U.S. CFTC breaks agency record for number of enforcement cases

WASHINGTON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed the highest number of enforcement actions in its 38-year history in the 2012 fiscal year, the agency said on Friday.

The CFTC filed 102 enforcement actions in its fiscal year ended Sept. 30, up slightly from the 99 actions it filed in 2011 and a big boost over the 57 cases filed in 2010.

The agency notched a high-profile victory in June, when it fined Barclays Plc $200 million over charges that the British bank manipulated global benchmark interest rates including the London interbank offered rate.

The case, which set off a fresh outcry on both sides of the Atlantic against banker malfeasance, was the CFTC's largest fine ever.

The CFTC also filed charges against Peregrine Financial Group, the futures brokerage that filed for bankruptcy in July after its chief executive, Russell Wasendorf Sr., attempted suicide and admitted to bilking customers out of millions of dollars.

David Meister, the CFTC's enforcement director, said his division had begun to use new authorities granted by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law in its enforcement cases. That law gives the CFTC new power to pursue market fraud and manipulation.

The law also tasked the small agency with writing new rules to boost oversight of the $648 trillion over-the-counter swaps market. The risk and opacity of that market helped fuel the 2008 financial crisis.

"It's really remarkable that in the midst of implementing the largest overhaul of financial regulations in CFTC's history, the agency's hard-hitting enforcement team has been able to continue so aggressively to go after the bad actors and unscrupulous players in our markets," CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton said in an email.

The agency said it opened 350 new investigations in 2012 and obtained orders imposing more than $585 million in sanctions.

The commission has yet to file any charges against bankrupt brokerage MF Global, which collapsed in October 2011, leaving an estimated $1.6 billion hole in customer funds.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Leslie Adler)