The CFTC Strikes Back

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The CFTC Strikes Back

Citrades Shut Down By The CFTC

The CFTC revealed charges against Jason B. Scharf this week. The alleged charges include his operation of multiple fraudulent binary options brokerages and working in collusion with affiliate marketer Michael Shah to scam traders of more than $16 million dollars. The companies include a network of shell and front companies including CIT Investments LLC (a Nevada corporation), Brevspand EEOD (of Bulgaria) and CIT Investments LTD both of Anguila and the Marshall Islands. These fronts operated broker Citrades.com, a well know scam broker. So far little has been done save to freeze monies and seize documents but it seems apparent that the CFTC was able to catch him red handed. While most scam brokers operated outside the reach of regulators Mr. Scharf made the mistake of perpetrating his scams on the home turf of the most vigilant financial regulators on the planet. The website Citrades.com is no long functional, chalk that up as a win for the good guys.

“The CFTC continues to be committed to rooting out and prosecuting binary options fraud in our markets. As alleged, the fraudulent scheme here involved false claims of outsized profits, fake testimonials, and ‘guaranteed returns.’ And the scheme, as alleged, was massive, resulting in the misappropriation of over $16 million from more than 8,000 customers. This action should send a message to would-be fraudsters that the sort of conduct alleged here will not be tolerated. We thank our international law enforcement partners for their assistance in this case”

OptionRally License Revoked

OptionRally is once again in the spotlight. The broker has had its license revoked by CySEC under the condition it would cease all operations. As of now there is no indication of when the EU based arm of the broker will open, the international Belize based arm is still up and running. The CySEC allegations include non-compliance with fund segregation rules as well as being under-capitalized. This news comes in the wake of a previous fine which resulted in a large portion of the workforce getting laid off. Within the report are comments from regulators questioning whether OptionRally was ever in compliance.

ASIC Fighting A Wave Of Fraud

The Australian regulator ASIC is still fighting a wave of fraud sweeping across their country. In the last two weeks the agency has added 8 new names to their list of unregulated, unlicensed and possibly fraudulent brokers. The main complaint of course is soliciting Australian clients without a license although marketing tactics, cloning websites and unauthorized account management are included. The new lists includes a few names we’ve not heard before and one that we have; IvoryOptions, a well known scam broker. Others include BBBMarkets, Plusstocks, Aram Binary Options, Millennium Option, VX Market and London Capital Group. Australia does allow binary trading and there are regulated brokers to choose from, just not very many.

FCA Is Not Silent

The UK’s FCA has not been silent in recent weeks either. The regulator has issued a warning against GSI Markets for operating without a license and as a possible scam. The FCA has done a fine job of sweeping the unregulated brokers from their country, now its time for them to let some good ones operate.

The CFTC Strikes Back

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins has blocked a CFTC rule that sets position limits on derivatives tied to 28 commodities.

“The CFTC’s error in this case was that it fundamentally misunderstood and failed to recognize the ambiguities in the statute,” Wilkins wrote in his decision. The ruling hinged on whether the CFTC had made a case that its rule was necessary and appropriate.

The rule, a mainstay of Dodd-Frank financial reform, was meant to curb speculative trading in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

The International Swaps and Derivatives Association, the ISDA, issued a statement praising the ruling.

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“The position limits rule would adversely impact commodities markets and market participants, including end-users, by reducing liquidity and increasing price volatility,” said Robert Pickel, ISDA Chief Executive Officer, and T. Timothy Ryan, Jr., SIFMA President and Chief Executive Officer.

Gary Gensler, the chairman of the CFTC, disagreed, calling the rule on position limits “critically important” to financial reform.

The CFTC will now have to go back to the drawing board to prove that position limits would curb speculation and prevent market volatility.

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The empire strikes back
Habsburg culture is back in vogue

Beneath the glitz, the neuroses of the dying empire chime with those of today

IN HIS novel “The Radetzky March”, published in 1932, Joseph Roth traces the changing fortunes of the Trotta family amid the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. “People lived on memories,” Roth writes of the era before the first world war, “just as now they live by the capacity to forget quickly and completely.” To the Trottas, life seems to be accelerating; nationalism, militarism and class antagonism are rife. Rumour runs amok. Little wonder that Vienna’s Burgtheater recently staged a version of the story. “We thought it fit the times we live in,” says Johan Simons, the play’s Dutch director.

This reinterpretation of Roth’s novel is one instance of a widespread interest in the art and style of the old Habsburg empire. Last year, for example, Arthur Schnitzler’s play “La Ronde”, set in Vienna in the 1890s, was staged in London; Federico Tiezzi, an Italian director, is reinterpreting a series of Schnitzler’s works outside Florence. “Morir”, a Spanish film released last year, was also inspired by him.

The revival encompasses painting and music too. Spotify, a streaming service, listed Serialism, Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone musical technique, among the “biggest emerging genres” of 2020. Egon Schiele, an Austrian artist, was the subject of a recent biopic. A current show in Liverpool juxtaposes his work with modern photography; an installation in Paris focuses on Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Nudes by the pair feature in a forthcoming exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Habsburg culture is back. “Every few weeks I do a search on Twitter and there is an incredible benevolence about the Habsburgs,” says Eduard Habsburg, Hungary’s ambassador to the Vatican and the former ruling family’s unofficial social-media maven. “There is definitely renewed interest.”

The reasons for this burst of enthusiasm are nuanced, even contradictory. This year’s centennial of the end of the first world war, and of the empire’s collapse, is part of the explanation. So is a sense that the anxieties of the late imperial period, years of disorienting change in politics and society, overlap with today’s. “It’s a dangerous time and we need to look very closely at signs from the past,” says Mr Simons. “We do live in worrying times,” agrees Mr Habsburg; “everything is shifting, you have a feeling you are walking in a fog.”

Yet this notion of the late Habsburg period as a warning coexists with nostalgia for its glamour, epitomised by the gold leaf on a Klimt painting. Forever 21, a teen-fashion retailer, has emblazoned the lush art of Alfonse Mucha (see above), a Czech contemporary of Klimt, on its denim jackets and sweatshirts. In the same glossy vein, a joint Austrian-Czech-Hungarian-Slovak production reached farther into the past to dramatise the life of the Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century. The mini-series—either a celebration of a Catholic, conservative epoch or a tale of female empowerment, depending on the viewer’s bias—drew big ratings throughout central Europe. In the Czech Republic, a former Habsburg territory, a whopping 47% of television viewers tuned in.

Last train to Budapest

As Philipp Blom, a historian, notes, “people tend to idealise” the Habsburg empire, even though it was “ultimately torn apart by nationalism”. No one embodies the dual nature of the Dual Monarchy’s appeal better than Stefan Zweig, an Austrian novelist with a cult following.

Zweig’s elegant society novels are set in a charmingly liberal Vienna. By contrast, his memoir, “The World of Yesterday”, is a requiem for lost cosmopolitanism. Zweig was the subject of a searing biopic released in 2020; he also inspired Wes Anderson’s whimsical film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2020). In December Brazil posthumously awarded him the country’s highest state honour for foreigners, 75 years after he and his wife committed suicide there, having left first Austria and then Europe.

“There is an element of escapism into the great Habsburg era,” says Daniel Seton of Pushkin Press, which has reissued several of Zweig’s books in translation, “but there also seems to be this underlying sense of tragedy.” Another figure from the late Habsburg period, Sigmund Freud, might conclude that its culture has become a canvas on which readers and audiences project their own desires and fears.

This article appeared in the Books and arts section of the print edition under the headline “The empire strikes back”

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