P.M. BRIEFING : Commodity Trader Fined $550,000

From Times wire services

A reported target of the government's investigation of New York's futures markets and his firm were fined a total of $550,000 today for violating trading rules at the Commodity Exchange.

Preston H. Semel, who runs a brokerage in gold, silver and other commodities, was cited after an internal exchange investigation of various trading rules violations, including ones that apparently parallel a separate federal probe.

Comex spokesman Robert McGrath said Semel was fined $350,000 and suspended for nine months from the exchange. His firm, Semel & Co., was fined $200,000.

The violations by Semel involve improper cross-trading and prohibited dual trading, two offenses that center on trading for customers and personal accounts.

Semel, 39, and his firm were cited under exchange rules for misconduct, disreputable or fraudulent conduct and conduct detrimental to the exchange.

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