US Senate ponder Covid relief bill during rare holiday time in Washington
As of this writing, the U.S. Senate is in session debating the COVID-19 pandemic relief bill. One core issue: whether $600 in taxpayer aid should be increased to $2,000. Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, reiterated that the additional aid is needed immediately and that these funds won’t be put away for a rainy day but will be injected immediately into jump starting the economy. As of 3:30 pm AST, the Senate was still making its quorum call and waiting for additional senators to speak. President Donald Trump threw a wrench into the relief discussions when he expressed support for $2,000 per eligible taxpayer.
Two Republicans in the Senate, brought additional attention to themselves by joining the President in support of increasing monetary support. Senator Kelly Loeffler and Senator David Perdue, both of Georgia, are facing tough run-off elections scheduled for 5 January 2021.
Legal/Political events impacting foreign and cryptocurrency exchanges
SEC Issues Statement and Requests Comment Regarding the Custody of Digital Asset Securities by Special Purpose Broker-Dealers
Washington D.C., Dec. 23, 2020 —
The Securities and Exchange Commission today issued a statement and request for comment regarding the custody of digital asset securities by broker-dealers in order to encourage innovation around the application of Securities Exchange Act Rule 15c3-3 to digital asset securities.
The statement sets forth the Commission’s position that, for a period of five years, a broker-dealer operating under the circumstances set forth in the statement will not be subject to a Commission enforcement action on the basis that the broker-dealer deems itself to have obtained and maintained physical possession or control of customer fully paid and excess margin digital asset securities for the purposes of paragraph (b)(1) of Rule 15c3-3. These circumstances, among other things, include that the broker-dealer limits its business to digital asset securities, establishes and implements policies and procedures reasonably designed to mitigate the risks associated with conducting a business in digital asset securities, and provides customers with certain disclosures regarding the risks of engaging in transactions involving digital asset securities.
In addition, the Commission is requesting comment to provide the Commission and its staff with an opportunity to gain additional insight into the evolving standards and best practices with respect to custody of digital asset securities. Such insights will serve to inform any potential future Commission action in this space.
The Commission statement and request for comment are published on the Commission’s website and will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The Commission welcomes engagement from interested parties on these issues.
President Trump modifies Harmonized Tariff System to reflect extension of Caribbean Basin Initiative
On 22 December 2020, President Donald J Trump announced a modification of the Harmonized Tariff System for the purpose of including the extension of the Caribbean Basin Initiative signed into law last October. The proclamation read as follows:
“The Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act, as amended (the “CBERA”), (title II of Public Law 98-67, 97 Stat. 384 (19 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.)), instituted a duty preference program that applies to a product of a Caribbean Basin country that has been designated by the President as a beneficiary country. On October 10, 2020, the President signed into law the Extension of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (Public Law 116-164, 134 Stat. 758), which extends certain preferential tariff treatment accorded under the CBERA to September 30, 2030. I have determined, pursuant to section 604 of the Trade Act, that it is necessary to modify the HTS to reflect the extension of the CBERA.”
According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the Harmonized Tariff Schedule is made up of a hierarchical structure for describing all goods in trade for duty, quota, and statistical purposes.
Sources: Executive Office of the President; U.S. International Trade Commission
Bloomberg reporting today President Donald J. Trump’s concerns that the pandemic relief package approved by Congress does not go far enough in providing aid to households. The President would like the current proposed amount of $600 relief for an individual increased to $2,000. Mr Trump has not definitively said that he will veto the $900 billion package which is due for his signature by 28 December.
How not to treat forex traders: CFTC wins order of restitution against Winston Reed Investments
December 22, 2020
Washington, D.C. — 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.
* * * * * *
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.
Reuters reporting that the United States Senate has passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package which includes a one-time $600 payment to eligible American taxpayers. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation later today.