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November 23, 2020

CFTC Staff Report Has a Credibility Problem


Monday, November 23, 2020

Contact: Pamela Russell at


CFTC Staff Report on WTI Negative Pricing and Trading

Irregularities Lacks Clear Objectives and Objectivity


Washington, D.C.  –  Joseph R. Cisewski, Senior Derivatives Consultant and Special Counsel for Better Markets, issued the following statement regarding the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) staff report on the April 2020 trading anomalies in New York Mercantile Exchange’s (NYMEX) benchmark crude oil futures contract:

“This morning, after months of delay in CFTC Chairman Tarbert’s office, the CFTC staff finally has been directed to brief a select group of reporters on the April 2020 negative pricing and trading anomalies in the world’s most important benchmark energy futures contract—the West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil contract. We will review the CFTC staff report in detail once it is publicly available. However, the four-month delay in the CFTC’s release of a “detailed forensic study” completed by CFTC staff in mid-July 2020 raises serious questions about the objectives and objectivity of the forthcoming report.

“As we explain in our Fact Sheet, the credibility problem for this CFTC staff report also arises, in part, from the CFTC Chairman’s premature public statements immediately following the April trading anomalies—unfortunately made without any factual basis—that the crude oil plunge was “not a financial markets issue” and “basically” could be “explained by what’s going on in the real markets.” Unsurprisingly, extensive investigative reporting and numerous market participants have since contradicted that assertion.

“With this context, there is every reason to remain skeptical of the CFTC staff report’s objectives and objectivity. Although we fully expect the CFTC staff report to rationalize continued regulatory inaction, these issues will need to be revisited once a thorough, rigorous and unbiased data-based analysis of the April 2020 trading events is possible.”


Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall Street and make our financial system work for all Americans again. Better Markets works with allies – including many in finance – to promote pro-market, pro-business and pro-growth policies that help build a stronger, safer financial system that protects and promotes Americans’ jobs, savings, retirements and more. To learn more, visit

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