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London Metal Exchange hit with two U.S. lawsuits over nickel trading chaos


Ring: Traders are located in central London’s open-air trading floor, the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Matt Clinch | CNBC

LONDON — A second U.S. firm has sued the London Metal Exchange for $15.3 million over canceled nickel trades in March.

Jane Street Global Trading made a judicial appeal to the English High Court, following a letter from LME-owner Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) confirmed.

Just days earlier, the U.S. market maker filed a lawsuit for $456m pertaining to the same chaotic March morning.

LME suspended trading activities and cancelled Nickel trades on March 8. due to a spike in volatilityNickel prices soared to record levels of $100,000/ton in just a matter of hours.

“Exceeded its power”

Elliott’s spokesperson confirmed that the LME has been subject to judicial review.

According to the spokesperson, “Elliott believes that Nickel trades were cancelled by the LME on March 8th 2022. It either exceeded its powers or exercised its powers unreasonably.

Jane Street released a statement Tuesday stating that it took action to recover its losses from the LME’s illegal actions and “strengthening the exchange” to restore market trust.

“The LME’s arbitrarily made decision to cancel nickel trading during periods of high volatility seriously undermines market integrity and creates dangerous precedents that could lead to future contracts being questioned.”

It wild trade in the nickel market in early MarchTwo weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine, commodity prices plunged across the board due to supply worries.

As dawn dawned in London, the markets were whipped into chaos by extreme price movements in Asia trading hours. Russia is the world’s third-largest producer of nickel — a key ingredient in stainless steel and a major component in lithium-ion batteries.

However, within weeks of the attack banks cut their exposure to Russian commodity and the shipping industry canceled key ports in the country.

Soon after nickel prices reached $100,000/ton, Saxo Bank’s Head of Commodity Strategy Ole Hansen stated to CNBC that the market was dangerous and that demand was not driving it. Instead, he said that fear was driving them.

‘Without merit’

LME spokesperson said Tuesday in a statement that they had taken the position that the nickel market was “becoming disorderly” in its early hours on March 8. They therefore decided to stop trading nickel contracts at 8:15 U.K. Time and cancel any trades that were executed after that time.

LME stated that their goal was to return the market to the time when it was at its best.

“At all points, the LME and LME Clear tried to act in behalf of the entire market. “The LME believes that Elliott’s and Jane Streets’ grounds for complaints are unfounded, and the LME will vigorously defend any judicial reviews proceedings,” the spokesperson said.

CNBC spoke with Sarah Taylor on Tuesday, a partner of Holman Fenwick Willan’s global commodities group. Taylor said that while the LME is responsible for maintaining an orderly market it was “challenging” to claim that suspending trading was inadvisable given the extraordinary turbulence that occurred in nickel prices.

Taylor stated that the situation with cancelling trades might not be so straightforward. In these cases, it’s normal for a party to look into their legal rights.

The Court might need to look at not just the reasoning behind the LME’s decision cancelling trades but also its consequences.