Risk Management

Ex-Delta Trader Fined for Commodities Manipulation

The trader placed orders for personal profit ahead of trades intended for Delta, according to the CME Group.
Matthew HellerJune 14, 2016

A former Delta Air Lines fuel trader has been sanctioned for manipulating the commodities markets to make $2.8 million in profits for himself from the airline’s fuel orders.

A notice of disciplinary action filed Monday against Jon Ruggles by CME Group, which owns the New York Mercantile Exchange, alleges he “front-ran” Delta’s orders “to obtain a favorable execution price” for orders in two personal accounts owned by his wife.

On at least 82 occasions between Aug. 20, 2012, through Dec. 10, 2012, the notice said, Ruggles made trades that either opposed or offset orders that Delta had, or placed orders for personal profit ahead of trades intended for Delta.

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CME’s sanctions against Ruggles include a $300,000 fine, disgorgement of his profits, and a permanent ban from trading. His wife Ivonne Ruggles was also given a trading ban.

Ed Hirs, a professor of energy economics at the University of Houston, told CNBC that although commodity regulation may be a murky world, Jon Ruggles’ alleged conduct deserved punishment.

“At the very least, it’s unethical, and I’m surprised it’s not just completely illegal, because that is trading with insider information, and it’s trading for his own benefit,” he said.

According to CNBC, Delta hired Ruggles as vice-president of fuel in 2011 “to help right a fuel-hedge book that had been losing the airline money.” He managed to generate impressive trading returns, but in late 2012, Delta received a subpoena from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission seeking records relating to Ruggles’ personal and corporate trades.

CME said Ruggles “abused his trading discretion” from April 2012 to December 2012, making $3.3 million in illicit profits, but it only had jurisdiction over his trades from August 2012.

The disciplinary notice said Ruggles declined to answer exchange regulators’ questions. He may also face CFTC sanctions, the notice indicated.

“[I]f Ruggles reached a settlement with the CFTC that included disgorgement of profits … a dollar-for-dollar credit for the amount that Ruggles pays to the CFTC in disgorgement shall be credited against the disgorgement amount ordered by [CME],” it said.