Ex-Houston energy company president sentenced for $5.5M in illegal kickbacks and commodities insider trading scheme

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Matthew Clark, of Needville, was sentenced to six years in federal prison and ordered to pay $7,709,509 in restitution and forfeit $6,532,360.

HOUSTON — A former energy company president is going to prison for an illegal kickback scheme involving commodities insider trading. 

Matthew Clark, 56, pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud, commodities insider trading and prohibited commodities transactions.

U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks sentenced the Needville man to 78 months in prison and ordered him to pay $7,709,509 in restitution and forfeit $6,532,360.

Hanks noted Clark made the calculated choice to commit these offenses despite the risk of being caught, and in doing so “gambled and lost.”

The feds say Clark was a natural gas trader and president of an energy company based in Houston. He conspired with others to receive millions of dollars in kickbacks from commission fees paid by Clark’s employer to Classic Energy LLC, a brokerage firm owned and operated by Matthew Webb. In exchange for the kickbacks, Clark reportedly agreed to direct his employer’s trades to Webb’s brokerage.

“Matthew Clark steered his company’s commodities trading business to a broker in exchange for over $5.5 million in illegal kickbacks. He also misappropriated confidential information about his company’s planned commodities trades and used that information to enrich himself and his co-conspirators,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri.

Webb pleaded guilty in June 2021 to conspiracy to commit commodities fraud and wire fraud and to violate various provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act. 

Clark’s co-conspirators John Ed James, 54, of Katy, and Peter Miller, 49, of Puerto Rico, also pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced soon. 

“When corporate insiders engage in insider trading and other deceptive trade practices for their own financial gain, they don’t just harm the company — they undermine the integrity of our financial markets,” Argentieri said. “This groundbreaking investigation was the first to result in criminal convictions for commodities insider trading. It will not be the last.”

The FBI Houston Field Office conducted the investigation. 

“Securities and commodities fraud may be a non-violent crime but it’s certainly not victimless – it damages the public’s confidence in the U.S. markets and stacks the deck against fair traders and investors,” Special Agent in Charge Douglas Williams said. 

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