In the wake of the scandal surrounding Lloyd, Carr & Co. and one of its managing partners, known as James A. Carr, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will consider today a proposal to suspend U.S. sales of London commodity options.
CFTC vice chairman John V. Rainbolt II plans to present the proposal, based on an interoffice memorandum he wrote on the topic last week following his meetings in London with officials of two exchanges, CFTC sources said yesterday.
The memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Post, calls for an immediate suspension of such sales until a CFTC-approved plan to institute the trading of commodity options in the United States on exchanges goes into effect later this year. The exchanges as well as the CFTC would monitor and regulate such trading, and the exchange transactions would be financially-guaranteed by the markets' clearing associations.
The agency has asked Congress for a supplemental budget of $1.8 million for fiscal 1979 to staff the registration and enforcement divisions for domestic options and about $900,000 for the program during the remainder of fiscal 1978. CFTC officials are scheduled to defend their proposal, which already has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget, at congressional hearings Feb. 22.
Rainbolt went to London earlier this month to try to persuade the London Metals Exchange and the International Commodity Clearing House, both of which market commodity options, to halt the sale of the options until an effective regulatory scheme was worked out. Their reluctance to put an end to the hundreds of millions of dollars in such sales they handle annually led to this latest proposal, CFTC sources said.
The memo states that the action is necessary because the enforcement problems encountered in halting allegedly fraudulent options sales has "become so great that the director of the division of enforcement has stated that it is impossible to adequately police the industry."
"Notwithstanding the evidence provided to the commission that escaped felons and others of a similar persuasion are currently selling options to U.S. customers, both state and other federal enforcement officials are not adequately filling the gap in enforcing criminal and civil sanctions against behavior which is fraudulent and abusive of the public's ignorance of the commodities environment and, apparently, of their own abilities to be misled," the memo continues.
"The commission's inability to meet the challenge . . . is so substantial that public faith in the commission, the one essential ingredient that must be protected at all costs, is severely jeopardized," the statement said.
CFTC officials said yesterday that the stringent regulations proposed for domestic options trading have met with such widespread dissatisfaction from the commodity industry that executives of several New York and Chicago exchanges and trading companies have developed their own regulatory plan. The industry-sponsored proposal is expected to be presented to the five commissioners at today's open meeting.
Rainbolt said yesterday that the Lloyd, Carr scandal had benefitted the agency by "creating a public awareness of the problems" the commission has been battling since 1976. He added, however, that it also has stirred "demogoguery" on the part of local, state and other federal enforcement officials who have passed along the blame for their failure to take action against firms like Lloyd, Carr on the CFTC.
"State officials who toss up their hands and say they were preempted from moving against fraudulent commodity options sales are escaping the blame, but just aren't admitting that they could have done something to stop the sales and put an end to the widespread fraud. Some states did take action with CFTC cooperation and if more had it would have been easier to put companies like Lloyd, Carr out of business," Rainbolt said.
He said London exchange officials told him they still see only a small percentage of the $200 million to $300 million of London commodity options contracts sold by U.S. firms - which would mean all others are fraudulent.
One of the ways in which unscrupulous options firms cheat their customers is by bucketing or papering - they take the money for the options premium and commissions but never execute the order in London.