Nanex Research

Nanex ~ 13-Feb-2013 ~ Wash Sales

On February 8, 2013, the CFTC announced "CFTC Sanctions Gelber Group, LLC $750,000 for Trading Abuses on Two Exchanges". There were two separate issues, each resulting in a fine; from the summary of the CFTC Order:

First, from at least August 20, 2009 through February 16, 2010, a Gelber proprietary trader entered electronic orders for the CME Group, Inc.'s ("CME") NASDAQ E-mini 100 futures contract ("NASDAQ E-mini") on Globex, the CME's electronic trading platform, during Globex's pre-opening session that were not true and bona fide. Although these orders could not be executed in the pre-opening session, they would become executable on the open. The trader had no intention of allowing the orders to be executed and ultimately cancelled them prior to the open. These orders caused price fluctuations in the indicative opening price ("lOP") for the contract.

Second, from at least March 2010 to August 2010 two Gelber proprietary traders, at the direction of a trading group manager, engaged in wash trades in certain Russell Index futures contracts on the lntercontinental Exchange ("ICE") in order to inflate Gelber's volume in these contracts and enable Gelber to obtain increased rebates from ICE as part of an ICE incentive program.
The first issue is intriguing, because of what the CFTC states is a violation:

The Gelber trader knowingly placed orders for NASDAQ E-mini futures contracts that he did not intend to allow to be executed.
This behavior, placing orders with no intention of execution, happens practically every second of every trading day in futures, equities and options. It's a core strategy used by aggressive HFT (High Frequency Trader) algorithms.

The second issue concerns wash sales, a practice of buying and selling at the same, or very similar prices. This strategy is used to 1) falsely create the appearance of activity, 2) secretly transfer money from one account to another, or as in this case 3) to generate enough trades to qualify for a rebate. We took a look at trading activity in the Russell 1000 eMini futures, and found an instance that appears to be wash sales. It occurred in the last 3 minutes on June 30, 2010, which was the last trading day of the month.

One thing is for sure - these two manipulation issues, in our opinion, are the equivalent of the  police giving tickets to jay-walkers when murderers and thieves abound.

1. Russell 1000 eMini September 2010 Futures Contracts on June 30, 2010 showing quote spread (gray shading) and trades (squares).
Note the cluster of trades starting at 15:57. These are likely the wash sales mentioned in the fine.

2. Russell 1000 eMini September 2010 Futures Contracts - Zoom of Chart 1. Red lines connect trades for clarity.

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