Skip to main content
Menu Icon

InfoBytes Blog

Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.

  • SEC, CFTC join other regulators in approving Volcker Rule revisions

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On September 18, the SEC announced the approval of final revisions to the Volker Rule (the Rule) to simplify and tailor compliance with Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act’s restrictions on a bank’s ability to engage in proprietary trading and own certain funds. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the final revisions were approved by the OCC and FDIC at the end of August, and the Federal Reserve Board is expected to adopt the changes in the near future. In approving the revisions, Chairman Jay Clayton stated that the SEC collaborated with the other federal regulatory agencies to ensure the changes would “effectively implement statutory mandates without imposing undue burdens on participants in our markets, including imposing unnecessary costs or reducing access to capital and liquidity.” Chairman Clayton emphasized that the revisions draw on the agencies’ “collective experience in implementing the rule and overseeing compliance in our complex marketplace over a number of years.”

    Earlier, on September 16, the CFTC announced a 3-2 vote to approve the final revisions. Commissioner Tarbert stated that the final revisions would provide banking entities and their affiliates with “greater clarity and certainty about what activities are permitted under” the Rule as well as reduce compliance burdens. In voting against the approval, Commissioner Behnam issued a dissenting statement expressing, among other things, concerns about “narrowing the scope of financial instruments subject to the [] Rule,” which would limit the Rule’s scope “so significantly that it no longer will provide meaningful constraints on speculative proprietary trading by banks.” Commissioner Berkovitz also dissented, arguing that the revisions “will render enforcement of the [R]ule difficult if not impossible by leaving implementation of significant requirements to the discretion of the banking entities, creating presumptions of compliance that would be nearly impossible to overcome, and eliminating numerous reporting requirements.” Commissioner Berkovitz also criticized the rulemaking process that led to the final revisions, arguing that a number of the changes were not adequately discussed in the notice of proposed rulemaking process, including amendments to the “accounting prong” and the rebuttable presumption of proprietary trading.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance SEC CFTC OCC FDIC Volcker Rule Bank Holding Company Act

  • 9th Circuit upholds CFTC fraud enforcement power


    On July 25, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that the Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC) had the enforcement authority to bring a $290 million fraud action against a trading platform, concluding that the district court improperly dismissed the action. According to the opinion, the CFTC brought an action against a trading platform alleging that it was an illegal and unregistered leveraged retail commodity transaction market for precious metals. The platform moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the Dodd-Frank Act did not give the CFTC the power to pursue stand-alone fraud claims without allegations of manipulation and that the Commodity Exchange Act’s “registration provisions do not apply to retail commodities dealers who ‘actual[ly] deliver[]’ the commodities to customers within twenty-eight days.” The district court agreed, and dismissed the action.

    On appeal, the 9th Circuit concluded the district court erred in dismissing the CFTC’s claims, holding that the CFTC had the authority under Section 6(c)(1) of the CEA to take action against the entity for fraudulently deceptive activity. Specifically, the appellate court held that the CFTC could bring an action for “fraudulently deceptive activity, regardless of whether it was also manipulative,” concluding the district court erred when it interpreted the use of the word “or” in the CEA’s prohibition of the use of “any manipulative or deceptive device or contrivance” to mean “and.” Moreover, the appellate court rejected the platform’s “actual delivery” argument, concluding that the platform’s practice of storing the goods in depositories,  and “maintain[ing] total control over accounts,” with the ability to liquidate at any time, amounts to “sham delivery, not actual delivery.” The appellate court looked to the legislative history of Dodd-Frank and observed that, “[i]f Congress wanted only to ensure enough inventory it could have said so. It did not; it required ‘actual delivery,’” which would require some “meaningful degree of possession or control by the customer.”

    Courts Appellate Ninth Circuit CFTC Enforcement Dodd-Frank Commodity Exchange Act Fraud

  • Agencies again defer action against foreign funds under Volcker Rule

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On July 17, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Board, and the OCC (collectively, the “agencies”) announced that they will not take action against foreign banks for qualifying foreign excluded funds, subject to certain conditions, under the Volcker Rule for an additional two years. The announcement notes that the agencies consulted with the SEC and the CFTC on the decision. Since 2017, the agencies have deferred action on qualifying foreign funds that might be covered under the Volcker Rule (covered by InfoBytes here and here). In a joint statement, the agencies note that they have not finalized revisions to regulations implementing Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act, and in order to “provide interested parties greater certainty about the treatment of qualifying foreign excluded funds in the near term,” the agencies are proposing not to take action through July 21, 2021.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Volcker Rule FDIC Bank Compliance Of Interest to Non-US Persons Federal Reserve SEC CFTC

