A Commodity Futures Trading Commission investigation, made public yesterday, has concluded there is no evidence that individual investors tried to mislead news reporters or reap profits from trading potato futures contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange in late January.
On Jan. 26, Reuter reported that Sim-Tag Farms, a partnership of potato growers Jack R. Simplot and Peter J. Taggares, had reached an agreement to export 150,000 short tons or 3 million hundredweight (CWT) of potatoes. Reuter said Taggares had confirmed the report.
The next day, however, Commodity News Service reported that Taggares called the earlier report "totally false" and that the order involved only 150,000 tons. There was immediate speculation that information had been planted to cause price changes in potato contracts at the New York Merc.
Taggares and Simplot held most of the 1,000 contracts to deliver potatoes that were unfilled last May in a major trading default at the New York exchange.
The commodity commission said yesterday that its division of enforcement interviewed employees of Reuter, Commodity News Service and Dow Jones & Co. (owner of The Wall Street Journal and the Dow Jones news service), as well as investors and brokers in the period since Jan. 27.
"The evidence did not establish that news stories were purposely misleading or that violations of the Commodity Exchange Act occured with respect to those news stories," the division told the commission, which has decided to close its inquiry "subject to reopening if further evidence develops."
The commission division said Taggares would have placed substantially more orders if he had "devised a plan to use news reports to enable him to take advantage of expected price swings," to "make greater gains."