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Saturday, October 26, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO FROM SPACE

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82198&src=eoa-iotd

COURT STOPS COLLECTION OF ALLEGEDLY PHANTOM PAYDAY LOANS FROM CONSUMERS

FROM:  FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 
At the FTC's Request, Court Halts Collection of Allegedly Fake Payday Debts

Defendants' Robocalls and Collectors Threatened Legal Action and Arrest, FTC Alleges

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a U.S. district court has halted an operation based in Atlanta and Cleveland that allegedly used deceptive and threatening tactics to collect phantom payday loan “debts” that consumers either did not owe, or did not owe to the defendants.  The court order freezes the defendants’ assets to preserve the possibility of providing redress to consumers, and appoints a receiver.

According to the FTC, the defendants operated under a host of fictitious business names that implied an affiliation with a law firm or a law enforcement agency, such as Global Legal Services, Allied Litigation Group, United Judgment & Appeals, Dockets Liens & Seizures, and United Judgment Center.  Using robocalls and voice messages that threatened legal action and arrest unless consumers responded within a few days, the defendants have collected and processed millions of dollars in payment for phantom debts, according to the complaint.  Their practices have generated almost 3,000 complaints to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel.

According to documents filed with the court, a typical message stated:  “[T]his is the Civil Investigations Unit.  We are contacting you in regards to a complaint being filed against you, pursuant to claim and affidavit number D00D-2932, where you have been named a respondent in a court action and must appear.  There is a contact number on file which you must call, 757-301-4745.  Please forward this information to your attorney in that the order to show cause contains a restraining order.  You or your attorney will have 24 to 48 hours to oppose this matter.”

Working out of offices in Cleveland and Atlanta, the defendants threatened consumers that if they did not pay, their bank accounts would be closed, their wages would be garnished, they would face felony fraud charges, they would have to appear in court thousands of miles from their homes, or they would be arrested at their workplace, according to documents filed with the court.  Many consumers ended up paying the defendants for debts they did not owe because they feared the threatened repercussions of failing to pay, believed the defendants were legitimate and collecting real debts, or simply wanted to stop the harassment, according to the complaint.

The FTC’s complaint names Lisa J. Jeter, Nichole C. Anderson, Hope V. Wilson, Angela J. Triplett, DeMarra J. Massey, and their companies Pinnacle Payment Services, LLC, Velocity Payment Solutions, LLC, Heritage Capital Services, LLC, Performance Payment Processing, LLC, Credit Source Plus, LLC (Ohio), Credit Source Plus, LLC (Georgia), Reliable Resolution, LLC, Premium Express Processing, LLC (Ohio), and Premium Express Processing, LLC (Atlanta).

This is the FTC’s fifth recent case involving allegedly fraudulent, online payday-loan-related operations.  Other cases include American Credit Crunchers, LLC, Broadway Global Master Inc., Pro Credit, and Vantage Funding.

The complaint charges the defendants with violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by falsely telling consumers that:

they were delinquent on a payday loan or other debt that the defendants had the authority to collect;
they had the legal obligation to pay the defendants;
they would be arrested or imprisoned if they did not pay; and
the defendants had taken or would take legal action.
The complaint also charges that the defendants illegally called consumers at inconvenient
times or places, including at their workplaces, despite being asked to stop; disclosed supposed debts to family members, employers, and other third parties; harassed consumers with repeated calls; failed to disclose their identity as debt collectors; and failed to provide a required written notice telling consumers how to dispute the alleged debts.

For more consumer information on this topic, see Dealing with Debt.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0.  The complaint and request for a temporary restraining order were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.  On October 24, 2013, the court granted the FTC’s request.

NOTE:  The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest.  The case will be decided by the court

FDIC AND PEOPE'S BANK OF CHINA SIGN MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

FROM:  FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION 

Beijing, China -- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the agency and the People's Bank of China (PBOC) designed to extend their effective international working relationship in the areas of deposit insurance and resolution. The purpose of the MOU is to develop and expand the interaction between the FDIC and the PBOC and to demonstrate a shared commitment to cooperation among banking agencies. The MOU also seeks to enhance cooperation in analyzing of cross-border financial institution recovery and resolution issues, and planning for potential recovery and resolution scenarios, including appropriate simulations, contingency planning and other work designed to improve preparations to manage troubled institutions with operations in the United States and the PBOC. The agreement was signed by FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg and Governor Zhou Xiaochuan of the PBOC and updates an existing MOU that was signed on August 2nd, 2007.

FDIC Chairman Gruenberg said, "There is a long history of close collaboration and cooperation between the PBOC and the FDIC, and I am honored to have the opportunity to build on this strong foundation through this MOU. China and the U.S. have a shared interest in maintaining and expanding our interaction on economic and financial issues, particularly in the areas of deposit insurance and cross-border resolution issues. Among U.S. financial regulators, the FDIC is uniquely positioned to engage and offer our experience with deposit insurance and resolution issues internationally. I welcome this expanded agreement with the PBOC and would like to thank our Chinese hosts, particularly Governor Zhou and the officials at the PBOC, for accommodating the delegation from the FDIC."

TWO SENTENCED FOR ROLES IN $74 MILLION HOME HEALTH MEDICARE FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT 
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Administrator and Employee of Two Miami Home Health Companies Sentenced for Role in $74 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
The administrator and employee of two Miami health care companies was sentenced today to serve 60 months in prison for her participation in a $74 million home health Medicare fraud scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations Miami Office made the announcement.

Myriam Acevedo, 63, of Miami, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke in the Southern District of Florida.  In May 2013, Acevedo pleaded guilty, without a plea agreement, to one count of conspiracy to pay health care kickbacks and two counts of payment of health care kickbacks.

According to court documents, Acevedo was an administrator of LTC Professional Consultants Inc. (LTC) and an employee of Professional Home Care Solutions Inc. (Professional), Miami home health care agencies that purported to provide home health and therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.  Acevedo and her co-conspirators agreed to and actually did operate LTC and Professional for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for, among other things, expensive physical therapy and home health care services that were not medically necessary and/or were not provided.

Acevedo’s primary role in the scheme was to pay kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters of LTC and Professional.  As part of this role, Acevedo and others would distribute cash to patient recruiters in exchange for providing patients to LTC and Professional, as well as prescriptions, plans of care (POCs) and certifications for medically unnecessary therapy and home health services for Medicare beneficiaries.  Acevedo and her co-conspirators would use these prescriptions, POCs and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services, which Acevedo knew was in violation of federal criminal laws.

From approximately September 2007 through June 2012, LTC and Professional submitted approximately $41 million in claims for home health services that were not medically necessary and/or not provided.  Medicare actually paid approximately $27 million for these fraudulent claims.  Acevedo was part of an overall scheme that fraudulently billed Medicare more than $74 million.

This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Joseph S. Beemsterboer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.


Friday, October 25, 2013

President Obama Speaks on Education and the Economy | The White House

President Obama Speaks on Education and the Economy | The White House

CDC SAYS 1 IN 6 BETWEEN THE AGES OF 2 AND 19 ARE OBESE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

One in 6 obese

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds some signs that the weight gains of America’s young people are tapering off. The researchers saw this in data from 2008 to 2011 on almost 12 million low-income youngsters in 40 states.

But it doesn’t mean the weights are all healthy. The CDC says 1 in 6 people between the ages of 2 and 19 is obese. And researcher Ashleigh May says the excess weight produces a health burden:

“During childhood, things like high cholesterol, high blood sugar, asthma, and even mental health problems can occur. And children who are overweight or obese are more likely to become overweight or obese adults.’’