  • Agencies adopt final rules excluding community banks from the Volcker Rule; simplify regulatory capital rules

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On July 9, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed), CFTC, FDIC, OCC, and SEC adopted a final rule implementing sections of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act to grant an exclusion for community banks from the Volcker Rule, which generally restricts banking entities from engaging in proprietary trading and from owning, sponsoring, or having certain relationships with hedge funds or private equity funds. Qualifying financial institutions must have fewer than $10 billion in total consolidated assets and total trading assets, as well as liabilities that are equal to or less than five percent of their total consolidated assets. The rule also permits, under certain circumstances, a hedge fund or private equity fund organized and offered by a banking entity to share a name with a banking entity that is its investment advisor that is not an insured bank or bank holding company. The rule will take effect upon publication in the Federal Register.

    The same day, the Fed, FDIC, and OCC also finalized a rule “intended to simplify and clarify a number of the more complex aspects of the agencies’ existing regulatory capital rules” for banks with less than $250 billion in total consolidated assets and less than $10 billion in total foreign exposure. Among other changes, the rule alters the capital treatment for mortgage servicing assets, certain deferred tax assets, as well as investments in the capital instruments of unconsolidated financial institutions. The final rule will be effective as of April 1, 2020, for the amendments to simplify capital rules, and as of October 1, 2019 for revisions to the pre-approval requirements for the redemption of common stock and other technical amendments.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve CFTC FDIC OCC SEC Compliance Volcker Rule EGRRCPA

  • CFTC awards a reduced $2.5 million to whistleblower after reporting delay


    On June 24, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced a whistleblower award of approximately $2.5 million to an individual who reported information that led to a successful enforcement action. The CFTC noted that the award was reduced because of the individual’s unreasonable delay in reporting the violations to the CFTC. CFTC officials emphasized that while there may be reasons to delay reporting, “[this] case illustrates the importance of reporting violations to the CFTC as soon as reasonably possible. Reporting early lessens the harm violators can inflict on the public and hastens our investigations to bring the culprits to justice.” The associated order does not provide details of the information provided or the related enforcement action. Since 2014, the CFTC has awarded over $90 million to whistleblowers, whose information has led to more than $730 million in sanctions.

    Securities CFTC Whistleblower

  • CFTC charges U.K. company with fraudulent bitcoin scheme


    On June 18, the CFTC announced it filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against a United Kingdom-based bitcoin trading and investment company and its principal (collectively, “defendants”) for allegedly fraudulently obtaining and misappropriating almost 23,000 bitcoin from more than 1,000 customers. The CFTC alleges the defendants violated the Commodity Exchange Act by fraudulently soliciting customers to purchase bitcoin with cash and then deposit the bitcoin in accounts controlled by the defendants. The CFTC alleges that the defendants misrepresented that they “employed expert virtual currency traders who earned guaranteed daily trading profits on customers’ Bitcoin deposits.” Additionally, the CFTC alleges the defendants also fabricated weekly trade reports and “manufactured an aura of profitability” by depositing new customer bitcoin purchases to other customer accounts. The scheme, according to the CFTC, obtained almost 23,000 bitcoins “from more than 1,000 members of the public,” “which reached valuation of at least $147 million.” The CFTC is seeking civil monetary penalties, restitution, rescission, disgorgement, trading and registration bans, and injunctive relief against further violations of the federal commodity laws.


    Securities CFTC Virtual Currency Courts Bitcoin

  • CFTC, SEC settle with foreign trading platform conducting Bitcoin transactions without proper registration


    On March 4, the CFTC resolved an action taken against a foreign trading platform and its CEO (defendants) for allegedly offering and selling security-based swaps to U.S. customers without registering as a futures commission merchant or designated contract market with the CFTC. The CFTC alleged that the platform permitted customers to transact in “contracts for difference,” which were transactions to exchange the difference in value of an underlying asset between the time at which the trading position was established and the time at which it was terminated. The transactions were initiated through, and settled in, Bitcoin. The CFTC alleged that these transactions constituted “retail commodity transactions,” which would have required the platform to receive the proper registration.

    According to the CFTC, the defendants, among other things, (i) neglected to register as a futures commission merchant with the CFTC; and (ii) failed to comply with required anti-money laundering procedures, including implementing an adequate know-your-customer/customer identification program. The consent order entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia imposes a civil monetary penalty of $175,000 and requires the disgorgement of $246,000 of gains. The consent order also requires the defendants to certify to the CFTC the liquidation of all U.S. customer accounts and the repayment of approximately $570,000 worth of Bitcoins to U.S. customers.

