Tag Archives: CFTC

CFTC Charges Former Hawaii Resident in Forex and Futures Ponzi Scheme

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today filed a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii against Gregory Demetrius Bryant, Jr., formerly of Hawaii, for fraudulent solicitation, misappropriation, operation of an unlawful commodity pool, and failure to register with the CFTC.

According to the complaint, Bryant fraudulently solicited approximately $426,000 from at least 35 participants for pooled futures and foreign currency (forex) trading—misappropriating at least $356,000 to pay personal expenses, including international travel, shopping, and rent, as well as at least $66,000 to make Ponzi payments to conceal and further his fraudulent scheme.

Case Background

The complaint alleges that since approximately September 2016 through at least June 2020, Bryant—while using the alias “Gregory Surrey England,” purported president of the nonexistent company “Surrey Libor Capital, LLC”—falsely guaranteed monthly futures and forex trading returns of $6,000 to $8,000 in some instances and 60 percent to 80 percent in other instances. It is further alleged that Bryant made numerous false statements to prospective and current pool participants about his trading experience, his trading success, and being registered with the National Futures Association. According to the complaint, Bryant also failed to tell pool participants that he was a convicted criminal with a history of financial problems, including three bankruptcies.

Rather than trade futures and forex as he represented in his solicitations, Bryant, as alleged, misappropriated the vast majority of pool funds for personal expenses and to make purported “returns” to pool participants. Bryant further concealed his fraud and misappropriation of pool participants’ funds by falsely telling them their accounts were “in great shape,” to expect returns or disbursements soon, and/or that his business was being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks restitution, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, permanent trading and registration bans, and a permanent injunction against further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations, as charged.

The CFTC acknowledges and thanks the National Futures Association, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii for their assistance.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Elsie Robinson, Rachel Hayes, Jenny Chapin, Jeff Le Riche, Christopher Reed, Charles Marvine, and former staff member Jo Mettenburg.

CFTC’s Commodity Pool and Forex Fraud Advisories

The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Commodity Pool Fraud Advisory and the Forex Fraud Advisory, which alert customers these types of fraud and list simple ways to spot them.

The CFTC also strongly urges the public to verify a company’s or individual’s registration with the CFTC before committing funds. If unregistered, a customer should be wary of providing funds to that company or individual. A company’s or individual’s registration status can be found using NFA BASIC.

Customers and other individuals can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the Division of Enforcement via a toll-free hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382), file a tip or complaint online, or contact the Whistleblower Office. Whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 10 and 30 percent of the monetary sanctions collected paid from the Customer Protection Fund financed through monetary sanctions paid to the CFTC by violators of the CEA. 

Federal Court Orders Virginia Resident to Pay More Than $5 Million for Futures and Options Fraud

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced today that Judge John A. Gibney, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia entered a Consent Order for Permanent Injunction, Restitution and Ancillary Equitable Relief against defendant Leonard J. Cipolla finding, among other things, that Cipolla fraudulently solicited individuals to place funds in a commodity pool to trade futures and options while misappropriating more than $5 million of the money he was given to trade. The order requires that Cipolla pay restitution of $5,102,283.51 and imposes permanent trading and registration bans.

The order resolves a CFTC action against Cipolla filed in the Eastern District of Virginia on September 19, 2019. [See CFTC Press Release No. 8020-19] Litigation against Cipolla’s company, Tate Street Trading, Inc., continues. 

Case Background

According to the order, and as Cipolla admitted, from June 2009 through April 2019, Cipolla fraudulently solicited and received approximately $7,096,303 from pool participants in connection with futures and options pooled trading. The order also found that Cipolla misappropriated more than $2.5 million for business expenses or personal use and made more than $3 million in Ponzi-like payments to pool participants.  

Despite having accepted approximately $7,096,303 from pool participants, the order found that Cipolla transferred only approximately $1,462,834 into Tate Street’s trading accounts. While Cipolla typically promised pool participants substantial returns, his actual trading between June 2009 and April 2019 was profitable in only two years and resulted in cumulative net losses of approximately $1,462,305. The order also found that Cipolla provided statements to pool participants that did not accurately reflect their trading results.

