U.S. Senate reveals major banks had‘unfair advantage’ in global commodities business

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A two-year probe into U.S. Senate-led into Wall Street’s top three banks’ involvement in physical commodities has concluded they exposed themselves to catastrophic financial risks, environmental disasters and potential market manipulation by investing in oil, coal and power plants.

A report published by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations say the heavy involvement of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) in the business of storing and moving commodities like oil, aluminum, uranium and copper also gives them unfair trading advantages in financial markets.

The 400-page report, which was made public on Wednesday evening, adds the lenders assumed a role of such significance in the commodities markets that it became possible for them to affect prices paid by consumers, while also securing inside information about the markets that could be used by their own traders.

Banks defend their businesses 

Bankers from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, along with other industry executives and regulators, will testify about the allegations at hearings today and Friday. According to the Wall Street Journal, they will address several questions, including “conditions at a Goldman-owned coal mine in Colombia and the airline fuel arrangements that Morgan Stanley struck with United Airlines.”

The lenders assumed a role of such significance in the commodities markets that it became possible for them to affect prices paid by consumers, while also securing inside information about the markets that could be used by their own traders

The subcommittee also studied over 30 power plants owned by JPMorgan, as well as its copper activities and trades.

Last year, JPMorgan had to pay a $410m penalty to settle with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which accused the bank of manipulating energy markets at the expense of consumers.

You can read the full report here.  Charts and exhibits can be found here.

Henry Sapiecha

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