    In a parallel action, the SEC entered into a final judgment the same day to resolve claims that, among other things, the defendants failed to properly register as a security-based swaps dealer. The defendants are permanently restrained and enjoined from future violations of the Securities Act of 1933 and are required to pay disgorgement of approximately $53,393. This action demonstrates the potential application of CFTC and SEC registration requirements to non-U.S. companies engaging in covered transactions with U.S. customers.

    Securities SEC CFTC Settlement Bitcoin Civil Money Penalties Enforcement Commodity Exchange Act Anti-Money Laundering Of Interest to Non-US Persons Courts

  • CFTC adds self-reporting of foreign corrupt practices by non-registrants to cooperation program

    Financial Crimes

    On March 6, the CFTC issued an enforcement advisory announcing that it would add violations of the Commodity Exchange Act involving foreign corrupt practices to its cooperation and self-reporting program. The CFTC will recommend no civil monetary penalty where companies and individuals which are not registered (or required to be registered) with the CFTC timely and voluntarily disclose such violations. Full cooperation and appropriate remediation would also be required. In announcing the enforcement advisory, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement stated at the ABA’s National Institute on White Collar Crime that the change “reflects the enhanced cooperation between the CFTC and our law enforcement partners like the Department of Justice.” He also stated that the agency currently has open investigations into various foreign corrupt practices that violate the Commodity Exchange Act, including bribes that “secure business in connection with regulated activities,” manipulation of benchmarks, “prices that are the product of corruption [being] falsely reported to benchmarks,” and corrupt practices altering the commodity markets.

    Financial Crimes CFTC DOJ Commodity Exchange Act White Collar Of Interest to Non-US Persons

  • Agencies release proposed community bank Volcker Rule exemption

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On December 18, the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Board, the OCC, the SEC, and the CFTC (collectively, the Agencies) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend regulations implementing Section 13 of the Bank Holding Company Act (known as, the “Volcker Rule”) to be consistent with Sections 203 and 204 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the Act). (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.) Consistent with Section 203 of the Act, the proposal would exempt community banks from the restrictions of the Volcker Rule if they, and every entity that controls them, have (i) total consolidated assets equal to or less than $10 billion; and (ii) total trading assets and liabilities that are equal to or less than five percent of their total consolidated assets.

    The proposal also, consistent with Section 204 of the Act, would permit a hedge fund or private equity fund organized and offered by a banking entity to share a name with a banking entity that is its investment advisor, if (i) the advisor is not an insured depository institution, does not control a depository institution, and is not treated as a bank holding company under the International Banking Act; (ii) the advisor does not share a name with any such entities; and (iii) the shared name does not include "bank."

    Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Volcker Rule EGRRCPA OCC SEC FDIC CFTC Federal Reserve Bank Holding Company Act

  • District Court concludes a small virtual currency is a “commodity” under the Commodities Exchange Act


    On September 26, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied a virtual currency trading company’s motion to dismiss, concluding that smaller virtual currencies are commodities that may be regulated by the CFTC. In January, the CFTC bought an action alleging the company violated the Commodities Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC Regulation 180.1(a) by making false or misleading statements and omitting material facts when offering the sale of their company’s virtual currency. For example, the complaint alleges that the company falsely stated that its virtual currency was backed by gold, could be used anywhere Mastercard was accepted, and was being actively traded on several currency exchanges. Moreover, while consumers who purchased the virtual currency could view their accounts, they were unable to trade it or withdraw funds from their accounts with the company. The company moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the conduct did not involve a “commodity,” specifically one that underlies a futures contract, under the CEA. In denying the motion to dismiss, the court determined that Congress intended for the CEA to cover a certain “class” of items and specific items within that class are then “dealt in.” Because the company offered a type of “virtual currency” and it is “undisputed that there is futures trading in virtual currencies (specifically involving Bitcoin),” the court held that the CFTC sufficiently alleged the company’s product is a “commodity” under the CEA. The court also rejected the company’s other arguments, determining Regulation 180.1(a) was meant to combat the fraud alleged by the CFTC, notwithstanding its use of the term “market manipulation,” and the CFTC adequately pleaded the fraudulent claim under the regulation.  

    Courts Virtual Currency CFTC Regulation Fraud Fintech


Upcoming Events