Parallel Criminal Action

In a separate, parallel criminal action, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia previously announced that Cipolla pleaded guilty to mail fraud and acting as an unregistered commodity pool operator in connection with the scheme. On July 1, 2020, Cipolla was sentenced to 121 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution to victims. [See United States v. Leonard J. Cipolla, Case No. 3:19-cr-00126, ECF No. 40 (E.D. Va. Jul. 1, 2020)]

The CFTC cautions that orders requiring repayment of funds to victims may not result in the recovery of any money lost because the wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets. The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure the wrongdoers are held accountable.

The CFTC appreciates the cooperation and assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in this matter.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are James A. Garcia, Michael Loconte, James Deacon, Erica Bodin and Rick Glaser.

Federal Court Orders Oregon Owner of Precious Metals Firm to Pay $1.3 Million to Victims of Fraudulent Precious Metals Scheme

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today announced that the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington entered a consent order against Aaron Michael Scott of Portland, Oregon for fraud and misappropriation in connection with a precious metals scheme run by Scott and his now defunct company, BMC Worldwide, Inc. (d/b/a Blue Moon Coins).  The order requires Scott to pay $1,381,461.86 in restitution to defrauded customers. Additionally, the order prohibits Scott from further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations and permanently bans him from registering with the CFTC and trading in any commodity interests.

Case Background

The order resolves a CFTC action against Scott for engaging in fraud and misappropriation in connection with a gold-and-silver scheme from at least October 2013 through April 2014. The case was filed on October 3, 2018. [See CFTC Press Release No. 7822-18]

The order finds that Scott and BMC fraudulently represented that BMC was a highly successful precious metals firm. As detailed in the order, Scott and BMC persuaded customers to purchase gold and silver from BMC by claiming that, among other things, they maintained an inventory of precious metals in stock and would fulfill a customer’s order from that inventory or would purchase precious metals from a supplier upon receipt of payment.

The order also states that Scott and BMC did not maintain an inventory of precious metals sufficient to fulfill customer orders and, in many cases, made no effort to secure the precious metals needed to fulfill customer orders. Instead, they misappropriated the vast majority of customer funds and used them to pay BMC’s operating expenses, invest in other businesses, pay unrelated debts, and refund disgruntled customers or fulfill other customer orders in the nature of a Ponzi scheme.

Parallel Criminal Action

In a separate, parallel criminal action, Scott pleaded guilty to wire fraud on November 1, 2018. [United States v. Scott, No. CR18-5500-RBL (W.D. WA.)]  The court sentenced Scott to four years in prison and three years of supervised release on April 5, 2019. The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.

The CFTC cautions that orders requiring repayment of funds to victims may not result in the recovery of any money lost because the wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets. The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure wrongdoers are held accountable.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Stephen Turley, Jenny Chapin, Brett Shanks, Jeff Le Riche, Christopher Reed, and Charles Marvine, as well as former staff members James Humphrey, Peter Riggs, and Jo Mettenburg. 

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CFTC’s Precious Metals Customer Fraud Advisory

The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Precious Metals Fraud Advisory, which alerts customers to precious metals fraud and lists simple ways to spot precious metals scams.

Also, before investing or trading with a firm, check the firm’s registration status and disciplinary history, if registered, with the National Futures Association. A company’s registration status can be found at: www.nfa.futures.org/basicnet.

Customers and other individuals can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the Division of Enforcement via a toll-free hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382), file a tip or complaint online, or contact the CFTC Whistleblower Office at whistleblower.gov. Whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 10 and 30 percent of the monetary sanctions collected paid from the CFTC Customer Protection Fund financed through monetary sanctions paid to the CFTC by violators of the Act.

CFTC Orders New York Man to Pay More than $1 Million for Role in Fraudulent Binary Options Scheme

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today issued an order filing and settling charges against Glenn Olson formerly of Brooklyn, New York, for his role in a binary options fraud that harmed U.S. customers involving Blue Bit Banc, a United Kingdom company, and Blue Bit Analytics, Ltd, located in Turks and Caicos.

