Articles Posted in CFTC Action

Receiving a subpoena from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission often causes panic by the recipient given the civil and criminal penalties associated with Commodities Exchange Act violations.  The recipient may have no advance notice of the subpoena and may be unaware if they are a target of the CFTC’s investigation or merely an individual or company that possesses records of interest to the government.  This blog post outlines appropriate steps to take upon receipt of a CFTC subpoena.

CFTC’s Information Gathering Process

The Staff of the CFTC is empowered to initiate investigations of persons and companies suspected of having violated the Commodity Exchange Act.  The Staff generally receives documents from voluntary productions and use of compulsory process (meaning, the issuance of subpoenas).  Any request for a voluntary interview or the voluntary production of documents requires serious consideration and consultation with counsel.  The Staff’s reach can extend internationally.  The CFTC has Memoranda of Understandings with various foreign authorities, which enables the CFTC’s staff to obtain documents without resort to use of subpoena power.

Joseph Kim, a young Chicago trader just pleaded guilty to stealing $3 million worth of cryptocurrency from the firm that employed him and investors. The case, which involves charges of wire fraud, is the first criminal prosecution for cryptocurrency related violations in the city.

The 23-year-old trader who appeared before Judge Andrea Wood, could potentially be sent to prison for as long as 20 years. He will be sentenced in October, and he may also be ordered to pay back over a million dollars in restitution.

According to the prosecutors´ allegations, the defendant took $3 million from his firm and over half a million from investors. His goal was to make up for losses he incurred due to disadvantageous trades made on his personal account. While he attempted to return some of the Litecoin and Bitcoin he stole from his firm, Consolidated Trading, he still owed over $1.1 million when the misconduct came to light.

A few days before issuing the recent advisory for the cryptocurrency market, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission told the judge in the case against My Big Coin Pay Inc. that cryptocurrencies are commodities, and are therefore within CFTC jurisdiction.

The federal judge in Massachusetts is hearing the case against My Big Coin Pay Inc., a cryptocurrency company that allegedly defrauded dozens of investors out of at least $6 million.

Unsealed earlier this year, a CFTC lawsuit against the issuer of the virtual currency known as My Big Coin Pay first shed light on the company´s questionable practices.

On May 21st, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission issued a new document offering valuable guidance for registered market participants.

The head of the CFTC’s Division of Market Oversight, Amir Zaidi said in an accompanying press release,

“The CFTC staff is committed to providing regulatory clarity as much as possible. As the virtual currency market continues to evolve, CFTC staff will seek to provide additional guidance to help market participants keep pace with innovation while complying with CFTC regulations.”

The over 80 subpoenas recently issued to companies in the cryptocurrency sector have provided a logical corollary to the agency’s many warnings about ICOs potential violations of security laws.

The time for warnings is over. Now, the SEC’s intentions have evolved into enforcement actions, forever changing the scenario for new cryptocurrency initiatives.

In late 2017, Bitcoin’s spectacular rise in value lured both would-be cryptocurrency developers and new investors with the promise of returns higher than 2,000 percent. Although the digital currency’s value eventually stabilized, these price fluctuations and the surge in ICO initiatives raised alarm among regulators, who pointed to issues of valuation, liquidity, and arbitrage.

On March 19, 2018, federal prosecutors once again reinforced the notion that cryptocurrencies can be securities, as they upheld their certainty that ICOs offered by Maksim Zaslavskiy through his companies REcoin and Diamond Reserve Club, were in fact, securities, and thus, under the SEC’s jurisdiction.

As a criminal case relating to securities fraud in the ICO sphere, the complaint against Zaslavskiy and his companies has few precedents, but it may likely have many successors.

The defendant’s original response to his accusers, back in February, was that his ICOs were not securities, and thus he could not be charged with securities fraud.

In a commentary that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and J. Christopher Giancarlo, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, referred to the new regulation scenario for cryptocurrency trading.

In fact, they expanded the concept to ”distributed ledger technology (DLT)” defined as “an array of new financial products, including cryptocurrencies and digital payment services.”

Emphasizing the potential of DLT as the “next great driver of economic efficiency,” the regulators made it clear that the SEC and the CFTC will focus on enforcing rules and ensuring market integrity to protect retail investors looking to invest in cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs).

In line with its expressed intent to increase its oversight over the cryptocurrency market, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has filed three related fraud suits in a single week.

The third lawsuit targets the creators of “My Big Coin,” who allegedly used $6 million dollars received from buyers to pay off early investors and shop for luxury items. The allegations caused the freezing of all assets belonging to the creators of the supposed next-big-cryptocurrency.

The Nevada-based company, My Big Coin Pay Inc.; was founded by Randall Crater. The suit, filed in January, also named one of its salesmen, Mark Gillespie. According to the allegations, between 2014 and mid-2017, the defendants defrauded 28 investors out of six million dollars.

Once in a while, regulators and courts take actions that have no precedent, but which may influence justice over time. That is the case of a recent ruling from a Florida federal judge, who ordered a defendant to disclose that he had “violated commodity laws” whenever he writes or speaks about commodity trading in the future.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced the ruling in a statement, perhaps in the hope that it might serve to deter potential fraudsters.

The defendant, Anthony J. Klatch II, had been arrested several times since 2011, charged with running a kind of Ponzi scheme, and ordered to pay back $13 million in various civil proceedings. In 2012, for example he was convicted in connection with a $2.3 million investment scam.

Contact Information