Two current and one former precious metals traders at JPMorgan Chase & Co. were charged with manipulating futures markets in what prosecutors described as a massive, multiyear racketeering conspiracy run out of the bank.

The U.S. Justice Department said the three men ripped off market participants and even clients as they illegally moved prices for gold, silver, platinum and palladium. One of those indicted is Michael Nowak, 45, who ran JPMorgan’s global precious metals desk. Nowak was placed on leave last month, a person familiar with the matter has said.

Their actions spanned eight years and involved thousands of unlawful trading sequences, the Justice Department said. The men were indicted on multiple fraud and conspiracy charges, including racketeering.

“These charges should leave no doubt that the Department is committed to prosecuting those who undermine the investing public’s trust in the integrity of our commodities markets,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a written statement.

While the banks weren’t identified in the Justice Department statement, other documents related to the case identify JPMorgan. The other traders charged were Gregg Smith, 55 and Christopher Jordan, 47.

Smith is expected to make an initial appearance Monday in federal court in Manhattan, and Nowak and Jordan will appear in federal court in New Jersey. The case was brought in federal court in Chicago.

The JPMorgan investigation grew out of a multibank U.S. crackdown on manipulation of commodities markets using techniques including spoofing, in which traders place orders without intending to execute them to try to move prices in their favor. The Justice Department had already brought criminal charges against 16 people, including traders who worked for Deutsche Bank AG and UBS Group AG. Seven pleaded guilty, one was convicted at trial and another was acquitted.

Two of the traders who pleaded and were cooperating with the government also worked at JPMorgan. They were named as being part of the conspiracy in the case brought against Nowak, Smith and Jordan.

Guilt Admissions
The traders who admitted guilt said the manipulation was routine, sanctioned by higher-ups and went on for years.

“While at JPMorgan I was instructed by supervisors and more senior traders to trade in a certain fashion, namely to place orders that I intended to cancel before execution,” former trader John Edmonds said at a October 2018 hearing, after admitting to commodities fraud and conspiracy.

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