Pending Criminal Division Cases

Propex Derivatives Pty Ltd, Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA)
Court Docket No.:20-CR-0039 (N.D. IL)

Court Assigned: This case is assigned to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse, 219 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60604.  _______________________________________________________________________

On January 21, 2020, Propex Derivatives Pty Ltd (Propex) entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) and agreed to pay $1 million in criminal monetary penalties, criminal disgorgement, and victim compensation.  The DPA arises from criminal charges related to a spoofing scheme involving thousands of instances of unlawful trading activity in U.S. commodities markets by a former Propex trader.

Propex admitted as part of the DPA that from approximately July 2012 until March 2016, a former Propex trader, Jiongsheng (Jim) Zhao, engaged in a trading strategy that involved placing thousands of large-volume orders to buy and sell E-Mini S&P 500 futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that Zhao intended to cancel before execution in an attempt to deceive other market participants.  By placing these orders, Zhao intended to, and did, inject false and misleading information about the genuine supply and demand for E‑Mini S&P 500 futures contracts into the market.  This false and misleading information was intended to, and at times did, induce other market participants into buying and selling E-Mini S&P 500 futures contracts at quantities, prices and times they otherwise likely would not have traded, which often had the intended effect of artificially driving up or down the price of those E‑Mini S&P 500 futures contracts in a direction favorable to Zhao.  The Department and Propex have filed a joint motion, which is subject to approval by the Court, to defer for the term of the DPA any prosecution and trial of the criminal information filed against Propex.

Under the terms of the DPA, Propex agreed to pay a combined $1 million in a criminal monetary penalty ($462,271), criminal disgorgement ($73,429), and victim compensation ($464,300) with the criminal monetary penalty credited for any payments made to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).  Propex also agreed to, among other things, conduct appropriate reviews of its internal controls, policies and procedures, and to modify its compliance program, where necessary and appropriate, to ensure it is designed to effectively detect and deter violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and commodities fraud statute.

A number of relevant considerations contributed to the Department’s criminal resolution with Propex, including the company’s cooperation with the United States and Propex’s remedial efforts.  In addition, the Department considered the fact that in May 2014 Zhao’s trading was flagged for Propex senior management, yet he continued placing Spoof Orders through March 2016.  Further, Zhao made false and misleading statements to the CME during its investigation into Zhao’s trading activity.  In March 2018, Propex undertook a significant enhancement of its compliance program and internal controls after engaging an independent compliance consulting firm to conduct an assessment of the adequacy and effectiveness of Propex’s compliance program.  As part of that enhancement, Propex increased the resources dedicated to compliance and contracted with a third-party vendor to provide automated trade surveillance, including surveillance for manipulative and deceptive trading such as spoofing.  The Department determined that the criminal monetary penalty of $462,271 imposed as part of the DPA is appropriate given the facts and circumstances of this case and given Propex’s inability to pay an amount within the range calculated under the sentencing guidelines because it would threaten the continued viability of Propex and impair its ability to make restitution to victims.  As part of the agreement, the Department has filed an unopposed motion, which is subject to approval by the Court, to defer for the term of the DPA any prosecution and trial of the criminal information filed against Propex.

On Dec. 26, 2018, Zhao pleaded guilty to one count of spoofing.  His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 4, 2020, before U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois.

To facilitate the efficient payment of restitution to victims in this matter, the Department will serve as the claims administrator and will have sole discretion to determine how the victim compensation amount will be dispersed. Please complete the below Victim Impact Statement with the requisite information to submit your claim.

For more information about the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), please see below:

Press Release – January 21, 2020
Propex Derivatives Pty Ltd, DPA
Criminal Information

For more information on related cases, please see below:

https://www.justice.gov/criminal-vns/case/jiongsheng-jim-zhao

________________________________________________________________________Victim Impact Statement:  If you would like to submit a Victim Impact Statement you may do so by mailing the Victim Impact Statement below to: Victim Witness Unit, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, Room 4416, Washington, DC 20530. You also may submit the Victim Impact Statement via email at Victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov or by fax at: (202) 514-3708.

Victim Impact Statement (PDF)

The information on this website will be updated as new developments arise in the case. If you have any questions, please call the Victim Assistance Line toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or email us at victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov.


Presumption of Innocence: It is important to keep in mind that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and that presumption requires both the court and our office to take certain steps to ensure that justice is served.

Crime Victims’ Rights Act and Right to Retain Counsel: The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C. § 3771) applies only to victims of the counts charged in federal court, and thus individuals may not be able to exercise all of these rights if the crime of which the individual is a victim was not charged. Section 377I(c)(2) of this Act requires that we advise you that you have the right to retain counsel. Although the statute specifically sets forth your right to seek advice of an attorney with regard to your rights under the statute, there is no requirement that you retain counsel. The Government may not recommend any specific counsel, nor can the Government (or the Court) pay for counsel to represent you. Government attorneys represent the United States.

If you elect to obtain counsel to represent your interests, please have your attorney notify this office in writing at: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20530, Attention: Victim Witness Unit; fax: (202) 514-3708; or email: victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov. If you elect not to retain counsel to represent your interests, you do not need to do anything.

Updated January 22, 2020

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