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Commissioner Chilton seeks criminal authority for CFTC

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Tina Seeley
Bloomberg News
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission should have the authority to pursue criminal violations of rules in the markets it oversees, Commissioner Bart Chilton said.

Under current rules, the agency refers any criminal violations to the U.S. Justice Department. If Justice doesn't pursue charges, transgressors are subject to a fine from the market regulator, and not jail time, Chilton said.

"A third of our referrals to the Justice Department get rejected for one reason or another," Chilton, a Democrat who joined the five-member commission in 2007, said on a conference call today. Americans want market wrongdoers to go to jail, he said.

The commission in October 2007 reached its largest-ever settlement, with BP Plc paying $303 million for allegations it manipulated the U.S. propane market. The agency had more than $630 million in payments for misconduct in the 2008 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.

Chilton said he has spoken with House and Senate lawmakers about his idea and is "hopeful" Congress will consider it. "I'm optimistic this is something people now think needs to be done," he said.

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