James McDonald, director of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Enforcement (DoE) is stepping down with immediate effect, having been in the position since April 2017. He leaves at the same time as the CFTC unveils a record-breaking year for enforcement actions by the DoE.

McDonald joined the CFTC after serving as an assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York, prior to which he was in private practice. Upon his official departure on October 8, Vincent McGonagle, principal deputy director of the division, will serve as acting director.

Under McDonald, the DoE identified and advanced five main priorities: (1) preserving market integrity, including by developing the division’s data analytics programme; (2) protecting customers, both in traditional markets and in new markets like those for digital assets; (3) promoting individual accountability and pursuing accountability up the chain where appropriate; (4) enhancing coordination with other regulators and criminal authorities; and (5) increasing transparency in operations, through the issuance of numerous pieces of guidance and advisories about the Division’s policies and practices, including publication of the division’s Enforcement Manual, into which all published guidance and advisories are incorporated.

“Jamie led the Division of Enforcement to its most momentous year in our 45-year history, which is a testament to his vision and leadership,” says CFTC chairman Heath Tarbert. “During Jamie’s tenure as enforcement director, the division has bolstered its capabilities to detect misconduct through data and analytics, strengthened relationships with other regulators and criminal authorities through parallel enforcement, and increased transparency. On behalf of my fellow commissioners and the entire agency, I thank Jamie for his public service and commitment to maintaining consumer confidence in our markets.”

In the fiscal year which ended 30 September, CFTC issued 113 enforcement actions, more than at any time in its history, and imposed the largest fine related to spoofing on JP Morgan. It also filed more actions in association with US state authorities and filed 29 cases against fraud since the COVID national emergency was declared in the US on 13 March 2020.

“We are tough on those who break the rules, and this historic year only further underscores this point,” says Tarbert. “The case statistics alone are impressive, but the fact that the enforcement program was this successful even during a pandemic is even more remarkable. I applaud the Division of Enforcement staff for their incredible work, professionalism, and commitment to carrying out the Commission’s mission with integrity and purpose.”

McDonald adds, “In the midst of a pandemic, when volatility in the market is high, it is even more important that our team work tirelessly to preserve market integrity and pursue those who break our rules. I’m incredibly proud of the division staff for their contributions to this record-breaking year amid the numerous challenges posed by the virus.”

Colin Lambert

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