Posts tagged ‘CFTC’

Bitcoin Prediction: Death by Tort Lawyer

The Bitcoin price correction most of us expected seems to be occurring 

BTC crashy

So what is next for Bitcoin?  I predict death by lawyer.  In modern America, no one loses this much value this fast without calling an attorney, because such losses can't possibly be due to one's own poor decision-making (e.g. buying an illiquid currency after a 5x runup in its price), it must be due to GETTING HOSED.  I am not a securities attorney, but my guess is that someone will argue Bitcoin was not a currency but a digital commodity and that commodity trading laws were not followed.  Or something like that.  The CFTC, which left MF Global customers hang out to dry, will launch a simultaneous investigation to gain pub for themselves and support the civil suit.  Because it will be a much higher priority for this Administration to kill an incipient competitive currency than to go after a major Obama bundler.

Anyway, the main entertainment value will be to see if there is actually someone who can be sued, given the dispersed nature of the Bitcoin network.  But expect people to try.  I would even bet we see the suit in days -- "entrepreneurial" tort houses probably have already drafted the paperwork and gotten some schlub to buy 1 bitcoin so he can be lead plaintiff (preferably in a hand-picked jurisdiction) in the class action and are just waiting for the bubble to burst to file.

Feds Make Illegal What We Already Thought Was Illegal

Via Zero Hedge

today, in a unanimous vote, "The U.S. futures regulator approved on Monday a rule that puts tighter limits on how brokerage firms can use customer funds, a measure that the now-bankrupt MF Global had encouraged the agency to delay." In other words, while before commingling client accounts was assumed to be a clear violation of every logical fiduciary imperative, now it is set in stone. For real. The CFTC means it.

In the past, I believed that a lot of financial regulations were honest (though often misguided) attempts to create transparent and trustworthy markets.  I am increasingly being pushed to the cynical conclusion that financial regulations, like, say, licensing of funeral homes, are mainly aimed at making it impossible for small competitors to survive, while larger competitors either have the scale to pay for compliance departments, or in the case of MF Global, have the political muscle to get themselves exempted (by Administrations of both parties, I should be clear, though the current one certainly gets a hypocrisy award for standing beside OWS while handing out finance and health care law exceptions to the powerful).

MF Global is far worse in my mind than, say, Enron.  In Enron's case, the management was at least mostly pursuing the activities and investments that they were supposed to be pursuing.  They were making bets of the type shareholders expected, though they were likely masking the cost and risk of these bets by aggressive pushes at the margins of accounting rules.

MF Global was doing exactly what everyone supposedly knew to be an absolute no-no, ie using client funds to make leveraged bets for their own account.  If Joe Schmoe in Florida did the same thing, he would already be incarcerated.  In the case of MF Global, no one even seems to be interviewing Corzine and so far the bankruptcy committee has put a higher priority on repaying JP Morgan and Goldman for Corzine's bad bets than on getting investors' money back.

Oil Trading Conspiracy -- To Reduce Prices?

A while back, I talked about a conversation I had with a friend of mine that prices for oil were set $20 dollars or more above the natural clearing price because a few oil traders controlled the market.  I argued in a long post that this was absurd, and might be possible for a few minutes in the trading day, but over multiple years it would be just impossible either to store the extra oil supply or hide the efforts to suppress supply from thousands of sources.

Well, another argument I made is that buyers in the oil markets are big boys too, and would not tolerate paying $20 a barrel too much for years or even hours.  After all, it was silver buyers and the exchange owners who stopped the Hunt's famous attempt to corner the silver market.

Anyway, one proof of this latter proposition is this

The alleged manipulation occured during the so-called "Platts window,"
a 30 minute interval at the end of the trading day when the energy
publishing firm Platts pulls data used to set prices for other foreign
and domestic crudes. CFTC said Marathon tried to sell oil below market
prices during the window in order to get a lower price set for oil it
intended to purchase.

Again note the timing -- trying to influence the market for minutes, not years.  If companies like Marathon are willing to risk criminal prosecution to get lower oil prices for purchase, they certainly are not going to sit back and tolerate a multi-year manipulation that raises prices $20.