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Cryptogambling / CFTC rewards whistleblowers with $16 million for crypto-related information

CFTC rewards whistleblowers with $16 million for crypto-related information

Publish Date: 01/11/2023
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The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) awarded $16 million to whistleblowers this year for successful enforcement tips, mostly involving cryptocurrency.

In a statement on October 31, CFTC Commissioner Christy Goldsmith Romero said many tips shared in 2023 were related to ongoing issues in the cryptic industry, including fraud and illegal activities.

“As a former Inspector General who knows firsthand how important whistleblowers are, I wholeheartedly support whistleblowers and the CFTC’s Whistleblower Program, and am very proud of the Program’s outsized results,” she said.

Two whistleblowers were awarded $15 million for their information, which led to successful CFTC enforcement cases in September. The CFTC did not provide details about the cases.

Romero said that whistleblowers play a crucial role in preventing commodities fraud, and without their assistance, the CFTC would be unable to safeguard customers and markets.

“Whistleblowers help identify fraud and other illegality, interpret key evidence, and save considerable Commission resources and time. The faster we can stop fraud, the more we can protect customers from harm,” Romero said.

Romero highlighted the CFTC’s Office of Customer Education and Outreach’s role in educating people on detecting, avoiding and reporting cryptocurrency fraud.

“With the rise of crypto, more retail customers have come under the CFTC’s jurisdiction, making even more critical the efforts of the CFTC’s Whistleblower Program and the Office of Customer Education and Outreach,” Romero said.

Since its launch in 2014, the CFTC has awarded nearly $350 million. These awards have resulted in enforcement sanctions totaling over $3 billion in cases initiated by whistleblowers.

In April, the CFTC secured a record $3.4 billion penalty in a Bitcoin-related fraud case. In July, the CFTC also won a case against Digitex CEO Adam Todd, who was ordered to pay $16 million in penalties.

Also in April, Romero emphasized the importance of managing cryptocurrency risks to maintain market integrity, national security and financial stability. She has often called for implementing stricter identity verification measures to reduce illicit finance in the cryptocurrency market.

CFTC takes action in DeFi enforcement

The CFTC recently announced settled charges against three Decentralized Finance (DeFi) protocols for various registration and related violations under the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA). Each entity paid a civil penalty and agreed to cease CEA violations.

According to CFTC Commissioner Kristin N. Johnson, these are the first cases where the CFTC charged a DeFi operator with failing to register as a swap execution facility (SEF) or designated contract market (DCM).

These actions came shortly after the CFTC’s successful enforcement and default judgment against Ooki DAO, which was accused of operating a decentralized blockchain-based software protocol similar to a trading platform, violating the CEA.

Due to the respondents’ significant cooperation with the investigation, the CFTC directed Opyn, ZeroEx and Deridex to pay civil fines of $250,000, $200,000, and $100,000, respectively, and to cease any further violations of the CEA as alleged.

In a statement about the DeFi settlements, Johnson pushed Congress and companies to collaborate on establishing more consistent regulations for the growing digital asset market.

She stressed the need for a framework that effectively incorporates established risk mitigation best practices and pointed out that Opyn and Deridex were charged with failing to maintain Know Your Customer (KYC) programs, which are essential for the CFTC to safeguard customers and prevent illicit financial transactions.

The CFTC has taken numerous enforcement actions against digital asset entitiesβ€”115 actions as of September 2023.

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