The order requires Olson to disgorge all of his ill-gotten gains, totaling $241,070. He is also ordered to pay restitution of $846,405, a joint obligation with others found liable and enjoined by a federal court in a prior CFTC enforcement action. [See CFTC v. Kantor, No. 18-cv-2247-SJF-ARL (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 23, 2019) and CFTC Press Release No. 8069-19] Olson is also ordered to cease and desist from further violating the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations, from trading on or subject to the rules of any CFTC-registered entity, and from engaging in any activities requiring registration with the CFTC. 

Case Background

The order finds—and Olson admitted—that from approximately April 2014 through March 2018, he was affiliated with Blue Bit Banc and related entities, selling binary options to customers for Blue Bit using alias names and also supervising other sales staff at Blue Bit’s Manhattan office. Olson also admitted that, as part of the scheme, he and others misrepresented the profitability of trading through Blue Bit, manipulated or fabricated purported trades in their customers’ accounts to the customers’ disadvantage, prevented customers from withdrawing funds, and misappropriated customer funds.

The order states that Olson also admitted he knowingly made false statements, omitted statements of material fact, and took other actions to defraud customers, while receiving disbursements totaling $241,070.30. In addition, Olson was involved in the conversion of some customers’ Blue Bit account holdings into ATM Coin, a worthless cryptocurrency that was represented as being worth substantial money. According to the order, at least 27 customers lost a total of $846,405 as a result of the fraudulent scheme.  

The CFTC cautions victims that restitution orders may not result in the recovery of money lost, because wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets. The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure the wrongdoers are held accountable.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Susan Padove, Joseph Patrick, David Terrell, Scott Williamson, and Robert Howell.

CFTC’s Binary Options Fraud Advisories

The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Binary Options and Fraud Advisory, which alerts customers to this type of fraud and list simple ways to spot it.

The CFTC also strongly urges the public to verify a company’s registration with the Commission before committing funds. If unregistered, a customer should be wary of providing funds to that entity. A company’s registration status can be found using NFA BASIC.

Customers can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the CFTC Division of Enforcement via a toll-free hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382) or file a tip or complaint online.

Federal Court Orders UK Man to Pay More Than $571 Million for Operating Fraudulent Bitcoin Trading Scheme

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today announced that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a default judgment against Benjamin Reynolds, purportedly of Manchester, England, finding that he operated a fraudulent scheme to solicit bitcoin from members of the public and misappropriated customers’ bitcoin. This case was brought in connection with the Division of Enforcement’s Digital Assets Task Force.

The court’s March 2, 2021 order requires Reynolds to pay nearly $143 million in restitution to defrauded customers and a civil monetary penalty of $429 million. The order also permanently enjoins Reynolds from engaging in conduct that violates the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations, registering with the CFTC, and trading in any CFTC-regulated markets.

The judgment is the result of a 2019 enforcement action brought by the CFTC charging Reynolds, conducting business as Control-Finance Limited, with fraud and misappropriation. [See CFTC Press Release No. 7938-19]

Case Background

Between May 2017 and October 2017, Reynolds used a public website, various social media accounts, and email communications to solicit at least 22,190.542 bitcoin, valued at approximately $143 million at the time, from more than 1,000 customers worldwide, including at least 169 individuals residing in the U.S. 

Among other things, Reynolds falsely represented to customers that Control-Finance traded their bitcoin deposits in virtual currency markets and employed specialized virtual currency traders who generated guaranteed trading profits for all customers. He also constructed an elaborate affiliate marketing network that relied on fraudulently promising to pay outsized referral profits, rewards, and bonuses to encourage customers to refer new customers to Control-Finance. In fact, Reynolds made no trades on customers’ behalf, earned no trading profits for them, and paid them no referral rewards or bonuses. While Reynolds represented that he would return all bitcoin deposits to customers of Control-Finance by late October 2017, he never did and instead retained the deposits for his own personal use. Customers lost most or all of their bitcoin deposits as a result of the scheme.

The CFTC cautions victims that restitution orders may not result in the recovery of any money lost because the wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets. The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure wrongdoers are held accountable.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the British Columbia Securities Commission and the UK Financial Conduct Authority. 