The study is in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Learn more at healthfinder.gov.

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: October 24, 2013

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY'S REMARKS AT CENTER FOR AMERICA PROGRESS

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Remarks at the Center for American Progress' 10-year Anniversary Policy Conference
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
St. Regis Hotel
Washington, DC
October 24, 2013

Thank you very much. Thank you.

Neera, thank you very, very much. Thank you all. It’s wonderful for me to be here. Neera and I come from the same part of the country and share many of the same values, but none more important than our devotion to the American League Champion Boston Red Sox. Yeah. (Applause.) No boos, no boos. No boos allowed. (Laughter.) Anyway, in her role, obviously, as CAP’s John Farrell – for those of you who follow baseball, you know what I’m talking about – he’s the manager of the team, guys. He got them there. So anyway, she obviously has been extraordinary in her leadership at CAP. And this institution, I think everybody knows, has been strong and steady ever since she took that over.

And frankly, before Neera and John Podesta, our fearless leader here, opened CAP’s doors a decade ago, which is what is being celebrated here today, everybody here knows that they did an extraordinary job of helping to steer President Clinton’s administration during a time of unprecedented prosperity at home and also importantly, from my point of view today on a day-to-day basis, a period in which America enjoyed and earned huge respect around the world.

President Clinton understood very clearly that in a complex and changing world, our friends and our foes alike are going to be more impressed, as he said, “by the power of our example than by the example of our power.” And the person who President Clinton said best exemplifies that particular principle in these times is President Obama. I would say to you that over the last five years that the power of our example has been strong, a lot stronger than some people may perceive in a world of 24/7 cacophony. But the fact is that whether in Afghanistan, where we’re etching out a drawdown in a bilateral security agreement, or Iraq, where we did drawdown and leave, or the Far East, where we have a repositioning and rebalancing, or in the START treaty, or in our efforts in the Middle East today, our efforts to lead on Syria, on many other things, the President’s engagement, I believe, has underscored many times over how America plays an absolutely indispensable role in promoting peace, security, and shared prosperity around the world.

And I will tell you I thought I had a pretty good sense of those things as the chairman of the Foreign Relations committee and a 28-year veteran of that committee. But I will tell you that it has become far more clear to me in these many meetings and in these many journeys how absolutely true it is that we are indispensable, and that if we’re going to move in the directions we want to, whether it’s climate change that you were just talking about, or a host of other challenges, we’re going to do it with our leadership, with the highest standards.

It’s my privilege to serve as the President’s Secretary of State. Every day, I get to witness how much good, how much engagement we offer, how much our diplomats do around the world. And I remember an observation that my dad made, who was a Foreign Service officer for a period of time, that he shared with me about diplomacy. He said good diplomacy comes from the ability to be able to see the world through someone else’s eyes, through the eyes of the people in another country. But today it’s become much clearer to me, more than ever before, that it isn’t just about how people in another part of the world see their own challenges. We also have to be far more conscious about how our leadership looks through other people’s eyes.

Now as Neera mentioned a moment ago, I just literally landed, just came back from a marathon session with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with the London 11 Syrian support group, with Saud al-Faisal in Saudi Arabia and others. And in the past eight months, over more than 100 days abroad in every corner of the world, I have seen how our allies, our partners, and those who wish to challenge us or do us harm – they’re all sizing us up every day; they’re taking our measure.

And what we do in Washington matters deeply to them. And that’s why a self-inflicted wound, like the shutdown that we just endured, can never happen again. (Applause.) As President Obama said, the shutdown “encouraged our enemies…emboldened our competitors, and it depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.”

I will tell you, apart from the jokes that some of the summits that I went to about whether because we weren’t being paid, one country or another could buy our meals, there were real consequences to our not being there. And now that this recent moment of politics has passed and since I’m no longer in elected office myself, I wanted just to come here this afternoon as you celebrate a 10th anniversary and contemplate the progressive challenges ahead, I wanted to reflect on the damage that events like the one we’ve just been through can do to the esteem in which the United States is held in the world, a key component of our national power.

Now let me underscore that none of what occurred is irreparable or irreversible and the strength of our principles and the strength of our people are still the envy of the world. But being a responsible democracy requires that we don’t walk ourselves to the brink every opportunity we get – that we don’t play games with our credit rating or our credibility.

During the shutdown, I was attending the APEC Summit in Indonesia, the ASEAN Summit in Brunei, and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Malaysia. And I spoke with our allies throughout Asia, throughout the entire Asia Pacific region, all of whom were assembled at these various summits. And that is a region that matters deeply to us. It matters to our economy. It matters to our security. And our economy and our security are closely intertwined in this complex world we’re living in today. The leaders in that region agreed that the strength of our partnership is much greater than a moment in politics – thank heavens – but those politics also, I’m telling you, clearly weighed heavily on their minds.

And it has entered into the calculation of leaders. As we negotiate with Iran, as we negotiate with the Middle East peace process in Israel, can we be counted on? Will the Congress come through? Can the President make an agreement which will be held?

Believe me: The shutdown, and the dysfunction, and the simplistic dialogue that came with it, didn’t impress anyone about the power of America’s example.

And you didn’t need to talk to an Asian foreign minister in order to get a sense of that. Just go online and read any of the number of dailies of our allies’ papers.

London’s Daily Telegraph said, “The U.S. is recklessly throwing away its future.”

A major daily in Seoul urged America “to stop holding their citizens and the world economy hostage.”

The biggest business daily in Germany reported, “The damage done is great and it has shaken America’s reputation.”

Notice how none of these assessments blamed one political party or another. They took no interest whatsoever in opinion polling, hypothetical electoral consequences, 2016, who won the news cycle, who would win the Senate. Nope, none of it. They simply wanted to know: Will America be a credible partner tomorrow?

I personally have every confidence that we can and that we are. But others are going to need to see us steer a steady course in order to rebuild their confidence. In the days to come, if we let domestic differences overwhelm diplomacy, those differences will undermine our shared values, and most importantly, our shared interests. The question is no longer whether our politics stops at the water’s edge, but whether our politics stops us from providing the leadership that the world needs.

The question is whether America will lead the $6 trillion global energy economy, which is the solution to what the panel was talking about, and as Al Gore, I am confident, will describe to you. Energy policy is the solution to global climate change, a $6 trillion market. The market that made America rich in the 1990s was a $1 trillion market with 1 billion users. The energy market is a $6 trillion market with about 5 billion users, and it’s going to rise to 9 billion users over the next 20, 30 years.

So you and I know that if we make the right choices, we can get there. The question is whether America is going to continue to be a global model for entrepreneurship and the magnet for the world’s brightest minds. You and I know if we take the steps to shore up our economic strength at home and we continue to welcome foreign citizens who seek to fulfill their aspirations in the United States, we can get there. But we have to make that choice.

The question is whether we’re going to invest in education and R&D at home, and ensure that the United States can compete and win in this highly competitive global marketplace. You and I know we can do that, but we have to make this a priority at a time of enormous pressure to drastically cut government spending.

Now, I have to tell you, when these questions are avoided altogether, when they’re put on the back burner, when we tie one hand behind our backs, whether through political stalemates or even shutting down the government, we’re just getting in our own way. And we diminish our influence and we frustrate our own aspirations.

The simple fact is that the shutdown created temporary but real consequences in our ability to work with our partners and pursue our interests abroad.

The shutdown didn’t just shutter the World War II Memorial, as unfortunate as that was – it stunted our ability to promote the principles and values that our veterans sacrificed for.

