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On June 10, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced that it has extended through September 30, 2020, certain aspects of its no-action relief issued in response to Covid-19. The CFTC’s staff letter extends previously issued no-action guidance regarding certain regulatory requirements for persons who are registered with the CFTC as futures commission merchants, introducing brokers, swap dealers, retail foreign exchange dealers, and floor brokers. Certain relief for members of designated contract markets or swap execution facilities that are not registered with the CFTC is also extended. Those relying on relief are expected to establish and maintain a supervisory system to oversee activities of personnel who are working from remote locations during Covid-19.
On May 20, the CFTC’s Division of Enforcement issued new civil monetary penalty guidance—the first such public issuance since 1994. The guidance, which has been incorporated into the Division’s Enforcement Manual, outlines a three-pronged approach enforcement staff will apply when evaluating the appropriate penalty for recommendation to the Commission: (i) “the gravity of the violation,” which may include the nature and scope of a violation, a respondent’s role in the violation, whether the conduct was intentional or willful, and the nature and scope of any consequences resulting from the violations; (ii) “mitigating and aggravating circumstances,” such as a respondent’s post-violation conduct, whether the respondent self-reported the misconduct, the extent of cooperation and remediation, and a respondent’s prior misconduct; and (iii) “other considerations,” including factors such as timely settlements and remedies and monetary relief to be imposed in parallel actions by other criminal authorities or self-regulatory agencies and organizations. “In applying the various factors, staff will be guided by the overarching consideration of ensuring that any proposed penalty achieves the dual goals of specific and general deterrence,” CFTC Director of Enforcement James McDonald stated.
On April 16, the CFTC filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against a commodity trading adviser and the companies he controlled (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly soliciting customers and prospective customers to buy now-delisted and worthless digital tokens. The CFTC alleged that the defendants violated the Commodity Exchange Act by making untrue and materially misleading representations about their digital tokens’ function and the performance of a proprietary foreign exchange trading algorithm that the defendants claimed would deliver high rates of return. According to the CFTC, while the defendants knew that none of the customers could lawfully use the algorithm until the defendants’ risk disclosures were approved by the National Futures Association, they still sold the tokens and raised more than $1.6 million based on the premise that the algorithm was ready to be released on the open market. The CFTC claimed, however, that the disclosures were never approved, customers never gained access to the algorithm, and the tokens were eventually delisted by all the digital asset exchanges. The CFTC seeks to enjoin the defendants’ allegedly unlawful acts and practices and to compel compliance with the Commodity Exchange Act and regulations. In addition, the CFTC seeks restitution, civil money penalties, trading and registration bans, and other statutory, injunctive, or equitable relief as deemed necessary and appropriate.
On March 24, the CFTC approved final interpretive guidance concerning the term “actual delivery” in the context of retail virtual currency transactions. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFTC reaffirmed its belief that virtual currencies are commodities, and thus certain transactions involving these types of currencies are subject to CFTC oversight. In order to demonstrate the “actual delivery” of virtual currency in connection with retail commodity transactions, the final interpretive guidance sets forth two primary factors that market participants must demonstrate:
- A customer has (i) the ability to secure “possession and control of the entire quantity of the commodity, whether it was purchased on margin, by using leverage, or any other financing arrangement”; and (ii) “the ability to use the entire quantity of the commodity freely in commerce (away from any particular execution venue) no later than 28 days from the date of the transaction and at all times thereafter”; and
- “The offeror and counterparty seller (including any of their respective affiliates or other persons acting in concert with the offeror or counterparty seller on a similar basis) do not retain any interest in, legal right, or control over any of the commodity purchased on margin, leverage, or other financing arrangement at the expiration of 28 days from the date of the transaction.”
CFTC Chairman Heath P. Tarbert stated that he anticipates a 90-day period before the CFTC begins initiating enforcement actions related to the final interpretive guidance that may not have been plainly evident in prior guidance, enforcement actions, and case law.
On April 2, the Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, OCC, and SEC (agencies) jointly announced that they would extend the comment period to May 1 on their proposal to modify and streamline the “covered funds” requirements under Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act, commonly known as the Volcker Rule. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the proposed amendments would, among other things, clarify the regulations concerning covered funds and address certain related issues, including permitting the activities of qualifying foreign excluded funds. The comment period originally was scheduled to end April 1. However, due to potential disruptions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the agencies agreed to extend the comment deadline to May 1.
On February 28, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, SEC, and CFTC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) to modify and streamline the “covered funds” requirements under Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act, commonly known as the Volcker Rule. (Previous InfoBytes coverage of the Volcker Rule here). According to the press release, the proposed amendments “would modify and clarify the regulations concerning covered funds and would address certain related issues, including qualifying foreign excluded funds.” Among other things, the amendments to the regulations would (i) “permit the activities of qualifying foreign excluded funds”; (ii) “revise the exclusions from the definition of covered fund for foreign public funds, loan securitizations, and small business investment companies”; (iii) create exclusions from “covered fund credit funds, qualifying venture capital funds, family wealth management vehicles, and customer facilitation vehicles”; (iv) allow certain transactions that would otherwise be prohibited under the so-called “Super 23A” restrictions; (v) redefine “ownership interest”; and (vi) exclude certain investments from “a banking entity’s calculation of its ownership interest in the covered fund.” Comments in response to the NPR must be submitted by April 1.
