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CFTC’s Chilton Sees Silver Probe Concluding This Year

A four-year probe of potential price manipulation in the silver market may be completed as early as September, according to Bart Chilton, a member of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

“I am hopeful and expect the silver investigation to conclude in the not-too-distant future, hopefully in September or October,” Chilton, a 52-year-old Democrat, said in an e-mail. “It has already taken way too long.”

The enforcement division of the Washington-based agency, the main U.S. overseer of derivatives markets, began pursuing allegations of manipulation in the silver market in September 2008. Investigators have analyzed more than 100,000 documents and interviewed dozens of witnesses, the CFTC said in a November 2011 statement.

Chilton, who didn’t say whether the probe has uncovered evidence of manipulation, said previously that there had been “repeated attempts” to influence prices.

“There have been fraudulent efforts to persuade and deviously control that price,” he said at an October 2010 hearing in Washington. “Any such violation of the law in this regard should be prosecuted.”

Steve Adamske, a CFTC spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the status of the investigation sent outside of regular business hours.

‘Numerous Letters’

The agency concluded in a May 2008 report, before starting the investigation, that there was no evidence of manipulation in the market between 2005 and 2007. The CFTC, in the preceding two decades, had received “numerous letters, e-mails and phone calls from silver investors” alleging that silver futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange had been manipulated downward, according to the report.

The CFTC was granted broader powers to pursue such cases under the Dodd-Frank Act. Commissioners last July completed rules making it easier to prove fraud and manipulation in markets for derivatives and commodities. The rules eased requirements that enforcement lawyers demonstrate that artificial prices were set and prove traders intentionally manipulated markets. The new anti-manipulation rule requires the agency only to show that traders acted recklessly.

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