The shutdown didn’t just shutter the Statue of Liberty – it temporarily closed the doors to refugees and students who were seeking visas to learn here and to contribute to our economy.

The shutdown delayed security aid to Israel, one of our closest allies, obviously, and a critical democracy in a region that’s undergoing tremendous upheaval. Why would in common sense, why would you want to do that?

The shutdown sent hardworking public servants home, including officials whose job is to enforce the sanctions against Iran – sanctions that actually helped to create the pressure that have brought us to this moment of cautious possibility in the region.

The shutdown furloughed four Nobel Laureates who were working in the federal government, to put critical research funding on hold for Nobel Laureates of tomorrow.

Negotiations were also delayed on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a trade deal President Obama has championed in order to continue to increase American exports around the world and to create jobs here at home and help Europe, help the Far East, begin to create the jobs to come out of the economic doldrums.

So this political moment was far more than just symbolism, far more than just a local fight. It matters deeply to our power and to our example. And while this chapter is temporarily over, we’ve got another date looming, and the experience has to serve as a stern warning to all. It should force us to consider in the weeks and months ahead what the world will look like if America is less present and less credible. Make no mistake, the greatest danger to America doesn’t come from a rising rival. It comes from the damage that we’re capable of doing by our own dysfunction and the risks that will arise in a world that may see restrained or limited American leadership as a result.

That doesn’t mean by any means that America ought to serve as the world’s policeman. That’s not what I’m talking about, and that’s not what President Obama’s talking about. We can’t solve every problem, certainly not on our own, but we remain the indispensable partner, the anchor of global security, and a catalyst for global prosperity.

So as I’ve said before, this is not the time to retreat or retrench. We need to be out there, and we need to be engaged with the world. Why? Because for every billion dollar in goods and services that we export, we create 5,000 jobs here at home. Because when we help other countries stand on their own two feet, we create trading partners for our businesses. In fact, 11 of our 15 biggest trading partners used to be the recipients of American aid. Korea, Republic of Korea, is now a donor, where 15 years ago it was a recipient of aid. No other nations bring so many countries together in support of global standards, international norms, where we encourage a race to the top, not to the bottom.

And looking ahead, as we fulfill our moral responsibility to combat climate change, to improve global health, to ensure that women have the same rights as men, and give voice to those who have none, we are the ones who will give people around the world the courage to be able to speak up and the confidence to be able to work together.

I’ve seen it, I know it. There’s no arrogance in saying that. I know there are some Americans who don’t care how the world sees us, but in an integrated world, a genie that no politician can put back into any bottle, we have lost the luxury of looking only inward. Today, isolationism is the enemy of economic prosperity and security at the same time.

My friends, the 21st century, like the last one, we’re going to see competition between different ideals and different systems of governance. And as a model for a whole bunch of nations, I think we have a special responsibility to demonstrate that democracy does deliver for its citizens. When democracy appears dysfunctional, aspiring peoples are all the more likely to settle for some other model. Extremists and autocrats rush to fill the vacuum. And the bigger their platform around the world, the greater the danger to our security here at home. Mark my words, it is connected.

I’ve often said that America is not exceptional because we talk about ourselves as being exceptional and beat our chests and stand up and say, “We’re exceptional.” It’s not because we say we are. It’s because we do exceptional things. And we’ve always done that. We’re the nation that defeated the Axis powers, and then invested billions of dollars in their recovery – and we never asked to be paid back. That’s exceptional.

We’re the nation that faced down the Soviet Union with the force of our ideals and alliances – and without resorting to the force of arms. That’s exceptional.

We’re the nation that saw the human toll of AIDS spiraling out of control in Africa, most people thinking we’d never rein it in, and we mustered the will and the resources to lead a global response that is now looking at the possibility of an AIDS-free generation. That is exceptional.

We’ve led the effort to reduce child mortality by 60 percent in Afghanistan over the last decade, and three million more Afghan girls are in school, and raised life expectancy by 20 years for the average Afghan citizens.

My friends, there are so many ways, so many examples, of where we have helped others with no request in return, and they’re all exceptional.

So as we did all these things, of course our leaders confronted deep disagreements, didn’t we? Even as we did those things. But guess what? Those leaders shared an even deeper commitment to our responsibilities in the world. They understood that while our differences can be clear, they cannot be crippling. The power of our example has never come from the purity of any one ideology. It’s come from the principled action of all of us together as one nation.

And as the aspirations that make America great go global, there are incredible opportunities for America to benefit and also to provide leadership. The work we do over there – the exports we sell, the democracies we support, the high standards that we set – all of them can create jobs and opportunity right here at home. We cannot afford to cede the best possibilities of this young century to others who have decided to be more disciplined than we have.

The world watches us, but I’m telling you, I can feel it. I hear it. The world will not wait for us. The shutdown is now behind us, but the answers to many of the same questions still stare us in the face and await us. In the weeks and months to come, we need our conversation to be worthy of the confidence and trust of the American people, and recognize it is part and parcel of the power of America’s example in the world.

In this time of challenge and opportunity, we need to commit to reaching out across the aisle and across the world, as Americans did before us, so that we can do the exceptional things that America has always done, and that Americans expect us, as their leaders and as their government, to do. That’s how we meet our responsibilities to the nation, that’s how we meet our responsibilities to the world, and that’s how we meet our responsibilities to the next generation. That’s how we make the power of our example even stronger today and in the years to come.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

EX-IM BANK ANNOUNCES U.S. EXPORTS TOTAL $2.2 TRILLION OVER LAST 12 MONTHS

FROM:  U.S. EXPORT-IMPORT BANK
U.S. Exports of Goods and Services in August Exceed $189 Billion;
Last 12 Month’s Exports Total $2.2 Trillion, 42 Percent Above 2009

 WASHINGTON, DC --- In August 2013 the United States exported $189.2 billion of goods and services, slightly lower than July’s exports of $189.3 billion. August’s exports are marginally lower than June’s all-time record high of $190.5 billion, according to data released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the U.S. Commerce Department.

Exports of goods and services over the last twelve months totaled $2.2 trillion, which is 42.2 percent above the level of exports in 2009. Over the last twelve months, exports have been growing at an annualized rate of 10.1 percent when compared to 2009.

“Our exporters continue to drive the U.S. economy and employ more American workers in high-paying, skilled export-related jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector,” said Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank). “Every month brings us closer toward achieving President Obama’s ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015."

 Over the last twelve months, among the major export markets (i.e., markets with at least $6 billion in annual imports of U.S. goods), the countries with the largest annualized increase in U.S. goods purchases, when compared to 2009, occurred in Panama (28.8 percent), Russia (22.0 percent), United Arab Emirates (21.2 percent), Peru (20.9 percent), Hong Kong (20.4 percent), Chile (20.3 percent), Columbia (19.3 percent), Argentina (17.8 percent), Ecuador (17.6 percent), and South Africa (17.5 percent).

TWO NATIONAL GUARDSMEN PLEAD GUILTY IN FRAUD SCHEME

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Two Army National Guard Soldiers Plead Guilty to Schemes to Defraud U.s. Army National Guard Bureau

To Date, 17 Individuals Have Pleaded Guilty in Ongoing Corruption Investigation
Two current U.S. Army National Guard soldiers have pleaded guilty for their role in bribery and fraud schemes that caused a total of at least $70,000 in losses to the U.S. Army National Guard Bureau.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas made the announcement.

