Nicole M. Moran

Vice President


  • Washington


Nicole Moran specializes in commodity futures and options markets and matters related to FinTech. Dr. Moran coheads Cornerstone Research’s FinTech, blockchain, and cryptocurrency practice. She leads teams on government investigations and civil disputes. She has extensive expertise in derivative markets, for both exchange-traded and over-the-counter (OTC) products that involve allegations of market manipulation and antitrust. Dr. Moran has more than ten years of experience supporting experts in preparation for testimony. She frequently presents to regulators at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Reserve on the economic and financial factors that underpin disputes.

Market manipulation and antitrust
  • On behalf of agricultural companies, investigate purchasing, production, and hedging behavior in response to government and civil proceedings
  • Analyze the manufacture and delivery via futures contracts for various commodities
  • On behalf of numerous crude oil and natural gas trading companies, analyze physical and financial product trading activity in response to government trading investigations
  • Analyze and develop rebuttal arguments regarding antitrust claims and market manipulation claims brought in civil cases
  • On behalf of a futures exchange, investigated trading and positions in response to a government investigation
  • Analyzed trading in foreign exchange (FX) products by a leading FX broker-dealer facing multinational investigations of alleged collusion and market manipulation
  • Analyzed trading in interest rate derivatives by a multinational bank under investigation for possible manipulation of LIBOR and similar financial benchmarks
  • On behalf of a joint defense, investigated price-fixing allegations of hogs/pork and cattle/beef
  • Analyzed valuation of municipal bonds
FinTech, blockchain, and cryptocurrency
  • Analyze allegations of manipulative trading on cryptocurrency exchanges, including trading of Bitcoin and Ether
  • Assess Section 11 allegations using allocation of crypto tokens in the genesis block
  • Conduct forensic blockchain analysis on historical transactions via syncing nodes, connecting to application programming interfaces (APIs), and collecting decentralized finance (DeFi) application data
  • Assess smart contract design, such as use in facilitating entering and exiting contracts, including auto liquidation
  • Assess DeFi platforms, including their operation and potential vulnerabilities
  • Analyze liquidity pools, price, and token movements in relation to crypto exchanges
  • Evaluate initial coin offerings (ICOs) to compare to more traditional commodities or securities
  • Evaluate contractual mining disputes related to location of mining machines, funding development of locations, and projections of revenue
  • Responding to government investigations, including those by the CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

Dr. Moran has published extensively on virtual currency and digital tokens. Her work in this area includes the report series Trends in CFTC Virtual Currency Enforcement Actions, as well as articles such as “CME Ether Futures How is the Contract Designed?” and “Bitcoin Futures: A Closer Look as CME’s Contract Design.”

Dr. Moran is a leader of Cornerstone Research’s work related to analysis of U.S. natural gas transactions from FERC Form 552 submissions. Her research has been published in leading journals, including the Journal of Futures and the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics. Her articles on commodities topics include “From Zero to 100: Crude Oil Price Changes in 2020–2022,” “‘Contango with Me’: COVID-19 and the U.S. Crude Oil Market,” and “Battle of the Benchmarks: Brent Crude Oil and Est Texas Intermediate.”

Dr. Moran has contributed chapters to various books, including “Agriculture” in Commodities: Markets, Performance, and Strategies (Oxford University Press) and “Bubbles, Food Prices, and Speculation: Evidence from the CFTC’s Daily Large Trader Data Files” in The Economics of Food Price Volatility (University of Chicago Press).

Prior to joining Cornerstone Research, Dr. Moran was a research economist at the CFTC, where she conducted statistical and econometric analyses on derivative markets and agricultural futures.


Securities Enforcement Forum 2023


Trends in CFTC Virtual Currency Enforcement Actions—Q1 2015-Q2 2023


Trends in CFTC Virtual Currency Enforcement Actions


Tips for Making the Most of Blockchain Analysis


FinTech Series: Emerging Economic Issues in Cryptocurrency Litigation


Expert Forum: Market Abuse 2023—Global Regulatory Priorities and Focus Areas

Press Release

Cornerstone Research Promotes Four to Vice President in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington

Press Release

Cornerstone Research Once Again Named “Go-To Thought Leader” by National Law Review

  • “Cryptocurrency Regulation, Enforcement and Litigation: 2019 Developments and What Comes Next,” Securities Enforcement Forum 2019, 23 October 2019
  • “Initial Coin Offering (ICO) Regulation in 2019: Trends, Developments, and What Lies Ahead,” webinar, 6 August 2019
  • “Competition and Market Concentration in the Municipal Bond Market,” 8th Annual Municipal Finance Conference, 15 July 2019
  • “Cryptocurrency Regulation, Enforcement and Litigation: One Year Later,” Securities Enforcement Forum West 2019, 9 May 2019
  • “Cryptocurrencies and ICOs: Where Will Enforcement Strike Next?,” Securities Enforcement Forum East 2018, 1 November 2018
  • “Emerging FinTech Topics,” Financial Institutions Litigation 2018, 18 October 2018
  •  “Right-Sizing Regulation,” USDA’s 94th Agricultural Outlook Forum, 22 February 2018