Bitcoin Price Manipulation Probe Linked to Futures Market

Dispute Between CME, Crypto Exchanges Prompted CFTC Market Manipulation Probe: Report

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In a move that could have played a role in this weekend's substantial decline in cryptocurrency prices, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has contacted several cryptocurrency exchanges, ordering them to turn over trading data.

Regulators opened the investigation after CME Group Inc. introduced bitcoin futures in December, according to the sources.

Over discussions on the legitimacy of CFTC as a regulatory body for Bitcoin, the default categorization of the cryptocurrency as a "commodity" by the government, is sufficient to legitimize CFTC's regulatory stipulations. Laurie Bischel, CME spokeswoman said, "All participating exchanges are required to share information, including cooperation with inquiries and investigations".

The CFTC, which had supported the bitcoin futures' introduction which they saw as risky but worthwhile, became frustrated and subpoenaed the exchanges.

As noted by The Wall Street Journal, one particularly common form of market manipulation is called "spoofing", which is the practice of entering "large trade orders with the intention of tricking others into thinking there had been a fundamental change in the supply and demand of bitcoin".

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Four major cryptocurrency exchanges have received subpoenas from the CFTC for the release of the trading data. Its investigation is being coordinated with the US' Department of Justice (DOJ), which as covered separately launched a criminal probe into potential market manipulation.

CME's agreement with the private exchanges does not have a clause to share trading data. The contract prices are determined the last Friday of the month and take into account the four bitcoin exchanges' average price over an hour. The Journal added that the investigation was started after a quarrel between CME and exchange officials.

Neither Bitstamp nor Coinbase commented on the matter.

Jesse Powell, the Chief Executive Officer told the news portal, "newly declared oversight" of the CFTC "has the spot exchanges questioning the value and cost of their index participation". He stated earlier this week that bitcoin market manipulation concerns were overstated, and that anyone attempting to manipulate the market is taking a big risk for minimum benefit. Price fluctuation is high in this space while illegal trading is not a simple matter that can be pushed aside. The regulators from CFTC were upset that CME did not have an obligatory agreement with the exchanges that would require the exchanges to share price data that is related to the futures contracts.

CFTC has gone on record stating that, the disciplinary action was on the significant denial of access over bitcoin trading data, and the creation of an atmosphere of "fight" among the stakeholders.

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