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CFTC Enforcement Actions

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is the United States agency with primary responsibility for enforcing the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and regulating commodity futures and related markets. Whistleblowers with knowledge of violations of laws and regulations enforced by the CFTC can submit a claim under the CFTC Whistleblower Reward Program, and may be eligible to receive a monetary reward and protection against retaliation by employers.

Below are summaries of recent CFTC settlements or successful enforcement actions. If you believe you have information about fraud which could give rise to a CFTC enforcement action and claim under the CFTC Whistleblower Reward Program, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.

June 3, 2021

The CFTC obtained a default judgment against Florida resident James Frederick Walsh, who was ordered to pay a penalty of more than $500,000.  Walsh, who was not registered with the CFTC, marketed himself through social media as an experienced foreign exchange trader who could conduct retail forex trades for customers.  Walsh advertised that the COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity for increased forex trading profits,  guaranteed returns, and claimed to have inside information about forex markets.   CFTC

April 8, 2021

Circle Society, Corp. and its owner, David Gilbert Saffron, have been ordered to pay more than $32 million in restitution, disgorgement, and civil monetary penalty for cryptocurrency fraud and misappropriation.  First as an individual, and then through Circle Society, Saffron allegedly solicited millions in Bitcoin and U.S. dollars from at least 179 individuals by making false statements regarding his trading expertise and guaranteed rates of return.  However, rather than trading the fu­nds on foreign currencies and cryptocurrency pairs, Saffron directed­­ portions to his personal cryptocurrency wallet and used other portions to pay prior investors.  CFTC

April 8, 2021

Posted  04/8/21
A man in New Mexico has been ordered to pay over $10.3 million in monetary sanctions and relief after he admitted to running a Ponzi scheme that spanned nearly twenty years.  Instead of investing client funds in U.S. Treasury Bond futures, Douglas Lien misappropriated over $14.2 million from 45 clients, while charging them over $3.5 million in so-called management fees.  Lien has now been permanently banned from...

March 26, 2021

British citizen Benjamin Reynolds, who did business as Control-Finance Limited, has been ordered to pay a total of $571 million – $143 million in restitution and $429 million as a civil penalty – by default judgment in an enforcement action brought by the CFTC.  Reynolds solicited customers on the internet and by e-mail, falsely representing that Control-Finance would engage in virtual currency trades on their behalf, with a guaranteed profit.  Reynolds also created an affiliate marketing network, falsely claiming that he would pay referral bonuses to customers.  In fact, Reynolds made no trades on customers’ behalf, earned no trading profits for them, and paid no referral rewards or bonuses. Over the course of six months in 2017, Reynolds secured at least 22,191 bitcoin, worth $143 million at the time, from more than 1,000 customers worldwide, including at least 169 residing in the U.S.  CFTC

March 19, 2021

The CFTC has ordered digital asset exchange operator Coinbase Inc. to pay a civil monetary penalty of $6.5 million to settle charges of reporting false, misleading, or inaccurate information on the company’s GDAX electronic trading platform, which is published by various reporting firms and used by market participants to gauge the volume and liquidity of digital assets.  The CFTC also found Coinbase vicariously liable for a former employee who placed deceptive orders in Litecoin in order to artificially generate market interest.  CFTC

December 3, 2020

The U.S. affiliate of one of the world’s largest energy trading firms has agreed to resolve investigations by U.S. and Brazilian authorities into alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying a combined $135 million, as well as an additional $16 million in penalty and $12.7 million in disgorgement to the CFTC.  From 2005 to 2020, Vitol Inc. allegedly paid millions of dollars in bribes to government officials in Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico in order to obtain competitive advantages.  Many of the bribes were paid to officials at Brazil’s state-owned and state-controlled oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A., through a series of intermediaries, fictitious companies, fictitious email accounts, and code names.  This is the first action involving foreign corruption that was brought by the CFTC.  CFTC; DOJ; USAO EDNY

October 2, 2020

Jon Barry Thompson of Pennsylvania has been ordered to pay approximately $7.4 million in restitution for making false representations to two customers regarding purchases of Bitcoin.  According to the CFTC press release, Thompson induced the customers to send him the funds by assuring them he had the Bitcoin in hand.  However, after receiving the funds, he distributed the money to third parties, failed to provide the customers with any Bitcoin, and made false representations regarding the location of the Bitcoin and the status of the funds.  Thompson pleaded guilty to one count of commodities fraud in a parallel action relating to this matter, and will be sentenced in January 2021.  CFTC

September 30, 2020

Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC will pay a total of $10 million in civil monetary penalties to the SEC and CFTC.  In an agreement with the SEC, the company will pay a $5 million civil monetary penalty arising from charges that the firm violated the short sale procedures of Regulation SHO. Specifically, Morgan Stanley improperly used “long” and “short” aggregation units when it hedged synthetic exposure to swaps by purchasing or selling the securities referenced in the swaps.  The aggregation units were not independent and did not have separate trading strategies.  As a result, Morgan Stanley should have netted the long and short positions of both units together or across the entire broker-dealer and marked the orders as long or short based on that netting. The CFTC, which also imposed a $5 million penalty, charged that Morgan Stanley failed to comply with swap data reporting obligations, inaccurately reporting swap data for approximately three million swaps. SEC; CFTC
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