Sergeant Annika Chambers, 28, of Houston, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery. Specialist Elisha Ceja, 27, of Barboursville, W.V., previously pleaded guilty to the same charge on Oct. 1, 2013. The cases against both defendants arise from an investigation involving allegations that former and current military recruiters and U.S. soldiers in the San Antonio and Houston areas engaged in a wide-ranging corruption scheme to illegally obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses.  To date, the investigation has led to charges against 25 individuals, 17 of whom have pleaded guilty.

According to court documents filed in both cases, in approximately September 2005, the National Guard Bureau entered into a contract with Document and Packaging Broker, Inc. (Docupak) to administer the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP).  The G-RAP was a recruiting program that offered monetary incentives to soldiers of the Army National Guard who referred others to join the Army National Guard.  Through this program, a participating soldier could receive up to $3,000 in bonus payments for referring another individual to join.  Based on certain milestones achieved by the referred soldier, a participating soldier would receive payment through direct deposit into the participating soldier’s designated bank account.  To participate in the program, soldiers were required to create online recruiting assistant accounts.

Ceja and Chambers both admitted that they paid Army National Guard recruiters for the names and Social Security numbers of potential Army National Guard soldiers.  They further admitted that they used the personal identifying information for these potential soldiers to falsely claim that they were responsible for referring the potential soldiers to join the Army National Guard.

As a result of these fraudulent representations, Ceja collected approximately $12,000 in fraudulent bonuses, and Chambers collected approximately $17,000 in fraudulent bonuses.
The charge of bribery carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss.  The charge of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss.

Ceja and Chambers are scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal in Houston on Dec. 19, 2013, and March 11, 2013, respectively.

These cases are being investigated by Special Agents from the San Antonio Fraud Resident Agency of Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit. The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Sean F. Mulryne, Mark J. Cipolletti, and Heidi Boutros Gesch of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pearson of the Southern District of Texas.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: Test Fire

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING OCTOBER 19, 2013

FROM:  U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT

          SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending October 19, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 350,000, a decrease of 12,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 362,000. The 4-week moving average was 348,250, an increase of 10,750 from the previous week's revised average of 337,500.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.2 percent for the week ending October 12, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending October 12 was 2,874,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 2,882,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,894,750, an increase of 13,250 from the preceding week's revised average of 2,881,500.

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 310,814 in the week ending October 19, a decrease of 49,905 from the previous week. There were 345,226 initial claims in the comparable week in 2012.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.9 percent during the week ending October 12, unchanged from the prior week. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 2,471,524, an increase of 33,215 from the preceding week. A year earlier, the rate was 2.2 percent and the volume was 2,815,723.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending October 5 was 3,856,740, a decrease of 71,957 from the previous week. There were 4,923,220 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012.

No state was triggered "on" the Extended Benefits program during the week ending October 5.

Initial claims for UI benefits filed by Federal civilian employees in the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program totaled 44,132 in the week ending October 12, a decrease of 25,939 from the prior week. The states reporting the highest number of UCFE initial claims were Maryland (8,445), Texas (4,109), Georgia (3,027) Virginia (2,503) and New York (2,429). There were 2,991 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 391 from the preceding week.

There were 44,810 Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending October 5, an increase of 25,224 from the previous week. The states with the highest level Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 31,147, a decrease of 3,787 from the prior week.

States reported 1,324,967 persons claiming Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits for the week ending October 5, a decrease of 54,151 from the prior week. There were 2,052,957 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2012. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending October 12 were in Virgin Islands (4.0), Alaska (3.7), Puerto Rico (3.5), New Jersey (3.0), Maryland (2.9), Connecticut (2.7), Pennsylvania (2.6), California (2.5), Illinois (2.4), District of Columbia (2.3), Nevada (2.3), New York (2.3), and Oregon (2.3).
The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending October 12 were in California (+11,781), Pennsylvania (+3,362), New York (+2,443), Illinois (+2,178), and South Carolina (+1,182), while the largest decreases were in Kentucky (-2,178), Ohio (-2,164), Minnesota (-1,375), Massachusetts (-1,059), and Hawaii (-705).

REMARKS AT UNGA DISCUSSION ON OTHER WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Sixty-Eighth UNGA First Committee Thematic Discussion on Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
Remarks
Katharine C. Crittenberger, Delegation of the United States
Washington, DC
October 24, 2013

Mr. Chairman,

A year ago in this forum, as reports of chemical weapons use in Syria were prompting increasing concerns, the United States emphasized the very real possibility that the world may be faced with a situation where the use of chemical weapons could become a reality. With the confirmation of the senseless killing, on August 21, of over 1000 Syrians including hundreds of young children by the use of chemical weapons, the world saw that horrible reality come true. The United States and the international community quickly and unconditionally condemned such actions. We continue to stand firm on such use as reprehensible; it goes against what has been an international norm for nearly a century. The use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

It remains our overarching goal, and that of 98% of the world community, to exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons. However, the United States believes that such a commitment should be reflected in deeds and not just words, which is why the United States was prepared to take the action that led to the historic U.S.-Russia Framework and subsequently the adoption on September 27th of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council Decision and UN Security Council Resolution 2118, that imposes legally binding obligations on Syria to cooperate fully in the rapid elimination of its chemical weapons program under stringent verification procedures.

The fact that just a month ago the Syrian regime did not even acknowledge it possessed chemical weapons, and now inspectors are not only on the ground but they are overseeing the initial stages of destruction, is a step forward. UN Security Council Resolution 2118 requires that the Syrian Government provide the OPCW, the UN and designated personnel with immediate and unfettered access to any and all sites in Syria. Such access will be critical for the elimination of the Syrian CW program. The OPCW reports that the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons program began on October 6. We believe that the OPCW, UN and other designated personnel on the ground will see whether the Syrians are prepared to allow this kind of access and consent to efforts to move forward rapidly and comprehensively. It is now up to the Syrian Government and there is clearly more work to be done. The international community will be paying close attention to whether the Syrian regime is abiding by all of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, OPCW Executive Council decision and UNSCR 2118.

In this regard, we welcome and strongly support the successful efforts of the Director General of the OPCW, Ahmet Uzumcu, and the extraordinary work being done by him and the experts in the OPCW Technical Secretariat. The recent awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the OPCW for its long-standing efforts to eliminate chemical weapons is further validation of its commitment and resolve toward eliminating an entire class of WMD. The OPCW has been instrumental in verifying the elimination of chemical weapons around the world and is dedicated to the vision of a world free of chemical weapons and the prevention of the reemergence of such weapons.

It is also equally important to recognize UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his staff of professionals who are partnering with the OPCW in the important work going on in Syria. We acknowledge the bravery and professionalism of the staffs that make up the OPCW-UN teams and the important mission they have undertaken despite the dangers involved. Their efforts are to be commended and remembered.

Mr. Chairman,

On other CWC related matters, the OPCW held its Third CWC Review Conference (RevCon) in April of this year. Its final document provides a strong, balanced, and forward-looking call for continued and improved implementation of the Convention. It provides guidance on chemical weapons for the next five years and focuses on CW destruction, verification, chemical industry, economic cooperation, and preserving the expertise of the Technical Secretariat.

I would like to emphasize that the United States remains encouraged by the progress made by the OPCW in working toward a world free of chemical weapons. Since entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the OPCW has accomplished a great deal and remains an indispensable multilateral body with a global responsibility. With a near universal membership of 190 member states, with Somalia and Syria joining this year, over 81% of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles verifiably destroyed, and over 5,200 inspections conducted at military and industry sites since entry into force, we are certainly pleased with what the OPCW has accomplished. This progress is due to the combined efforts and commitment of States Parties, along with the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat.