On February 19, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a joint statement on the U.S. – EU Financial Regulatory Forum held February 11-12 in Washington, D.C. U.S. participants included officials from the Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, SEC, OCC, and Treasury. Forum topics focused on five key themes: “(1) supervision and regulation of cross-border activities, particularly in the areas of derivatives and central clearing; (2) the importance of monitoring market developments, both in relation to financial assets classes, like leveraged loans and collateralized loan obligations, and reference rates, like the London Interbank Offered Rate; (3) implementation of international standards in banking and insurance; (4) regulatory issues presented by fintech/digital finance; and (5) EU regulations related to sustainable finance.”
Among other topics, participants discussed U.S. banking developments concerning prudential requirements for foreign banks, including tailoring standards based on risk; proposed amendments to the Volcker Rule; EU data protection rules; cross-border supervision and data flow in financial services; the transition period following the U.K.’s departure from the EU; and European Commission priorities such as preventing and combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Participants acknowledged the importance of fostering continued dialogue between the U.S. and the EU noting that, “[r]egular communication on supervisory and regulatory issues of mutual concern should foster financial stability, supervisory cooperation, investor protection, market integrity, and a level playing field.”
On January 30, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, SEC, and CFTC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to modify and streamline the “covered funds” requirements under Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act, commonly known as the Volcker Rule (Rule). As previously covered by InfoBytes, last fall the regulators signed off on final revisions to the Rule to simplify and tailor its restrictions on a banking entity’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds. Specifically, the proposed amendments would modify the restrictions for banking entities investing in, sponsoring, or having certain relationships with covered funds, including simplifying provisions related to foreign public funds, loan securitizations, and small business investment companies. The amendments would also, among other things, (i) limit the extraterritorial impact of the Rule on certain foreign funds offered by foreign banks to foreign investors; (ii) modify and propose several existing exclusions to allow banking entities to invest in or sponsor certain types of funds—subject to certain safeguards—such as credit funds, venture capital funds, family wealth management vehicles, and customer facilitation funds; and (iii) permit intraday extensions of credit, payment, clearing, and settlement transactions between a banking entity and covered funds the banking entity advises or sponsors, or with which the banking entity has certain other relationships. Comments will be accepted through April 1.
On January 28, the CFTC announced that it has adopted the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Privacy Framework, making it the first federal agency to do so. The September NIST release of a preliminary draft of the framework described it as “[a] Tool for Improving Privacy through Enterprise Risk Management,” covered by InfoBytes here. Among other things, the privacy framework, which advances guidance to mitigate cybersecurity risk, describes processes to mitigate risks associated with data processing and privacy breaches and to assess current privacy risk management measures. According to the announcement, the CFTC will utilize the framework to “better manage and communicate privacy risk throughout the agency,” making them a leader in the data privacy protection arena.
On January 7, Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO) and Gregory Meeks D-NY) sent a letter to nine federal financial regulators urging them to strengthen their financial infrastructures against possible cyber-attacks in the wake of recent threats against the U.S. from Iran and its allies following the killing of Iranian official Qasem Soleimani. The letter also requests that the regulators coordinate with law enforcement and regulated entities to increase information sharing surrounding cyber threats, and “communicate a strategy to further mitigate existing cyber vulnerabilities within [the U.S.] financial infrastructure by March.” The letter was sent to the Federal Reserve Board, Treasury Department, SEC, FDIC, CFPB, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, National Credit Union Administration, and the OCC.
As previously covered by InfoBytes, NYDFS separately issued an Industry Letter on January 4 warning regulated entities about the “heightened risk” of cyber-attacks by hackers affiliated with the Iranian government. The letter provides recommendations for ensuring quick responses to any suspected cyber incidents, and reminds entities they must inform NYDFS “as promptly as possible but in no event later than 72 hours’ after a material cybersecurity event.”
- Daniel R. Alonso to moderate an interactive roundtable at the Latin Lawyer and GIR Connect: Anti-Corruption & Investigations Conference
- APPROVED Checkpoint Webcast: You have license renewal questions, we have answers
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending” at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss anti-money-laundering at FELABAN Spanish-language webinar “Perspective for banks: LAFT, FINCEN, OFAC, Cryptocurrency”
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "What’s new in BSA/AML compliance?" at the Institute of International Bankers Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Regulatory update: What you need to know under the new boss; It won’t be the same as the old boss" at the IMN Residential Mortgage Service Rights Forum (East)
- Benjamin B. Klubes to discuss “Creating a Fantastic Workplace Culture”
- John R. Coleman and Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “Consumer financial services government enforcement actions – The CFPB and beyond” at the Government Investigations & Civil Litigation Institute Annual Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek