PORK COUNCIL DENIES INSIDE TRADING CHARGES

PORK COUNCIL DENIES INSIDE TRADING CHARGES

The National Pork Producers Council, which has fought battles to gain access to foreign markets, denied allegations of market manipulations by some of its members.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange said Wednesday it was looking into those allegations following complaints from some traders that the group was engaging in insider trading.Some traders are convinced that the NPPC has been using talk of subsidized pork shipments to the former U.S.S.R. as fodder for an insider trading scheme.

However, NPPC denied those rumors, saying that no one at the organization has benefited financially through the commodities markets by using NPPC announcements about efforts to send U.S. pork to the former Soviet republics.

"To our knowledge, none of our staff is trading in commodities for our own personal interests or for the council," said Charles Harness, the NPPC's vice president of communications.

The complaints about NPPC rose to a crescendo after the group said Friday that the State Department had approved a request to ship 30,000 metric tons of subsidized pork to the former Soviet Union.

Since January, the market has posted abrupt rallies on seven occasions in response to a variety of news or hopes for pork shipments to the Russians.

Friday's developments especially rankled many traders, and floor brokers whispered of "questionable" market order placements surrounding the NPPC announcement.

At 11:24 CST Friday the news broke that the State Department had approved a request to ship 30,000 metric tons of subsidized U.S. pork to the former Soviet republics.

The news was broken by Al Tank, foreign trade director for the NPPC and ran on Knight-Ridder's news wires at 11:24 CST. Within minutes of the story, live hog and pork belly futures posted sharp rallies.

However, the pork subsidy to the former Soviet Union is still "not a done deal" according to Bush administration officials. So Friday's sharp rally was the seventh false alarm this year and still no pork has been earmarked for shipment to the Russians.

Mr. Tank has been the focus of many complaints. Although he was unavailable for comment Thursday, he earlier dismissed any allegations against himself or other members of the NPPC saying, "let them check my telephone records."

Mr. Harness said the pork group's personnel manual explicitly prohibits NPPC employees from using market-sensitive information for personal gain.