For our part, the United States has safely destroyed nearly 90 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile under OPCW verification. The United States continues its steadfast commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention and will continue working in a transparent manner towards the complete destruction of our remaining amount of chemical weapons.

The United States remains fully committed to the nonproliferation of chemical weapons. Such a goal will take commitment from all States Parties and a continued effort in a number of areas to include universality. We recognize that preventing the reemergence of chemical weapons requires a strong inspectorate, a credible industrial verification regime, and enactment by all States Parties of the necessary domestic legal regimes to fully enforce the CWC. These are all areas of vital importance for the success and longevity of the CWC and the Organization responsible for its implementation. In the preamble of the Chemical Weapons Convention, all States Parties “determined for the sake of all mankind, to exclude completely the possibility of the use of chemical weapons through the implementation of the provisions of this Convention.” We must stand together to make this goal a reality.

Mr. Chairman,

The United States, as one of the depositaries of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), would like to congratulate Cameroon, Guyana, Malawi, the Marshall Islands, and Nauru for becoming States Parties to the Convention since the last meeting of this Committee. The BWC now has 170 States Parties, and we urge all to make efforts toward the universality of this important treaty.

The Seventh BWC Review Conference (RevCon) in 2011 was an opportunity for greater imagination and collective effort in confronting the threat of biological weapons, and for continuing the important work of adapting our international efforts to a changing world and a changing threat. While the RevCon did not achieve everything the United States hoped it would, we were satisfied with the outcome, and believe the stage is set for enhancing the important work of the BWC Intersessional Process.

The RevCon adopted a five-year work plan with agenda items for 2012-2013 on international cooperation and assistance, developments in science and technology (S&T), strengthening national implementation, and Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs). Since then, we have made progress on the work plan, both at the December 2012 BWC Meeting of States Parties, which produced a constructive final report, and at the August 2013 Meeting of Experts, which held useful discussions on many details of these agenda items in a positive atmosphere.

Mr. Chairman,

Discussions and briefings at these two meetings on international cooperation and assistance have demonstrated the diversity and extensiveness of ongoing global exchanges in the life sciences, including in areas of particular importance to the Convention such as biosecurity. With regard to S&T, Parties acknowledged that the rapid pace of technological change presents both challenges and opportunities for the BWC. An important focus was the challenge presented by dual-use research of concern and the utility of voluntary codes of conduct, education and awareness-raising for addressing it.

States Parties also continued to share information on the status of national implementation of the Convention and on the assistance available for effectively implementing it, and considered ways in which they could promote confidence in their compliance through transparency about implementation. Finally, a range of proposals to enhance the value of CBMs to States Parties were discussed, though it is still unclear why many Parties do not submit CBMs and what challenges they face in making use of them. More broadly, the 2013 BWC meetings reflected the link of the Convention to global health security, emphasizing the need to strengthen adherence to international norms, such as the International Health Regulations, and the value of working with international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health. The United States recognizes that the unique nature of the biological threat makes it essential to accelerate progress to achieve global health security, including international capacity to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats whether the result of a naturally occurring outbreak, accidental release or intentional event.

We look forward to reaching clear understandings and pragmatic, meaningful actions to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention in each of these areas and demonstrate the value of effective multilateralism at the BWC Meeting of States Parties in December. It is also important for Parties to remember that, while agreeing on new understandings and new actions is important, we all have much work to do, acting individually and in like-minded groups, to implement the obligations of the Convention and the understandings already reached. We should never lose sight of these challenges.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRESIDENT OBAMA'S STATEMENT MARKING ANNIVERSARY OF MARINE BARRACKS BOMBING IN BEIRUT

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Obama Honors Beirut Bombing Victims, Families, Comrades
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2013 – In a statement marking the 30th anniversary of the suicide bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, President Barack Obama honored the fallen service members, their families and the survivors who worked to free the victims from the rubble.

Here is the president’s statement:

Thirty years ago today, 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and 3 soldiers lost their lives to a Hizballah suicide bomber who attacked the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Minutes later, 58 French paratroopers lost their lives when a second Hizballah suicide bomber attacked the French barracks. This despicable act of terrorism was the deadliest single-day death toll for the U.S. Marine Corps since the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima. Our Marines and their fellow service members were serving in Beirut as part of a multinational force during the Lebanese civil war, to help bring stability to a troubled region and to defend our strategic interests in the Middle East. They came in peace.

Our 241 service members will be remembered in ceremonies at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, and in homes around the United States. We join with the families and their loved ones in paying tribute to the fallen and in sharing our deep appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice made in service to our nation. We also honor the courage and bravery of those warriors who survived the attack and spent days digging their brothers out of the rubble. They were faithful to their comrades in arms and served with honor and distinction in the finest tradition of the U.S. military.

The proud history of the U.S. military continues today as our service members risk their lives around the world to promote freedom and security and to deter terrorism. We are grateful for their sacrifices and honored by their commitment to defending our nation, our citizens, and our values.

We also renew our commitment to promoting Lebanon’s stability, sovereignty, and independence and to our partnership with the Lebanese Armed Forces. We continue to support the Lebanese people as they seek to form a government that reflects their aspirations and that will strengthen Lebanon’s ability to defend its national interests and meet its international obligations.

FDA LOOKING FOR REPORTS OF PETS GETTING SICK FROM JERKY PET TREATS

FROM:  U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION
Why Are Jerky Treats Making Pets Sick?

If you have a dog or cat that became ill after eating jerky pet treats, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would like to hear from you or your veterinarian.

The agency has repeatedly issued alerts to consumers about reports it has received concerning jerky pet treat-related illnesses involving 3,600 dogs and 10 cats in the U.S. since 2007. Approximately 580 of those pets have died.

To date, FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has conducted more than 1,200 tests, visited jerky pet treat manufacturers in China and collaborated with colleagues in academia, industry, state labs and foreign governments. Yet the exact cause of the illnesses remains elusive.

To gather even more information, FDA is reaching out to licensed veterinarians and pet owners across the country. "This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," says CVM Director Bernadette Dunham, DVM, Ph.D. "Our beloved four-legged companions deserve our best effort, and we are giving it."

In a letter addressing U.S. licensed veterinarians, FDA lists what information is needed for labs testing treats and investigating illness and death associated with the treats. In some cases, veterinarians will be asked to provide blood, urine and tissue samples from their patients for further analysis. FDA will request written permission from pet owners and will cover the costs, including shipping, of any tests it requests.

Meanwhile, a consumer fact sheet will accompany the letter to veterinarians so they can alert consumers to the problem and remind them that treats are not essential to a balanced diet. The fact sheet also explains to consumers how they can help FDA's investigation by reporting potential jerky pet treat-related illnesses online or by calling the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator for their state.

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What to Look Out For

Within hours of eating treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes and/or dried fruit, some pets have exhibited decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, and/or increased urination.

Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder. About 60 percent of cases involved gastrointestinal illness, and about 30 percent involved kidney and urinary systems.

The remaining cases reported various symptoms, such as collapse, convulsions or skin issues.

Most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China. Manufacturers of pet foods are not required by U.S. law to state the country of origin for each ingredient in their products.

A number of jerky pet treat products were removed from the market in January 2013 after a New York State lab reported finding evidence of up to six drugs in certain jerky pet treats made in China. While the levels of these drugs were very low and it's unlikely that they caused the illnesses, FDA noted a decrease in reports of jerky-suspected illnesses after the products were removed from the market. FDA believes that the number of reports may have declined simply because fewer jerky treats were available.

