Market Manipulation: Pump and dump schemes, spoofing, wash trading

Explore market manipulation through pump and dump schemes, spoofing, and wash trading, examining their mechanisms, legal frameworks, notable cases, and regulatory actions to enhance understanding and awareness.

Market manipulation refers to deliberate actions taken to deceive or mislead investors by artificially affecting the supply, demand, or price of securities. This guide will explore three common forms of market manipulation: pump and dump schemes, spoofing, and wash trading. Each section will provide a detailed explanation of the practice, relevant laws, and notable cases.

Introduction to Market Manipulation

Market manipulation undermines the integrity of financial markets, leading to significant financial losses for investors and damaging public trust. Regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) actively combat these practices through enforcement actions and regulations.

Pump and Dump Schemes

Definition and Mechanism

A pump and dump scheme involves artificially inflating the price of a stock through false or misleading statements. Once the stock price is sufficiently high, the perpetrators sell their shares at a profit, leaving other investors with devalued stock.

Securities Exchange Act of 1934

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934, particularly Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5, prohibits fraudulent activities in connection with the purchase or sale of securities. These provisions are often used to prosecute pump and dump schemes.

Notable Cases

  1. SEC v. Eight Social Media Influencers (2022): The SEC charged eight individuals who used social media platforms to promote stocks they owned, creating a false impression of market interest. They collectively made over $100 million in profits.
  2. SEC Press Release
  3. SEC v. Stratton Oakmont, Inc. (1999): This case involved the infamous brokerage firm depicted in the movie "The Wolf of Wall Street." The firm engaged in pump and dump schemes, leading to significant financial penalties and jail time for its executives.

Regulatory Actions

The SEC and other regulatory bodies continuously monitor and investigate suspicious trading activities. They employ advanced data analytics and whistleblower programs to detect and deter pump and dump schemes.


Definition and Mechanism

Spoofing involves placing large orders to buy or sell securities with the intent to cancel them before execution. This creates a false impression of market demand or supply, manipulating prices to benefit the spoofer's actual trading positions.

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

The Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in 2010, explicitly prohibits spoofing in the commodities and derivatives markets. Section 747 of the Act amended the Commodity Exchange Act to include anti-spoofing provisions.

Notable Cases

  1. U.S. v. Michael Coscia (2015): Michael Coscia was the first trader convicted under the Dodd-Frank Act's anti-spoofing provisions. He used algorithmic trading to place and cancel large orders, manipulating market prices and earning millions in illegal profits.
  2. DOJ Press Release
  3. U.S. v. J.P. Morgan Traders (2020): Several traders from J.P. Morgan were convicted of spoofing in the precious metals markets. Their actions led to significant market distortions and financial penalties for the firm.
  4. DOJ Press Release

Regulatory Actions

The CFTC and SEC have increased their focus on spoofing, employing sophisticated surveillance tools to detect and prosecute offenders. They also collaborate with international regulators to address cross-border spoofing activities.

Wash Trading

Definition and Mechanism

Wash trading involves executing trades where the buyer and seller are the same entity or colluding parties. This creates an illusion of high trading volume, misleading other investors about the true market activity.

Commodity Exchange Act

The Commodity Exchange Act prohibits wash trading, defining it as a form of market manipulation. Violators face severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

Notable Cases

  1. CFTC v. Panther Energy Trading LLC (2013): The CFTC charged Panther Energy Trading and its principal, Michael Coscia, with engaging in wash trading and spoofing. The firm paid a $2.8 million fine and faced a trading ban.
  2. CFTC Press Release
  3. SEC v. Wedbush Securities Inc. (2014): The SEC charged Wedbush Securities with failing to prevent wash trading by its clients. The firm paid a $2.44 million penalty and implemented enhanced compliance measures.
  4. SEC Press Release

Regulatory Actions

Regulatory bodies use advanced monitoring systems to detect wash trading patterns. They also encourage whistleblowers to report suspicious activities, offering financial incentives for valuable information.


Market manipulation in the form of pump and dump schemes, spoofing, and wash trading poses significant risks to the integrity of financial markets. Regulatory bodies like the SEC and CFTC play a crucial role in detecting, prosecuting, and deterring these practices. By understanding the mechanisms and legal frameworks surrounding these manipulative activities, investors can better protect themselves and contribute to fair and transparent markets.


  1. Securities Exchange Act of 1934
  2. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
  3. Commodity Exchange Act
  4. SEC Whistleblower Program
  5. CFTC Enforcement Actions
  6. CFTC Whistleblower Program Annual Report
  7. DOJ Press Release on Michael Coscia
  8. DOJ Press Release on J.P. Morgan Traders
  9. CFTC Press Release on Panther Energy Trading
  10. SEC Press Release on Wedbush Securities

This comprehensive guide aims to provide a thorough understanding of market manipulation practices and the legal frameworks designed to combat them. By staying informed, investors can navigate the financial markets with greater confidence and security.

About the author
Von Wooding, Esq.

Von Wooding, Esq.

Lawyer and Founder

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