The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a New York-based proprietary trading firm and one of its co-founders with engaging in a manipulative trading strategy known as “spoofing.”
An SEC investigation found that 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. 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.
Briargate and Oscher agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle the SEC’s charges.
“Spoofing is an illegal tactic where traders place fake orders to trick others into trading at inflated or depressed prices,” said Andrew M. Calamari, Regional Director of the SEC’s New York office. “Today’s action shows our ongoing resolve to prevent all forms of market manipulation.”
According to the SEC’s order instituting settled proceedings:
- Oscher and Briargate’s spoofing scheme ran from October 2011 through September 2012 and 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. Briargate’s non-bona fide orders impacted the market’s perception of demand for the stocks it spoofed and often the prices of the stocks.
- 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. Oscher cancelled the non-bona fide NYSE orders before the NYSE opened and unwound the positions he had established on other exchanges. Through this conduct, the Oscher and Briargate reaped approximately $525,000 in profits.
“Oscher took advantage of our interconnected markets by placing non bona fide orders on one exchange, and then buying or selling the spoofed securities at artificial prices on other exchanges,” said Joseph G. Sansone, Co-Chief of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit. “Notwithstanding these deceptive tactics, the SEC was able to uncover Oscher’s fraudulent scheme and hold him accountable for his actions.”
The order found that Oscher and Briargate’s conduct violated the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and a related SEC antifraud rule. Without admitting or denying the findings, Oscher and Briargate agreed to disgorge $525,000 of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest of $37,842.32. Briargate also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $350,000 and Oscher agreed to pay a civil penalty of $150,000. The order also requires Briargate and Oscher to cease and desist from committing or causing any future violations of the securities laws.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Shannon Keyes of the New York Regional Office and by John D. Marino and Charles D. Riely of the Market Abuse Unit. It was supervised by Mr. Calamari and Mr. Sansone. The SEC thanks the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority for its assistance in this matter.