Meanwhile, the agency urges pet owners to be cautious about providing jerky treats. If you do provide them and your pet becomes sick, stop the treats immediately, consider seeing your veterinarian, and save any remaining treats and the packaging for possible testing.


What FDA Is Doing

More than 1,200 jerky pet treat samples have been tested since 2011 for a variety of chemical and microbiological contaminants, from antibiotics to metals, pesticides and Salmonella. DNA testing has also been conducted, along with tests for nutritional composition.

In addition to continuing to test jerky pet treat samples within FDA labs, the agency is working with the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), an FDA-coordinated network of government and veterinary diagnostic laboratories across the U.S. and Canada. (A summary of the tests is available on Vet-LIRN's webpage.)

Inspections of the facilities in China that manufacture jerky products associated with some of the highest numbers of pet illness reports did not identify the cause of illness. However, they did identify additional paths of investigation, such as the supply chain of some ingredients in the treats. Although FDA inspectors have found no evidence identifying the cause of the spate of illnesses, they did find that one firm used falsified receiving documents for glycerin, a jerky ingredient. Chinese authorities informed FDA that they had seized products at the firm and suspended its exports.

To identify the root cause of this problem, FDA is meeting regularly with regulators in China to share findings. The agency also plans to host Chinese scientists at its veterinary research facility to increase scientific cooperation.

FDA has also reached out to U.S. pet food firms seeking further collaboration on scientific issues and data sharing, and has contracted with diagnostic labs.

"Our fervent hope as animal lovers," says Dunham, "is that we will soon find the cause of—and put a stop to—these illnesses."

This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Oct. 22, 2013

PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY HAGEL AT NATO

FROM:  U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT 
Department of Defense Press Briefing by Secretary Hagel at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Good afternoon.

The NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] defense ministers have just concluded a positive and productive series of meetings. A key focus has been on laying the groundwork for next year's NATO summit, which will enable NATO leaders to set priorities for the future of the alliance. In our discussions, we began to define a forward-looking agenda that will be the base of the content and the efforts and the objectives of the summit next year focusing on strengthening the transatlantic alliance.



We see three priority areas for the summit: capabilities, partnerships, and Afghanistan. Our sessions yesterday focused on NATO military capabilities and the need to continue to invest in these capabilities to meet 21st century challenges.



On cyber, NATO's Computer Incident Response Center is on track to achieve full operational capabilities next week. This center will provide protection from cyber intrusions against NATO computer networks, a capability that was identified as a priority at our June ministerial meeting.



The U.S. supports a proposal for the center to have teams of NATO cyber experts that can be quickly deployed to assist allied nations if they request help in dealing with cyber intrusions or attacks. It was agreed that the alliance must do more to deal with cyber threats, and this will remain a top priority going forward.



On missile defense, the United States continues to meet its commitments to deploy the European Phased Adaptive Approach, and it's on schedule. To continue this progress next week, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller will join NATO leaders at a groundbreaking ceremony for the missile defense radar site in Romania, and then he'll attend a missile defense conference in Poland.



Two decades of experience in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Libya, and off the Somali coast have helped us build NATO forces that can work together seamlessly. We want to preserve that hard-won capability in the future. And that is the goal of NATO's new Connected Forces Initiative. Yesterday, ministers agreed on the key elements of the Connected Forces Initiative. In 2015, the alliance will begin regular large-scale exercises to ensure that our forces continue to gain experience working alongside each other, and even after we draw down combat forces from Afghanistan, we will continue to work together and enhance and enlarge these exercises.



To help NATO maintain a ready force, the U.S. is also increasing its participation in the NATO Response Force, a rapidly deployable, multinational alliance capability. We will begin rotating a battalion-sized unit to Europe twice a year so that we can participate in NATO Response Force training and train with individual allies.



In a few weeks, the United States will deploy U.S.-based forces to support the NATO Response Force Exercise Steadfast Jazz. This will mark the first time the U.S. has sent a ground unit to a NATO Response Force exercise.



These new U.S. commitments to NATO send a strong signal about the importance America places on this alliance. During this ministerial, I stressed the need for our partners to make strong, long-term commitments to NATO. Overdependence on any one country for critical capabilities brings with it risks, and we must continue to work to more equally share the burden of providing security.



Yesterday, ministers agreed to pursue flagship projects for next year's summit that will help balance alliance burdens, while filling capability shortfalls in combat lift, missile defense, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.



Our work to build effective working partnerships also extends to nations outside of NATO. Today we held the first defense ministerial meeting in several years of the NATO-Russia Council. Russia and NATO have many areas of common interest, including the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.



Following the NATO-Russia Council, I had good bilateral discussions with Russian Defense Minister Shoygu. The cooperation between the United States and Russia on Syria's chemical weapons underscores the benefits that come when our two nations pursue practical cooperation in areas of common interests. In order to help identify other areas for practical cooperation and promote greater transparency, Minister Shoygu and I today agreed to increase consultations with each other and between our staffs. The minister and I will hold regular video teleconferences to ensure these consultations move forward. This new security cooperation channel can help lay a foundation for progress in what's an important military-to-military relationship.



Finally, in today's ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] session, we assessed the progress we are making in Afghanistan toward achieving our security goals. I also discussed this progress yesterday with Afghanistan's defense minister. ISAF nations continue planning for the new train, advise and assist mission to help develop Afghan security capability after 2014. In the session we just completed, ISAF defense ministers endorsed General Breedlove's strategic planning assessment for this new mission.



This document will help the alliance and national governments move ahead with their planning efforts. A post-2014 NATO troop presence will require the approval of the Afghan government, a signed bilateral security agreement [BSA], and a status-of-forces agreement between Afghanistan and NATO.



In the ISAF meeting, I updated ministers on the status of the BSA and the recent progress we've made toward its completion. As we prepare for next year's summit, NATO will continue to focus on the challenges ahead and the new structures and strategies that will be required to deal with them.



Thank you. I'd be glad to take some questions.



PRESS SECRETARY GEORGE LITTLE: We'll start with Lita Baldor of the Associated Press.



Q: Mr. Secretary, we were told yesterday that the Afghan minister expressed confidence that the BSA would be approved. I'm wondering, during your discussions with him, did he also offer any assurances or express equal confidence that the provisions that the U.S. says it needs in the BSA, including the jurisdiction in counterterror operations provisions, would be in the BSA and that there are no real hurdles to that?



And just secondarily, the president initially had said that the end of October was the deadline for approval of the BSA. In your mind right now, can you tell us when you think this actually has to be completed by, end of the year, early next year? Can you just give us a sense of timing?



SEC. HAGEL: First, the minister did note his optimism about the BSA being completed with the language that both countries require. Our position has been very clear on this, especially on jurisdiction. But he was very positive and felt very good about the loya jirga going forward and advising a president to sign it, and then the next event, as you know, would be the ratification by the parliament.



As to the timing, I noted before, obviously, the sooner, the better. We need -- we all need time to plan, prepare. But that planning has been going on. It's been going on here at NATO headquarters for a post-2014 train, advise and assist mission, so that's not new.



But I believe we are on track with a -- right now, a scheduled late November loya jirga session, which should take a few days. I think if that works as we anticipate -- and, as the minister noted yesterday, he believes will -- we could get an agreement fairly soon. The sooner, the better, but we're not waiting for the signed BSA. We're continuing to plan and prepare, as we are with our ISAF NATO partners.



 MR. LITTLE: Yes, sir?



Q: Thank you very much. (Inaudible) from the Egyptian Television.



Minister, I have two questions, if you'll allow me. The first, you did agree with the Russian minister about the importance of Geneva II and destroying the chemical weapon, but do you have some other things you disagree with the minister, something you -- it was clearly that you -- (inaudible) -- work together?



