Scandals

It’s called getting nickeled and dimed.

Bloomberg reports that JPMorgan Chase is the victim of a scandal in international metal trading.

Nine “contracts” were held by the financial services company, which meant that they promised to buy or sell certain amounts at a later date or futures. These contracts were worth approximately $1.3 million.

These nine contracts, or parts of nickel, turned up to be bags of (worthless!) rocks.

The London Metal Exchange (LME), a marketplace for copper, zinc and tin, acts as a price setting mechanism and regulates trade. LME reported that they received a report from Rotterdam that the facility had delivered only rocks and not nickel. (The LME doesn’t operate warehouses, but approves them. Access World, a logistics company, manages this warehouse.

Bloomberg wrote that the LME is the gold standard in metals trading and that its veracity is “generally viewed to be beyond question”.

LME first announced the issue on Friday, but the metal trading platform did not reveal who the owners of the contracts. Bloomberg reported Monday that JPMorgan Chase was the owner of the “nickel” contracts, citing “people who are familiar with the matter.”

According to the outlet, John MacNamara (CEO of Carshalton Commodities), a veteran industry vet, said that “Something has gone horribly terribly wrong at the LME.”

Nickel is an important material for electric cars’ batteries. It is traded on a “commodity exchange” for raw materials. This includes things like coffee or gold. It can fluctuate in nickel prices every day so it’s traded on a “commodity market” for raw materials. This is a way to set a price to sell it at a future date.

Metals such as nickel and zinc can often be traded as futures or ETFs. Nickel futures are a way that the metals industry can mitigate price fluctuations. Bloomberg also noted that it is a way for financial institutions to make money from trades.

Transactions that are based on the price for a nickel chunk (or contract), could result in millions of dollars every day. Bloomberg noted that panic has set in because this transaction was based on something that turns out to not be nickel. Re-weighing is taking place at LME-approved facilities around world.

In these situations, the warehouses are the ones who get the blame. They are responsible to maintain LME standards.

Access World stated that the problem was isolated and limited to Rotterdam’s one warehouse.

The exact cause of the problem was not immediately known.

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