WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 19, 2020) – The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) today announced that its COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force, consisting of state and provincial securities regulators, has initiated actions to disrupt 220 schemes seeking to fraudulently profit from the pandemic.
With 111 investigators representing 44 jurisdictions in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the COVID-19 Task Force represents the largest coordinated enforcement initiative undertaken by state and provincial securities regulators. The task force was formed in April and is led by NASAA’s Enforcement Section and its Enforcement Technology Project Group.
To date, state and provincial securities investigators have detected 244 schemes to defraud investors and consumers, including 154 investment-related schemes and 90 non-investment schemes. To disrupt these schemes, task force members have taken 220 distinct actions, including administrative actions, cease-and-desist orders, referrals to other regulators and to social media and hosting companies.
“Con artists follow the headlines, so it should be of no surprise that COVID-cons are targeting investors. Some of these investors are just seeking greater returns while others may have lost a job and are worried about market volatility and making ends meet,” said Christopher W. Gerold, NASAA President and Chief of the New Jersey Bureau of Securities. “We are putting con artists on notice that state and provincial securities regulators are taking swift and effective action to protect investors from their schemes.”
“The actions announced today demonstrate that state and provincial securities regulators are aggressively shutting down fraudulent activities seeking to steal money by preying on unsuspecting people in these uncertain times,” said Joseph P. Borg, Director of the Alabama Securities Commission and chair of NASAA’s Enforcement Section.
Joe Rotunda, Director of Enforcement for the Texas State Securities Board and vice chair of NASAA’s Enforcement Section, said many of the schemes disrupted by the task force incorporate fear and anxiety into their pitches. “They often exploit trendy assets such as cryptocurrencies or mysterious programs involving forex trading and even investments powered by futuristic artificial intelligence – the types of products that may sound appealing, but also the types of products unfamiliar to inexperienced retail investors,” he said.
Jake van der Laan, Chief Information Officer with the New Brunswick Financial & Consumer Services Commission and chair of NASAA’s Enforcement Technology Project Group noted the significant contributions of NASAA’s Canadian task force members, who accounted for more than one-quarter of the actions taken. These actions included disrupting several suspected frauds promoted through social media. “We appreciate the responsiveness of social media platforms in recognizing that the removal of illegal content disrupts schemes and proactively protects the public from abuse,” Van der Laan said.
Additional information about the task force is available on NASAA’s website here.