And the second, considering the action you did take in Egypt by freezing some military aid, is it a type of measure you take or a type of sanction against Egypt? And when do you think this type of action you can withdraw? Thank you very much.



SEC. HAGEL: Well, regarding Geneva II, yes, we strongly support, as you know, moving forward with Geneva II. I think all of you know Secretary Kerry is in Europe today -- (off-mic.) -- London, I think, yesterday. And we are working with our Russian partners and the other 10 nations involved in this effort. We believe -- and we said it -- I think the Russians feel the same -- that a diplomatic solution, political solution is what's required, going to be required for Syria. So, yes, we strongly agree on the importance of Geneva II.



As to Egypt, the decision that was made regarding some weapons systems for Egypt was a decision to put on hold some of those systems. We announced one of our sophisticated airplanes that, the F-16, which would be put on hold a couple of months ago. Just recently we made some other announcements regarding Apache helicopters, tank kits, and so on.



We have laws in the United States that we must comply with on what are the restrictions and what are the boundaries of our assistance to allies regarding government and human rights. And we comply with those laws. So we're working with the Egyptian government. It's been very clear, the interim government, we believe, is moving in the right direction, road map toward inclusive, free democracy, rights for all people, assuring that all individuals, all citizens of Egypt have the same rights.



So we continue to work with the interim government in Egypt and hope that those rights will be fulfilled and they will continue to make progress on elections, on a new constitution, and a new and inclusive democratic republic. Thank you.



MR. LITTLE: We'll turn to Phil Stewart of Reuters.



Q: Yes, hi, Mr. Secretary.



First, a quick follow-up. You said you would be starting regular video conferences with your Russian counterpart. How often will those be? And why -- when was the last time the secretary had regular conferences? Is this unprecedented or not?



And then on Syria and the destruction of chemical weapons, both the NATO secretary general and the Russian defense minister raised the possibility of some sort of role in doing -- helping eliminate the chemical weapons. What might the United States do to contribute to that, by way of U.S. forces on the ground perhaps? Or what would they -- what would the U.S. do? And then why would it be important, perhaps, for NATO to have a role in that? Thank you.



SEC. HAGEL: On the Russian defense minister and the United States secretary of defense ministerial follow-ups, specifically teleconferences, I don't know if -- if that has occurred in the past. We have not decided on what kind of a regular basis we would do it. Our staffs will be meeting very soon on starting to lay out some kind of a schedule of an agenda, the point being we could use at least the initial teleconferences to, first, as I suggested in the meeting, have a very open, transparent and frank discussion about not just where we agree, but where we disagree, how we might be able to accommodate each other in some of these areas.



Also, I noted that I think it's particularly important that leaders from significant world powers have some regular occasion to talk to each other to anticipate problems, to anticipate issues that may be coming, rather than waiting for a crisis and then -- then we are forced together to communicate because of a crisis, something's blowing up in the world. Aren't we wiser to try to get out ahead of that, anticipate that, talk through some of these issues?



We have differences. We're going to continue to have differences. But I think it's always smarter and better for everyone if -- not only can we anticipate some of these big issues that may be coming, these challenges, threats, but also deal directly with our differences and find common interests and enhance ways where we can cooperate when we do have common interest.



As to your second question, I think -- if we can continue to see progress made, and I believe everybody believes we can, in destroying chemical weapons in Syria, then it seems to me that this is going to open opportunities for a lot of nations to play roles in -- in Syria in order to accomplish the objective.



It may well be that NATO will be asked for some assistance. Right now, as you know, the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] has the lead here. The United Nations is involved. And I think it would probably be something we would assume would occur if we can stay on track and make progress, like we believe we can, that other nations would be asked for help. And maybe -- it may be NATO. As to specifically your question about U.S. involvement, there are no plans to have any U.S. forces in any way in Syria.



MR. LITTLE: And the gentleman in the front row will have the final question.



Q: (Inaudible) from (Inaudible).



Was it Mr. Shoygu's initiative for this media conference thing? Because I know that he likes these videoconferences. He had them a lot -- worked a lot when he was emergency minister in Russia. And will this be replacing or adding up to the existing two-plus-two format?



SEC. HAGEL: Thank you. Yes, as to your first question, Mr. Shoygu has had a lot of experience with these, and they've been very effective and productive for him. I've used videoconferences over many, many years in different jobs I've had. I think they are productive. They are effective. We use them all the time, National Security Council with the president. It is a good way to stay connected.



Some of you may recall that, when we did have the two-plus-two in Washington, we actually mentioned this, that we were going to see if there was a possibility if we could pursue it. So what we did today was we followed up on some general thoughts that Minister Shoygu and I had in our initial meeting before the two-plus-two, which we had just -- we had an hour alone before the two-plus-two. So this was a follow-up from that idea that we each kind of came to. And I thought it was -- the timing was right. Obviously, Minister Shoygu thought the timing was right.



So, again, this is -- it seems to me -- one of the examples that can be used and should be used to take advantage of areas where we can agree, where we can anticipate and get out ahead, and where we -- we can enlarge and scope things out, where we could have more participants in something like this effort in Syria and chemical weapons.



But this teleconference -- just being one -- but this teleconference and videoconference that we would have would be not limited to any specific area, as I think I outlined some of the areas that we would have some interest in. And he's very receptive to that. I'm very receptive. I think he and I have a similar pattern, a style of doing business.



MR. LITTLE: And that will conclude our business today. Thank you, everyone.



SEC. HAGEL: Thank you very much. Thanks.

CFTC CHAIRMAN GENSLER'S LECTURE AT WHARTON LEADERSHIP LECTURE SERIES

FROM:  U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION 
Remarks of CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler Before the Wharton Leadership Lecture Series
October 15, 2013

Good afternoon and hello Quakers. I thank Justin for that very kind introduction. I also want to thank my dear friend and your classmate, Scott Schneider, for suggesting to Wharton to invite me here to speak.

It is a great honor to be asked back to speak at Wharton, my alma mater.

After cartoonist, Gary Trudeau, delivered our commencement address – and my parents headed back to Baltimore – I didn’t have much on my mind other than a particular girl who was visiting and heading over to Smokey Joe’s.

So I can safely say that when I left West Philadelphia thirty-four years ago, I did not contemplate that one day I might be asked to return to share thoughts on leadership.

I have been fortunate to live a very full live – with some success and a lot of dumb luck – in both the private sector and in public service. For 18 years, I worked in the investment banking business in New York and Tokyo before joining President Clinton’s administration at the Treasury Department. Now, as Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, I’m honored to head an agency that regulates America’s commodities and derivatives markets and to work to bring much needed reforms to the nation’s financial system.

I feel completely honored to serve this nation and to have served two presidents. I’ve been thinking about what I could say that might have some relevance to you. I could share stories about tough merger negotiations while on Wall Street or meetings in the Oval Office. The event planners, though, asked me to talk about leadership principles and experiences - some positive … some negative – that I have found most valuable since leaving Wharton. In essence, what worked and what did not?

And though the most important role I have and ever will play is as a husband and as a father of three wonderful daughters, I imagine that the organizers wish that I stick to thoughts on the world of business and politics.

Though, I hope that you will allow me to muse about some personal thoughts as well.

Here are some of the most critical lessons that I’ve learned in my career since leaving Wharton 34 years ago:

First, pursue your passions.

I have seen people in careers not passionate about their work. Don’t do that. Instead, find what you love the most and try and make a go at it.

