UPDATE 1-U.S. CFTC ends probe of silver markets, takes no action
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NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Wednesday it has closed its long-running investigation into complaints about manipulation in the silver markets, and is not recommending any charges.
The CFTC publicly confirmed the probe in September 2008. At the time, the agency had received complaints about whether the silver futures contracts traded on the Commodity Exchange Inc (COMEX) were being manipulated.
"Based upon the law and evidence as they exist at this time, there is not a viable basis to bring an enforcement action with respect to any firm or its employees related to our investigation of silver markets," the CFTC said in a statement on Wednesday.
Silver has featured prominently in modern commodity market scandals. In the most memorable case, the Hunt brothers of Texas hoarded the precious metal, aiming to corner the market and control global prices starting in the late 1970s.
But the silver market collapsed in 1980 and the Hunt brothers declared bankruptcy. Their losses grew and in 1989 they were convicted of conspiring to manipulate the market.
In October 2010, JPMorgan and HSBC, among the world's largest commercial banks participating in precious metals derivative contracts, were hit with lawsuits accusing them of conspiring to drive down silver prices by amassing huge silver shorts, a trading position designed to profit from a fall in prices.
HSBC was later dropped from the complaints, and JPMorgan Chase & Co won the dismissal of the consolidated lawsuits in March.
Although silver is most visibly used in jewelry, it has wide industrial uses, including in electrical switches and circuit breakers.
(Reporting by Frank Tang and Karey Van Hall; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Leslie Adler)