No matter how many times the big banks are caught red-handed manipulating precious metals, some failed former Deutsche Bank prop-trader (you know who you are) will take a vociferous stand based on ad hominem attacks and zero facts that no, what you see in front of you is not precious metal rigging at all but a one-off event that has nothing to do with a criminal banking syndicate hell bent on taking advantage of anyone who is naive and dumb enough to still believe in fair and efficient markets.
The last time this happened was in November when we learned that “UBS Settles Over Gold Rigging, Many More Banks To Follow”, and sure enough many more banks did follow, because in Europe, where the stench of gold market manipulation stretches far beyond merely commercial banks, and rises through the central banks, namely the BOE and ECB, culminating with the Head of Foreign Exchange & Gold at the BIS itself, all such allegations have to be promptly settled or else the discovery that the manipulation cartel in Europe involves absolutely everybody will shock and stun the world, which heretofore was led to believe that such things as gold market (not to be confused with Libor or FX) manipulation only exist in the paranoid delusions of a few tinfoil fringe-blogging lunatics.
However, as usually happens, someone always fails to read the memo that when it comes to gold-market manipulation one must i) find nothing at all incriminating if one is a paid spokesman for the entities doing the manipulation such as former CFTC-sellout Bart Chilton or ii) if one can’t cover it, then one must settle immediately or else the chain of revelations will implication everyone.
This time, that someone is the US Department of Justice, which as the WSJ just reported, is investigating at least 10 major banks for possible rigging of precious-metals markets. The DOJ is shockingly doing so “even though European regulators dropped a similar probe after finding no evidence of wrongdoing, according to people close to the inquiries.” Of course, the reason why said probe was dropped in Europe is because it would have implicated virtually the entire trading desk at the biggest and most important European bank: Deustche Bank, as well as the biggest bank in Switzerland, UBS and UK’s own Barclays, reveal a manipulation cartel rivaling even that of Libor. And once traders at the commercial banks turned sides and squealed for the prosection, well then it would be the central banks’ turn next. Which is why it was imperative to bring this investigation to a quiet end.
But not in the US.
According to the WSJ, “prosecutors in the Justice Department’s antitrust division are scrutinizing the price-setting process for gold, silver, platinum and palladium in London, while the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has opened a civil investigation, these people said. The agencies have made initial requests for information, including a subpoena from the CFTC to HSBC Holdings PLC related to precious-metals trading, the bank said in its annual report Monday.
HSBC also said the Justice Department sought documents related to the antitrust investigation in November. The two probes “are at an early stage,” the bank added, saying it is cooperating with U.S. regulators.
Who is involved in this latest gold-rigging scandal? Why everyone! … which makes it immediately obvious why the European regulator had to promptly cover up the whole affair. Under scrutiny are Bank of Nova Scotia , Barclays PLC, Credit Suisse Group AG , Deutsche Bank AG , Goldman Sachs Group Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Société Générale SA, Standard Bank Group Ltd. and UBS AG , according to one of the people close to the investigation.
Robert Hockett, a law professor at Cornell University, said it is “not particularly surprising” that the Justice Department is plowing ahead despite the decision by European regulators. Recent scrutiny of big banks’ operations in the physical commodities markets and criticism of the Justice Department’s financial-crisis track record make it “quite understandable” that the agency would investigate allegations of precious metals price-rigging.