Amanda Senn is the Alabama Securities Commission Chief Deputy Director and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) Cybersecurity Committee Chair. She recently testified in a remote hearing in the House Financial Services Committee hearing entitled, “Cybercriminals and Fraudsters: How Bad Actors Are Exploiting the Financial System During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” In her written remarks, Senn noted, “Specifically, NASAA has formed a COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force (‘Task Force’), consisting of state and provincial securities regulators, to identify and stop potential threats to investors that arise from the COVID-19 crisis. This initiative is being led by NASAA’s Enforcement Section Committee and includes more than 100 investigators from the vast majority of member jurisdictions. The Task Force is using online investigative techniques to identify websites and social media posts that may be offering or promoting fraudulent offerings, investment frauds, and unregistered regulated activities.” Find more information on NASAA’s COVID Task Force here.
NASAA, “represents state and provincial securities regulators in the United States, Canada and Mexico,” according to its website. Meanwhle, FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, also recently announced it had formed a task force to fight COVID related financial crimes.
“I saw an opportunity to increase collaboration, increase intelligence sharing and really kind of bring those groups together, so that we were making sure that we were addressing everything that we were seeing, we were leveraging all of the expertise that we had across the organization to address the threats that were coming in.” Said FINRA’s Greg Ruppert, FINRA’s new head of the National Cause and Financial Crimes Detection Programs when he recently appeared on FINRA’s podcast, Unscripted. “But then with that I saw an opportunity to really reach out and bring in more groups at FINRA that we thought might have an additional role to play or additional intelligence that would make us stronger in this area. So, that was the reason for the idea on a task force.”
Other American regulators have also taken aggressive action against COVID related fraud. At the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), they have created a web page for resources about COVID related financial crimes.
They have also done other outreach, the SEC noted.
“Even more important than educating yourself is sharing the information with those who need it most. The SEC is continuing to speak directly with investors during this time,” the SEC noted on its website. “For example, SEC Philadelphia Office Director Kelly Gibson participated in a telephone-town hall with nearly 10,000 participants in the Philadelphia region to answer questions about potential fraud. We continue to look for other outreach opportunities. With your help we can reach thousands more.”
They have also taken specific enforcement action including a June 11 announcement against several microcap stocks who were trafficking in false information regarding COVID to manipulate their stock price while certain insiders were dumping their stocks. The four companies are: Sandy Steele Unlimited Inc., WOD Retail Solutions Inc., Bioscience Neutraceuticals, Inc., and Rivex Technology Corp. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) also put out a series of investor fraud alerts for COVID.
“The Commodity Futures Trading Commission advises the public to be on alert for frauds seeking to profit from recent market volatility related to COVID-19. Fraudsters commonly use major news events, such as the spread of COVID-19, to add credibility to their cons or manipulate emotions.” The CFTC stated in one. “You can better protect yourself by learning to recognize common mental biases that everyone has, as well as common fraud tactics—and by taking a few preventative steps. Reporting frauds you encounter can also help protect others during these challenging times.