U.S. CFTC issues record number of enforcement actions, as fines remain largely flat

Heath Tarbert, Chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, leads an agency open meeting in Washington, October 16, 2019. CFTC Agency/Michael Short

(This Dec 1 story changes amount of fines for this year in second paragraph to $1.33 billion from $1.32 billion, also changes fines for last year to $1.32 billion from $1.33 billion.)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. derivatives regulator issued a record 113 enforcement actions for corporate wrongdoing in 2020 - the most in the agency’s history - the agency said on Tuesday, even as total monetary fines remained almost flat.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) had a total of $1.33 billion in penalties, the “fourth highest total on record and the third straight year-over-year increase,” it said, although the figure is only slightly up on last year’s $1.32 billion in fines.

Most of that, however, was accounted for by the CFTC's bumper September enforcement action here against JPMorgan Chase & Co, which paid out more than $920 million for manipulating commodity futures, the agency said.

The CFTC stressed that an uptick in retail enforcement actions, including a record number involving digital assets such as cryptocurrencies, as central to this year’s enforcement activity.

CFTC Chairman Heath Tarbert said that the enforcement staff continued “investing in advances in our data analytics capabilities, expanding our federal, state, local and international parallel efforts, and providing more clarity and transparency to market participants.”

The agency also reported a total of 16 actions jointly filed with federal criminal authorities, as well as a joint enforcement action with 30 state regulators—the most partners in a single case in CFTC history, the agency said.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Michelle Price and Aurora Ellis