Commission’s issuance of final regulations. Any such changes to the information below will be accomplished through notice and comment rulemaking and will be made available in the Federal Register section of CFTC.gov.

A complete description of the amendments to the CEA effected by Title XIII of the Farm Bill can be found in the Joint Statement of Managers, pp. 291-299, which can be accessed through the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill Homepage. Interested parties should monitor the Commission’s website as well as the National Futures Association’s website, for developments.

The CFTC has witnessed increasing numbers, and a growing complexity, of financial investment opportunities in recent years, including a sharp rise in foreign currency (forex) trading scams.

The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) made clear that the CFTC has jurisdiction and authority to investigate and take legal action to close down a wide assortment of unregulated firms offering or selling foreign currency futures and options contracts to the general public. The CFTC also has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute foreign currency fraud occuring in its registered firms and their affiliates. The CFTC issued an advisory in 2001 that discussed these CFMA amendments to the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), 7 USC 1, et seq.

The Division of Trading and Markets (now Division of Clearing and Intermediary Oversight, or DCIO) issued an advisory in 2002 concerning foreign currency trading by retail customers (PDF). The advisory affirms that off-exchange trading of foreign currency futures and options contracts with retail customers by a counterparty that is not a regulated financial entity as set forth in the CFMA is unlawful. The advisory further states that, if there is a lawful counterparty to the transaction, such as a person registered as a futures commission merchant, the persons acting as intermediaries to such a transaction, that is, in the manner of an introducing broker, commodity trading advisor or commodity pool operator, would not need to register under the CEA if that is their only involvement in futures or option transactions.

DCIO issued an additional advisory in 2007 concerning foreign currency trading by retail customers (PDF). The DCIO Advisory addresses the following issues: (1) registration requirements for associated persons of firms registered as introducing brokers (IBs), commodity trading advisors, and commodity pool operators that are involved in forex transactions; (2) the permissibility of certain unregistered affiliates of a futures commission merchant (FCM) to act as proper counterparties in forex transactions; (3) claims that forex customer funds are segregated; (4) introducing entities acting as FCMs; (5) the applicability of the IB guarantee agreement to forex transactions and prohibiting guaranteed IBs from introducing forex transactions to an FCM that is not its guarantor FCM; (6) prohibiting forex account statements of an FCM’s unregistered affiliate from being included in the FCM’s account statements to its customers; and (7) prohibiting retail customers from acting as counterparties to each other in forex transactions.

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COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING – THE MIFE WAY (CIRCA 1985)

August 15, 2008

I started out as a commodity futures trader in 1986. I was recruited and trained by the staff of a member-broker of the now defunct Manila International Futures Exchange for two weeks. After which, the company already let me out to solicit clients. I still had a basket full of questions that were left unanswered after the training so I had to content myself to doing a lot of research on my own to fully equip myself. Afterwards, I immediately called on close acquaintances, personal contacts, and family friends as I thought that one or two may dabble into this because of personal cognizance. And true enough, one of our family friends did! In fact, the guy was already trading in Copra futures (dried coconut meat from which coconut oil is extracted). He happened to be trading with another company ( also a member broker of MIFE) and was losing heavily. Knowing me personally, he decided to open up an account with me to try me out. We sold the 6 month forward contract of Copra futures and immediately we got caught up in a losing position. We sold the contracts at Php10 at that time when the current price of Copra was only Php6 in the real market. Both the guy and I were baffled by the way the prices at the exchange were moving…they were going up while the actual market price as well as the price of the end product (coconut oil) in the world market were going down. We went through a series of successive margin calls specially when the contract month of our holdings got nearer. What the people at the headquarters did not know was my guy was “loaded” and can absorb the uncanny rise of prices in the exchange. But the most important bit of information the headquarters did not know about my client was the fact he was one of the biggest copra trader in southern Philippines and supplies copra to large multinational companies in Manila.

When the contracts we were holding for six months became spot month, the price went all the way up to Php18 (while the actual market price was only Php5). My client and I already sensed that something was amiss. It was as if the market was doing all it can to break our resolve and get us out of the market and take our loss. So, the last time I went to my client to collect the required deposit to cover the full amount of the contracts, we both decided we will deliver. And when I served notice to the company that my client will deliver, it practically got everyone in the exchange truly worried. I received successive phone calls from my own manager asking me to discourage my client because of “the many obstacles we needed to hurdle to get our deliveries accepted by the exchange.” However, I made it very clear to my manager that my client was unwavering on his decision to make the deliveries. It didn’t make sense then to decide not to deliver because doing so will mean taking a whooping loss. Besides, the price of copra in the world market dropped to only Php5, and if we deliver to the exchange, we will get paid with the contract price of Php10 ( a reasonable profit for the 6 month ordeal the exchange made us go through, so we thought).

My manager decided to visit my client personally. I didn’t know what they talked about since they had a one-on-one session while I was sipping coffee at the hotel lobby. But after their talks, my client gave me specific instructions not to liquidate our positions without a reasonable profit.

In the next few days after that, I saw an unbelievable reversal in the price of the spot month of copra futures. From Php18 it went down to Php12. My manager started calling me again to liquidate our positions. My client and I stood firm. When the price reached Php8, my manager called me again and was practically begging me to liquidate. Sensing the utter desperation in him, I called up my client and we liquidated all our positions.

What a nerve racking experience it was for a neophyte trader like me. It was quite revealing though. I found out so early in my career as a commodity futures trader that prices in the Manila International Futures Exchange could be manipulated.

I got the chance to find out how extensive their scam operations were when I was transfered to the main office after they decided to close the branch I was working in. I shall share them with you in my next blog.

(Watch out for my succeeding blogs as they will be more revealing.)