September 29, 2015
Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced the filing of a civil injunctive enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against Defendants Harvard Assets LLC (Harvard Assets), London Assets Inc. (London Assets), and Harvard International Trading, Inc. (Harvard International) (collectively, the Entity Defendants), all three operating in Florida, and their controlling person, Defendant Todd Owen Marshall with a last known address in Deerfield Beach, Florida (collectively, Defendants).
The CFTC Complaint charges the Defendants with engaging in illegal, off-exchange transactions in precious metals with retail customers on a leveraged, margined, or financed basis, and charges the Entity Defendants with acting as Futures Commission Merchants (FCMs) without registering as such with the CFTC, as required.
According to the Complaint, from on or around July 16, 2011 to April 30, 2012 or later, Harvard International and Marshall solicited at least 42 retail customers to engage in at least 241 financed precious metals transactions and accepted over $1.5 million from those customers with respect to these transactions. The Complaint further alleges that from on or around September 6, 2012 or earlier to March 5, 2013 or later, Harvard Assets, London Assets, and Marshall solicited at least $231,963 from at least 14 retail customers to engage in at least 48 leveraged, margined, or financed precious metals transactions. In addition, the Complaint alleges that the Entity Defendants were acting as FCMs without so registering with the CFTC as required. Marshall is further charged with liability for the violations by the Entity Defendants, as a controlling person of the Entity Defendants who knowingly induced the violations or failed in act in good faith.
Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, off-exchange leveraged, margined, or financed transactions such as those conducted by the Defendants are illegal unless they result in actual delivery of metal within 28 days. The Complaint alleges that metals were never actually delivered in connection with the leveraged, margined, or financed precious metals transactions on behalf of the Defendants’ customers. The Complaint alleges that Harvard International conducted its customers’ financed precious metals transactions through Worth Group Inc. (Worth) and that Harvard Assets and London Assets conducted their customers’ financed precious metals transactions through Hunter Wise Commodities, LLC (Hunter Wise). The CFTC previously brought enforcement actions against both Worth and Hunter Wise in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The CFTC sued Worth in August 2013 (see CFTC Press Release 6666-13), charging Worth with engaging in illegal, off-exchange precious metals transactions and other violations. On January 23, 2014, the District Court entered a Consent Order of Preliminary Injunction enjoining Worth from violating Sections 6(c)(1), 4(a), and 4b(a)(1)(A) and (C) of the CEA, 7 U.S.C. §§9(1), 6(a), and 6b(a)(1)(A) and (C) (2012), and CFTC Regulation 180.1, 17 C.F.R. §180.1 (2013).
The CFTC sued Hunter Wise and others in December 2012, charging the defendants with engaging in illegal, off-exchange precious metals transactions and other violations (see CFTC Press Release 6447-12). On February 19, 2014, the District Court found that Hunter Wise had no actual metal to deliver to customers and held that Hunter Wise engaged in illegal precious metals transactions and was required to register as a Futures Commission Merchant but did not do so and therefore violated Sections 4(a) and 4d of the CEA (see CFTC v. Hunter Wise Commodities, LLC, et al., No. 12-81311 (Order on the Parties’ Motions for Summary Judgment)). On April 15, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the court’s issuance of a preliminary injunction and held that the CFTC’s jurisdiction under Section 2(c)(2)(D) of the CEA extends to the precious metals transactions at issue in the case and that no exception to the CFTC’s jurisdiction applied. And, on May 16, 2014, after a bench trial on the remaining claims, including fraud, the District Court entered an Order finding that Hunter Wise fraudulently misrepresented the nature of precious metals transactions that resulted in millions of dollars in customer losses (see CFTC Press Release 6935-14).
In its continuing litigation against the Defendants, the CFTC seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, restitution, civil monetary penalties, permanent registration and trading bans, and a permanent injunction from future violations of the Commodity Exchange Act, as charged.
CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this action are Christopher Giglio, David C. Newman, R. Stephen Painter, Jr., Xavier Romeu-Matta, Steven Ringer, Lenel Hickson, Jr., and Manal M. Sultan.
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CFTC’s Precious Metals Customer Fraud Advisory
The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Precious Metals Fraud Advisory, which alerts customers to precious metals fraud and lists simple ways to spot precious metals scams.
Customers can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the CFTC Division of Enforcement via a Toll-Free Hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382) or file a tip or complaint online.
Last Updated: October 14, 2015