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CFTC’s Bart Chilton Says Now is the Time for “the Do-Badders” to Cheat

NEW YORK — The federal government shutdown has left the futures markets largely unregulated, raising concerns over fraud and manipulation with a hobbled watchdog, a Commodity Futures Trading Commission official said.

Only 28 employees of the agency’s about 700-person workforce are still on the job, CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton said.

Only two or three of those employees are left watching the futures markets as Congress and President Obama remain deadlocked in a battle over spending, the healthcare overhaul and the debt ceiling, the commissioner said.

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The CFTC regulates the markets for contracts involving everything from oil, corn, metals and interest rate swaps.

Chilton said the agency typically has 50 employees with “eyeballs on a screen” when markets are open. Now it’s less than five, he said.

“The do-badders have an open reign to try and commit nefarious acts,” Chilton told reporters at a business journalism conference in New York City. “And I hope they don’t. And we’ll go back and look at this stuff. But [it’s] not going to help anybody who gets taken advantage of in the meantime.”

The stock market remains under the regulation of a fully staffed — for now — U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency has said it has enough money to keep operating for a few weeks, but that it may then have to furlough employees if the government remains shutdown.

Chilton was speaking at the fall conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in New York City.