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this action are Dmitriy Vilenskiy, Kyong J. Koh, Julia C. Colarusso, Hillary Van Tassel, Jonah E. McCarthy, A. Daniel Ullman II, Luke B. Marsh, and Paul G. Hayeck. Additionally, Daniel J. Grimm and John Einstman contributed to the case while members of the Division of Enforcement. CFTC staff members, Christopher Giglio, Lauren Fulks, and Mary Lutz, also assisted in this matter.

Federal Court Orders North Carolina Man to Pay Over $255,000 in Futures and Forex Fraud Scheme

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today announced that Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, entered a consent order against Mark N. Pyatt, of North Carolina, imposing a permanent injunction and ordering Pyatt to make restitution in the amount of $255,850. The order also permanently bans Pyatt from registering with the CFTC and from trading commodity futures and retail foreign exchange contracts (forex). In the order, Pyatt admitted to fraudulently soliciting individuals to place funds in a commodity pool and to misappropriating most of the funds he solicited.

The consent order resolves a CFTC case against Pyatt that was filed in the Western District of North Carolina on February 10, 2020. [See CFTC Press Release No. 8120-20] The CFTC’s litigation continues against Pyatt’s company, Winston Reed Investments LLC.

The consent order finds that from at least April 2017 to February 2019, Pyatt accepted $276,850 from pool participants to trade commodity futures and forex. The consent order also finds that Pyatt misappropriated most of pool participants’ funds for business expenses and personal use, and to make Ponzi-like payments to other pool participants, while using only a fraction of the funds to trade. In addition, despite overall net trading losses, Pyatt sent reports to investors claiming profits of between 18.8 percent to 86.5 percent per month.

Related Criminal Action

In a parallel criminal action, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina announced that Pyatt pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with the scheme. On October 27, 2020, Pyatt was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution to his victims. [See United States v. Mark Nicholas Pyatt, Case No. 1:20-cr-00016, ECF No. 42 (W.D.N.C. Nov. 5, 2020)]

The CFTC cautions that orders requiring repayment of funds to victims may not result in the recovery of any money lost because the wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets. The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure the wrongdoers are held accountable.

The CFTC appreciates the cooperation and assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina in this matter.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Michael Loconte, James A. Garcia, Erica Bodin, and Rick Glaser.

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CFTC’s Foreign Currency (Forex) Fraud Advisory

The CFTC has issued several customer protection fraud advisories, including the Forex Fraud Advisory, which provides information about a type of fraud involving the trading of foreign currencies and how customers can detect, avoid, and report these scams.

Customers can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the Division of Enforcement via a toll-free hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382) or file a tip or complaint online.

Federal Court Orders Interdealer Broker to Pay $7 Million for Deceptive Trading Practices in the FX Options Markets

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today announced the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a consent order against defendants TFS-ICAP LLC and TFS-ICAP Ltd., interdealer brokers located in New York and London, requiring them to pay a $7 million civil monetary penalty for representing to clients bids and offers that had not been made, and for communicating to clients trades that had not occurred. In the order, TFS-ICAP admits that its employees engaged in the misconduct, known as “flying” prices and “printing” trades, that violated the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), as charged. 

The order also finds that TFS-ICAP, its former CEO Ian Dibb, and its former Emerging Markets desks head Jeremy Woolfenden failed to supervise diligently TFS-ICAP broker conduct. The order resolves the CFTC enforcement action filed on September 28, 2018. [See CFTC Press Release No. 7816-18] Defendants Dibb and Woolfenden are each subject to a $500,000 civil monetary penalty for their individual supervisory failures and have both agreed to not apply for registration or claim exemptions from registration with the CFTC in any capacity, or engage in any activity requiring such registration or exemption from registration with the CFTC, for five years.

“Brokers and other intermediaries play a critical role in our markets. The CFTC will act to ensure that these entities communicate and report honest and accurate pricing information to protect the integrity of the markets,” said CFTC Acting Director of Enforcement Vince McGonagle. “We are also committed to holding corporate managers who have regulatory supervisory responsibilities accountable to ensure policies and procedures are in place that would have prohibited, and could have deterred, unlawful conduct from occurring.”

