It is axiomatic that companies cannot do wrong without the actions of individuals. However, the trend over the past few decades, with a few exceptions, has been that individuals generally were not prosecuted for their roles in corporate wrongdoing that harmed the public welfare. However, there appears to be a recent escalation in prosecutions of corporate executives.
The DOJ has signaled its intent to pursue prosecutions for spoofing — which the law defines as “bidding or offering with the intent to cancel the bid or offer before execution” — aggressively. This article begins with a brief discussion of the elements that the government must prove to establish commodities fraud and wire fraud. It then examines recent spoofing prosecutions that raise important questions about the applicability of the traditional fraud statutes to spoofing-related activity. How the federal courts answer these open questions will have significant implications for participants in the commodities markets.