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Press Release

Former J.P. Morgan Precious Metals Traders Sentenced to Prison

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Defendants Were J.P. Morgan’s Former Head of Global Precious Metals Business and J.P. Morgan’s Former Head Gold Trader in New York

Two former precious metals traders at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPMorgan) were sentenced today for engaging in fraud, attempted price manipulation, and spoofing as part of a market manipulation scheme that spanned over eight years, involved tens of thousands of unlawful trading sequences, and resulted in over $10 million in losses to market participants.

Gregg Smith, 59, of Scarsdale, New York, was sentenced to two years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Michael Nowak, 49, of Montclair, New Jersey, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and a $35,000 fine.

“The defendants used their positions as some of the most powerful traders in the worldwide precious metals markets to engage in an egregious effort to manipulate prices for their benefit,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This case reaffirms the Department’s steadfast commitment to hold accountable those who engage in fraud and manipulation that undermines the investing public’s trust in the integrity of our commodities markets.”

According to court documents, between approximately May 2008 and August 2016, Smith and Nowak, along with other traders on the JPMorgan precious metals desk, engaged in a widespread spoofing, market manipulation, and fraud scheme. Smith was an executive director and trader on JPMorgan’s precious metals desk in New York, and Nowak was a managing director and ran JPMorgan’s global precious metals desk. As part of their market manipulation scheme, Smith and Nowak placed orders for precious metals futures contracts that they intended to cancel before execution to drive prices on orders they intended to execute on the opposite side of the market. Smith and Nowak engaged in tens of thousands of deceptive trading sequences for gold, silver, platinum, and palladium futures contracts traded through the New York Mercantile Exchange Inc. (NYMEX) and Commodity Exchange Inc. (COMEX), which are commodities exchanges operated by CME Group Inc. These deceptive orders were intended to inject false and misleading information about the genuine supply and demand for precious metals futures contracts into the markets.

“As today’s sentencing demonstrates, the FBI and its partners remain committed to investigating and bringing to justice anyone who attempts to manipulate our financial markets for their own selfish gain,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “In order to maintain economic security, investors in equity and commodities markets must have confidence that exchanges are operated in a transparent and equitable manner, and that investments are free from manipulation and fraud. Today’s outcome should serve as a reminder that the FBI remains highly focused on combatting bad actors conducting sophisticated fraud schemes targeting the securities and commodities markets.”

In September 2020, JPMorgan admitted to committing wire fraud in connection with: (1) unlawful trading in the markets for precious metals futures contracts; and (2) unlawful trading in the markets for U.S. Treasury futures contracts and in the secondary (cash) market for U.S. Treasury notes and bonds. JPMorgan entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement through which it paid more than $920 million in a criminal monetary penalty, criminal disgorgement, and victim compensation, with parallel resolutions by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities Exchange Commission announced on the same day.

The FBI New York Field Office investigated the case. The CFTC’s Division of Enforcement provided valuable assistance.

Market Integrity & Major Frauds Unit Chief Avi Perry and Trial Attorneys Matthew F. Sullivan, Lucy B. Jennings, and Christopher Fenton of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.

Updated August 22, 2023

Financial Fraud
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud
Press Release Number: 23-902