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When Is a Bid or Offer a ‘Spoof’?

U.S. Supreme Court Denial of Cert Leaves Statute Vague

This article analyzes the confusion faced by commodity futures traders in assessing whether their trading strategies constitute illegal spoofing and examines whether the CFTC and Seventh Circuit have provided sufficient guidance on the distinction between spoofing and legitimate trading activity.

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In 2010, Congress expressly criminalized a type of trading activity on the commodity futures exchanges referred to as “spoofing.” This new anti-spoofing statute greatly increased a prosecutor’s power to crack down on traders who place and cancel orders at extremely high speeds through the use of powerful computer programs, supposedly in order to manipulate commodity futures prices and harm innocent investors. However, following the government’s first criminal conviction for spoofing in United States v. Coscia, questions remain about what makes a commodity futures trader’s conduct illegal instead of a legitimate trading strategy. Nonetheless, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) recently have brought a substantial number of new cases against traders for violations of the anti-spoofing statute.

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