Ex-UBS metals trader indicted over alleged metals price rigging

(Reuters) - A former senior precious metals trader at UBS Group AG has been indicted on a criminal conspiracy charge over his alleged role in rigging prices by placing “spoof” trades.

In a one-count indictment made public on Wednesday, Andre Flotron was accused of conspiring from July 2008 to November 2013 to place orders for precious metal futures contracts that he intended to cancel before they could be executed.

Authorities believe such activity can enable traders to conduct real trades that would benefit illegally from artificial price movements caused by spoof orders.

Flotron had been accused in a Sept. 12 criminal complaint of the additional crimes of wire fraud, commodities fraud and spoofing, as well as conspiracy, court papers show.

The Swiss citizen was arrested two weeks ago in New Jersey, and later released on $4 million bond, court records show.

“We were pleased with the decision to release Mr. Flotron on bail and we look forward to defending the case until he is fully exonerated,” Flotron’s lawyer Marc Mukasey said in an email on Wednesday.

The case was built in part with help from a UBS trader who said Flotron taught him how to place spoof orders.

In one illustration, the indictment said Flotron on Oct. 14, 2013 allegedly placed a real order to buy five gold futures contracts at a price of $1,284.80, and a spoof order less than a second later to sell 55 contracts at a price of $1,285.10.

Flotron began trading metals at UBS in 1999, and was put on leave in early 2014 after working for the bank in Zurich and Stamford, Connecticut. UBS was not accused of wrongdoing. The indictment is dated Sept. 26.

In May 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice immunized UBS from possible criminal prosecution over metals price-rigging as part of a settlement in which the bank pleaded guilty to manipulating Libor and other benchmark interest rates.

The case is U.S. v. Flotron, U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut, No. 17-cr-00220.