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Brokerage and founder penalized $1 million for ‘spoof trading’

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged a New York-based trading firm and one of its co-founders with using a manipulative trading strategy known as “spoofing.”

Briargate Trading LLP and co-founder Eric Oscher “orchestrated a scheme in which they placed sham orders — spoofs — to create the false appearance of interest in stocks and manipulate their prices,” the SEC said.

Briargate and Oscher made about $525,000 in profits. They agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle the SEC’s charges.

The SEC didn’t go to court but used an internal administrative order to resolve the charges.

The administrate order said,

After entering spoof orders, Oscher placed bona fide orders on the opposite side of the market for the same stocks and took advantage of the artificially inflated or depressed prices. Immediately after the bona fide orders were executed, Oscher canceled the spoof orders.

The SEC said the spoofing lasted about a year until September 2012. It  focused on securities listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Oscher, a former NYSE specialist, used his Briargate account to place multiple, large, non-bona fide orders on the NYSE before the exchange opened for trading at 9:30 a.m.  The orders impacted “the market’s perception of demand for the stocks it spoofed and often the prices of the stocks,” the SEC said.

Oscher took advantage of the price movement in the spoofed securities by sending orders for them on the opposite side of the market to exchanges that opened before the NYSE. He cancelled the non-bona fide NYSE orders before the exchange opened and unwound his positions on other exchanges. 

Oscher and Briargate violated the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and a related SEC antifraud rule, the SEC said.

Without admitting or denying the findings, Oscher and Briargate agreed to disgorge trading profits of $525,000 and prejudgment interest of nearly $36,000 

Briargate also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $350,000 and Oscher agreed to pay a civil penalty of $150,000.

“Spoofing is an illegal tactic where traders place fake orders to trick others into trading at inflated or depressed prices,” according to Andrew Calamari, director of the SEC’s New York office. 

“Today’s action shows our ongoing resolve to prevent all forms of market manipulation,” he said.

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A copy of the SEC Securities Act of 1933 Release No. 9959, Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Release No. 76104, and Administrative Proceeding File No. 3-16889 (October 8, 2015) In the Matter of Briargate Trading LLC and Eric Oscher is here (pdf).

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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