Case Background

The order finds that between January 2014 and August 2015, TFS-ICAP brokers represented to U.S.-based bank clients that there were bids or offers for an FX option at a particular level when, in fact, no trading institution had bid or offered the option at that level. The order also finds that TFS-ICAP brokers on the Emerging Markets desks in both London and New York communicated to one or more U.S.-based bank clients that trades had occurred when a trade had not, in fact, occurred. In the FX options industry these practices are referred to as “flying” prices and “printing” trades. TFS-ICAP admits this conduct violated provisions of the CEA and CFTC regulations, which prohibit fraudulent and deceptive practices, and posting non-bona fide prices.

With respect to the conduct of Dibb, a CFTC registrant, the order finds that he was ultimately responsible for ensuring that TFS-ICAP broker conduct was in compliance with the law. Mr. Woolfenden, who is also a CFTC registrant, had supervisory responsibility over all TFS-ICAP brokers on the Emerging Markets desks in New York and London. Both Dibb and Woolfenden were responsible for maintaining and enforcing a reasonable system of internal supervision.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the UK Financial Conduct Authority, which on November 23, 2020 announced sanctions against TFS-ICAP Ltd. The CFTC also appreciates the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General for the State of New York.

The Division of Enforcement staff responsible for this case are Sam Wasserman, Elizabeth May, Christopher Giglio, K. Brent Tomer, Lenel Hickson, Jr., and Manal M. Sultan.

Federal Court Orders Colorado Company to Pay Over $900,000 for Digital Asset and Forex Ponzi Scheme

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced that the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado entered a judgment against defendants Venture Capital Investments LLC (VCI) and its principal and manager Breonna Clark d/b/a Eliot Clark d/b/a Alexander Pak (Clark), both of Denver, Colorado, for fraudulently soliciting and misappropriating funds from clients in a digital asset and forex Ponzi scheme.

The order requires VCI and Clark to pay $450,302 in restitution to defrauded clients, a civil monetary penalty of $450,302 and the CFTC’s costs. Additionally, the defendants are now permanently enjoined from engaging in conduct that violates the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations, as well as banned from registering with the CFTC and trading in any CFTC-regulated markets.

Case Background

The order stems from a complaint filed on February 14, 2020. [See CFTC Release No.  8118-20] The court ruled that the defendants fraudulently solicited more than 72 clients to invest in commodity pools that purportedly trade in forex and digital assets, including bitcoin, only to then misappropriate the money. Further, the court found that the defendants lured their clients primarily by using social media, touting the ability of their purported “master team of traders” to provide consistent trading profits. The court found that the defendants misappropriated their clients’ money to acquire, among other things, a luxury automobile. The defendants also used their clients’ money to make Ponzi-type payments to others to maintain the scheme. In total, the defendants fraudulently solicited and misappropriated $450,302.

The CFTC cautions victims that restitution orders may not result in the recovery of money lost because the wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets. The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure the wrongdoers are held accountable.

The CFTC thanks and acknowledges the assistance of the Financial Supervision Commission of Bulgaria, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Financial Services Authority, the Financial Services Authority of Seychelles, the United Kingdom Financial Conduct Authority, and the Financial Markets Authority of New Zealand.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Erica Bodin, Kevin Samuel, Kim Bruno, Michael Solinsky, and Rick Glaser.   

 

 CFTC’s Foreign Currency (Forex) Fraud Advisory

The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Foreign Currency (Forex) Trading Fraud Advisory, to help customers identify these scams.

The CFTC also strongly urges the public to verify a company’s registration with the Commission before committing funds. If unregistered, a customer should be wary of providing funds to that entity. A company’s registration status can be found using NFA BASIC.

Customers and other individuals can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the Division of Enforcement via a toll-free hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382) or file a tip or complaint online.

CFTC and South African Reserve Bank Announce Cooperative Effort to Promote Fintech Innovation

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) today announced they have signed a Statement of Intent to cooperate and support innovation through each authority’s respective financial technology (fintech) initiative—CFTC’s LabCFTC and SARB’s Fintech Unit.

