EU Smacks Mastercard with $650 Million Fine for Doing What Credit Card Companies Do Best

By CCN.com: The European Commission on Tuesday slammed Mastercard with a 570.6 million euro ($650 million) fine after finding the company guilty of breaching antitrust rules. According to information released by the EU regulatory body, the original fine was reduced by 10 percent because Mastercard cooperated with the Commission during the investigation.

Mastercard Overcharged Customers, Colluded against Merchants

Mastercard, which is the second biggest card brand in the European Economic Area, forced acquiring banks to apply the interchange fees of the country where the retailer was located. These practices restricted merchant options and stopped them from finding other cards with friendlier transaction fees.

Prior to December 2015, interchange fees in the EEA varied widely between countries. In December 2015, the EU capped interchange fees at a maximum of 0.2 percent of total transaction value and 0.3 percent  of transaction value for debit and credit cards respectively. This interchange fee regulation reduced retailers’ costs by a significant margin that reflected in the cost of items.

EC Investigation and Half-a-Billion Dollar Fine

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In 2013, regulators opened a formal investigation into Mastercard to determine if its acquiring rules breached any of the antitrust laws of the EU. After its investigations, the Commission determined that Mastercard’s rules racked up more costs for both retailers and consumers as the retailers had to pay more bank charges which then translated to higher cost of items.

The Commission determined that if Mastercard’s rules were nonexistent, retailers would have the opportunity to enjoy lower bank rates from countries with lower interchange fees, which would then lower costs for card users and non-card customers alike.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner in charge of competition policy said:

“European consumers use payment cards every day, when they buy food or clothes or make purchases online. By preventing merchants from shopping around for better conditions offered by banks in other Member States, Mastercard’s rules artificially raised the costs of card payments, harming consumers and retailers in the EU.”

The Commission arrived at the 570 million euro figure based on the duration of the infringement, the amount of sales recorded during the infringement period and Mastercard’s level of cooperation during the investigation. In return for admitting to infringement of EU antitrust and competition rules, Mastercard received a 10 percent fine reduction.

It will be recalled that in July 2018, Google was handed a $5 billion fine by the European Commission after also being found guilty of engaging in non-competitive behaviour by forcing manufacturers to make Chrome and Google Search the default search tools on Android devices.

In any case, the fine didn’t seem to have much of an effect on Mastercard’s share price. MA shares dropped by 1.26 percent to $199.46, which was somewhat better than the 1.42 percent decline seen in the broad S&P 500 index.


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Author: David Hundeyin
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Bitcoin Ponzi Scheme Founder Slapped with $2.5 Million Fine

New York investment firm Gelfman Blueprint, Inc. (GBI) will see over $2.5 million in fines for fraudulent practices, as filed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). According to the agency, this marks the first time that CFTC has made an anti-fraud enforcement action involving bitcoin.

Yesterday’s CTFC press release states that Gelfman Blueprint Inc. and CEO Nicholas Gelfman engaged in fraudulent practices such as hiding trading losses by giving fake performance reports to customers regarding bitcoin trading. These reports led customers to believe profits had been made on their behalf. Actual records showed only a few trades and customer losses — not profits.

The CFTC, which initially filed charges against the investment scam last September, described the operation as “a pooled commodity fund that purportedly employed a high-frequency, algorithmic trading strategy, executed by Defendants’ computer trading program called ‘Jigsaw.’” GBI started its Ponzi scheme in 2014.

According to a CCN report last year, Gelfman received over $600,000 from 80 different investors over the course of two years.

CFTC Director of Enforcement James Mcdonald stated in yesterday’s press release:

“This case marks yet another victory for the Commission in the virtual currency enforcement arena. As this string of cases shows, the CFTC is determined to identify bad actors in these virtual currency markets and hold them accountable. I’m grateful to the members of Enforcement’s Virtual Currency Task Force for their tireless work on these matters.”

Although legal proceedings started last year, penalties were not finalized until three days ago. Legal orders concluded that GBI’s strategy for customer profit “was fake, the purported performance reports were false, and—as in all Ponzi schemes—payouts of supposed profits to GBI Customers in actuality consisted of other customers’ misappropriated funds,” according to a CFTC statement.

Nicholas Gelfman was also deemed liable for GBI’s Ponzi scheme actions. Yesterday’s press release also revealed, “that Gelfman, to conceal the scheme’s trading losses and misappropriation, staged a fake computer ‘hack’ that supposedly caused the loss of nearly all customer funds.”

Penalties include GBI being ordered to pay over $550,000 back to customers, and Gelfman himself paying about $492,000 to customers. The fraudsters will also pay over $1.8 million in penalties, as well as receive a permanent ban from trading and registration.

Yesterday’s release concluded with a statement that, “The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure the wrongdoers are held accountable.”


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Author: Benjamin Pirus
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