Largest Retail FX Broker FXCM Banned By CFTC, Fined $7 Million For Taking Positions Against Clients
The CFTC on Monday fined Forex Capital Markets, parent FXCM Holdings LLC and founding partners Dror Niv and William Ahdout to pay $7 million to settle charges it defrauded retail foreign exchange customers and engaging in false and misleading solicitations. As part of the settlement, FXCM agreed to withdraw its registration and never seek to register with the CFTC again, effectively banning it from operating in the US. The CFTC found the retail FX broker had an undisclosed interest in the market maker that consistently won the largest share of FXCM's trading volume, and was therefore taking positions opposite its retail customers.
The CFTC also found that FXCM willfully made false statements to the National Futures Association in order to conceal FXCM's role in the creation of its principal market maker as well as the fact that the market maker's owner had been an FXCM employee and managing director.
The commodity regulator said in a statement that "between Sept. 4, 2009 though at least 2014, FXCM engaged in false and misleading solicitations of FXCM’s retail customers by concealing its relationship with its most important market maker and by misrepresenting that its 'No Dealing Desk' platform had no conflicts of interest with its customers."
Niv, FXCM's chief executive officer, and Ahdout, its managing director, are also barred from future CFTC registration and acting for those who are registered for the agency.
FXCM is currently the largest Retail Foreign Exchange Dealer (RFED) in the US, with an estimated market share of approximately 34.0% in December. It is unclear what the fallout will presently be for the US FX market following the CFTC order. The shakeup could prompt a Jefferies/Leucadia takeover, given the company’s existing financial obligations and past deal with Leucadia in the aftermath of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) crisis. The news also comes during after hours trading in the US – prior to the enforcement action, FXCM’s share prices had already been trading close to its 52-week low of $6.65, having closed at $6.85 Monday.
According to Gretchen L. Lowe, Principal Deputy Director and Chief Counsel of the CFTC’s Division of Enforcement, in a recent statement on the order, “Full and truthful disclosure to customers and honest discourse with self-regulatory organizations such as NFA are vital to the integrity and oversight of our markets. Today’s action’s demonstrates that the CFTC is committed to protecting customers from harm in the markets it regulates.”
Following the CFTC order, the National Futures Association (NFA) also stipulated that the group’s founders William Ahdout and Dror (Drew) Niv as well as FXCM have been forced to withdraw from NFA membership, also facing a permanent ban. The effective date for these actions is February 21, 2017. The NFA has accepted the settlement offer of FXCM, and the aforementioned individuals neither admitted nor denied the allegations outlined in the order.
As for FXCM's thousands of retail clients, they may soon have to find more creative ways of losing their money than "investing" in 50x levered, central-bank dominated, HFT-infested currency markets whose only purpose these days seems to be to inflict the greater damage by stopping out the largest number of positions possible.