“We welcome the opportunity for enhanced cooperation with our South African colleagues to promote responsible fintech innovation. This arrangement builds on recent efforts by the CFTC to strengthen international collaboration in this realm,” said CFTC Chairman Heath P. Tarbert, referencing the agency’s 2018 arrangements with authorities in the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Australia, and the 2019 joining of the Global Financial Innovation Network. “Coordinating with our international partners has many benefits, including helping us keep up with the rapid pace of technological changes in our markets.”

Collaboration amongst authorities is increasingly becoming a crucial component to understanding approaches to fintech innovation. Such collaborative efforts will promote ongoing joint knowledge sharing on complex fintech matters.

The Statement of Intent on Cooperation and the Exchange of Information on Financial Technology Innovation focuses on information sharing regarding fintech market trends and developments. It is also designed to facilitate referrals of fintech businesses and the sharing of information and insights derived from each authority’s experiences and relevant events, proofs of concept, trials, or innovation competitions. The arrangement will support both authorities’ efforts to facilitate market-enhancing fintech innovation and ensure international cooperation on emerging regulatory best practices.

About LabCFTC

In service to the CFTC’s goal of encouraging innovation and enhancing the regulatory experience for market participants at home and abroad, LabCFTC’s mission is to be the FACE of innovation within the Commission in promoting responsible innovation among financial industry, stakeholders, and policymakers by:

  • Facilitating dialogue between innovators and those within the CFTC on financial and technological innovations;
  • Advancing policy and regulation in financial innovation;
  • Coordinating internally and externally with International, Federal, and State regulators, organizations, and associations; and
  • Educating internal and external stakeholders on financial technology and innovation in the financial markets to identify how innovations are being used.

Visit cftc.gov/LabCFTC for more information and sign up here for important LabCFTC updates.

About SARB’s Fintech Unit

The Fintech Unit was established in 2017, to further the SARB’s efforts to embrace fintech innovation whilst ensuring appropriate alignment to policies, regulations, and supervisory regimes.

Federal Court Orders Pennsylvania Man and His Companies to Pay More Than $1.2 Million in Forex Trading Scheme

Washington, D.C. — The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today announced that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania entered an order of default judgment finding that Michael Salerno of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and his companies Black Diamond Forex LP, BDF Trading LP, and Advanta FX, fraudulently solicited members of the public to become foreign currency (forex) traders. The defendants are required to pay more than $1.2 million.  

The court’s September 24, 2020 order requires the defendants to pay $335,149 in restitution and a civil monetary penalty of $894,000, and also requires that Black Diamond Investment Group pay $1,488 in disgorgement. Additionally, the order permanently enjoins the defendants from engaging in conduct that violates the Commodity Exchange Act, from registering with the CFTC, and from trading in any CFTC-regulated markets.

The order resolves a CFTC enforcement action filed on April 17, 2018 charging the defendants with fraudulent misrepresentations and misuse of funds. [See CFTC Press Release No. 7718-18]

The CFTC charged that beginning in at least January 2017 and continuing through at least March 2018, Salerno and his Pennsylvania companies solicited individuals on websites such as LinkedIn and Indeed.com and their own websites to become forex traders. Defendants required prospective traders to pay risk deposits that defendants falsely promised to match with some multiple of company funds in proprietary forex trading accounts, and falsely promised to share a portion of the trading profits with the traders and to pay performance bonuses. They also falsely touted Salerno’s successful forex trading career, and falsely assured prospective traders that Salerno had amassed no less than $9.5 million in real estate sales that he was using to fund his proprietary trading companies. In reality, Salerno had not traded successfully in the forex markets, had filed for bankruptcy in the same year he claimed to have made real estate sales, and had been convicted of a felony and sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2005. Moreover, defendants never established live trading accounts for anyone, and misappropriated the risk deposits. 

The CFTC cautions victims that restitution orders may not always result in the recovery of money lost, because wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets. The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure wrongdoers are held accountable.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this action are Elizabeth M. Streit, Joy McCormack, and Scott Williamson, as well as former staff member Barry Blankfield.