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Abstract

The Dodd-Frank Act amended the Commodity Exchange Act and adopted an explicit prohibition regarding activity commonly known as spoofing in commodities markets. This Note argues that the spoofing prohibition is a necessary step towards improved market discipline and price integrity in the relevant commodities markets. It fills an important gap in the CEA in relation to an elusive form of price manipulation activity by providing an explicit statutory authority on which regulators and market operators may rely in policing suspect trading strategies falling under the spoofing umbrella.

Congress’ explicit denouncement of spoofing as an illegal act has ramifications not only for traders, but also for brokers and market makers. In the past, when courts have considered the issue of secondary liability of brokers regarding manipulative activity of their customers in the context of wash sales, they have determined the CEA’s explicit prohibition of wash sales and the relatively easier identification of wash sales activity as important factors that may potentially increase the secondary liability risk of derivatives brokers. Applying the same analogy to spoofing, greater public awareness and the increasing visibility of spoofing activity (resulting from improvements in the monitoring systems of regulators and market operators) will provide strong incentives for market participants to adapt to changing norms.

However, areas of concern, such as risk of selective enforcement and inconsistencies among the applicable market rules, will pose challenges in the spoofing prohibition’s implementation. Therefore, regulators must seek cooperation with relevant market operators to encourage structural reform and self-regulatory measures, such as implementation of appropriate structural safeguards into the trading infrastructure.

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