I feel very fortunate. Neither of my parents went to college. After World War II, my dad used his mustering out pay to buy some used beat up vending machines. He later placed cigarette machines and pinball machines in local Baltimore bars. I used to travel with him when he would take the nickels out of the machines and help him count them. I guess you could say this was my first foray into business and the world of finance.

I knew from that early age that I wanted to pursue a career in business. At the same time, I felt a deep passion for politics and government, so I sought to merge those two dreams. I lost my campaign for senior class president in high school, but I kept alive my passion.

I chose to apply to the Wharton School to pursue those dreams. It was a lot easier, though, to get into college back in 1975. Nearly 25 of my high school classmates went on to the University of Pennsylvania. Not to mention, I had actually gotten a D in high school French.

At college, I once again got involved in student politics, being appointed the student representative on the University Budget Committee. I am glad to know the University still follows the tradition. Particularly, given that along with other students I actually participated in a four-day sit-in of College Hall in 1978 protesting the University’s cut of the hockey program. We were unsuccessful saving the varsity hockey program … but it did subsequently return as a club sport. Are there any Wharton Wildmen here?

I graduated from Penn with a bachelor’s degree and an MBA and followed my passion into business in New York. In 18 years on Wall Street, I became a partner at Goldman Sachs, worked in Tokyo for three years and met countless talented people. From there I moved to the Treasury Department where I could merge my experience in finance with my desire to be in public service. After President Obama was elected, I was honored to be asked to serve again in a new role.

Each of you may have different passions or dreams. Some of you may wish to be at large firms and others at small start-ups. Some will wish to pursue new technologies and some not. Some may have an interest in public service as I did, and many won’t. And some of you may have no idea what you want to do. It may take time to reveal itself, but whatever your passion is or whenever it develops, follow it.

I married an artist whose true passion was creating images. In her 20s, though, Francesca went off to Columbia for her MBA. She later was able to reconnect with her passion in her 40s. When she returned to it, she produced wonderful art that was featured in the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. So if your passion is art, do that!

Second, make your opportunities, and seize them.

Sometimes life presents us with great new opportunities. You should take them. Often, however, you have to make your own opportunities. That often requires a willingness to take risk.

I think that Sheryl Sandberg’s view that “careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder” is very apt. I had the great pleasure of serving with Sheryl in President Clinton’s Treasury Department. As that Administration ended, frankly, neither of us knew what we were likely to do next.

Initially I moved to Baltimore, co-authored a book, joined some boards and helped out on some campaigns. Francesca’s cancer returned and I spent increasing amounts of cherished time with my girls and her. After Francesca passed away, I became a stay-at-home dad doing the laundry, buying the groceries and making sure the dogs were fed.

When Hillary Clinton was preparing to run for president - that’s for 2008 - I told Hillary that I wanted to help her in any way I could. Hillary hesitated to let me join, though, unless I could assure her the girls would be OK. It finally took four conversations with Hillary and several months for me to persuade her that I could fulfill my responsibilities as a dad in Baltimore and commute to Arlington for her campaign every day.

As for Sheryl, after a bit of time off and some soul searching she moved to California for a job at Google, which had but 400 employees at the time and still ranked 15th among web sites. Shall we just say the rest is for the history books?

Getting to a senior role in government, as well, requires taking risk and pursuing it. Every candidate for office does so when they put their name in front of voters. So too, do those interested in appointed office. Whether one works hard for a candidate on a campaign or is an expert in a particular field, you have to actively pursue the job. A Presidential Transition or White House has hundreds of thousands of resumes to review, so the person who ends up in a senior role must actually hit the phones, schedule meetings, take risks and make their case as to why they want to serve and in what role.

Taking advantage of an opportunity can mean big changes. It might require you to move to a new place or leave a job you like. But those changes can bring you success and happiness. Follow them.

Third, find mentors.

I would not have been invited to speak here today if not for the help of mentors along the way. My first mentors were my mom and dad who encouraged me through every step of school, taught me great values and showed me what a loving lifelong relationship can be.

When I was at Penn, I sought the counsel of my professors, but particularly three with whom I became very close. One of them, Professor Jamshed Ghandi, is still a member of your faculty. He was a remarkable teacher, who was the first to clearly explain to me the role and function of financial intermediation in our economy. To this day, I remember some of the most important advice Jamshed and the others gave me. I also recall when as a result of a little wager, Professor Ghandi and I had to play a game of Jacks on the ground along Locust Walk.

Another mentor at Wharton was Dean Don Carroll and, maybe even more so, his assistant Elli Page. Each semester I wanted to take one more class than allowed. So at the start of every semester, I went to the dean’s office and begged Elli to let me talk to him. I ended up graduating with my bachelor’s and master’s is four years because Elli kept getting me signoff to take those extra classes. To this day, I don’t know if it was the dean’s signature or Elli’s forgery.

Another mentor at Wharton was a woman a year ahead of me in school and about six years my senior. We first met in Professor Ghandi’s class on financial intermediation. She had spent a summer working on Wall Street and helped get me interviews. She was furious when she found out that I went to my first job interview in jeans, for the Boston Consulting Group, no less. I didn’t own a suit and hoped it was all right if I didn’t wear one!

Straight away, she called my dad and asked permission to take me shopping. We went to Brooks Brothers and she helped me buy my first suit. Somehow I ended up getting a job at Goldman Sachs.

Goldman took a risk on a young 21-year-old kid. I made many mistakes – mistakes of youth, mistakes of inexperience and sometimes mistakes of arrogance. But I also had mentors at the firm who looked after me and gave me much-needed guidance.

One of the mentors who knew me pretty well at Goldman Sachs later became Treasury Secretary for President Clinton. I ended up working with him at Treasury, but, let me tell you, he didn’t just call me one day to offer me the job. Secretary Rubin had joined the Administration four years before I did. I stayed in touch over those years, and made sure he knew about my willingness to serve if an opportunity presented itself. He asked me to join the team as an assistant secretary and gave me the opportunity to fulfill my passion for public service.

You too will undoubtedly meet many talented people in the future who share your passions. Learn from them. Seek advice from those who have done what you want to do. Build off of those relationships.

Fourth, every time you take on a new role, right at the beginning, articulate one clear goal and write it down on a Post-it note.

All too often I have seen individuals being consumed by others’ agendas rather than their own. This is true in the private sector as well as the public sector. Beware of letting your competitors or events overwhelm how your days are spent.

Within a month of taking on a new role make sure that you clearly define your number one goal. Write it down on a Post-it note and put it in your desk drawer. Every day, open up the drawer and ask yourself “what have I done today to move forward on this goal?”

Every job includes mundane duties that, if not appropriately managed, can consume you. Every role has competitors trying to throw your organization and you off your game. Leadership, though, is about completing tasks in the face of all of these challenges and distractions, most importantly to do so towards your high priority goal – the one on your Post-it note.

Further, in pursuing your goal, know the difference between strategies and tactics. Far too often, talented people fill meetings discussing tactics without tying them to an agreed upon strategy. Tactics are critical, but only as they fit in with a well-articulated strategy.

During my first year at the CFTC, we set out a strategy of advocating that Congress enact comprehensive regulatory reform of over-the-counter derivatives, or swaps. Our tactics included giving speeches, providing Congress with legislative and technical assistance, placing opinion pieces in leading newspapers and actively working with coalitions of supporters outside of Congress.

We did not lose track of our strategy in favor of focusing on a particular tactic. We did not write op/eds for the sake of getting them published; rather, we only wrote op/eds if they fit into our larger strategy. Success depended on remaining steadfastly focused on our goals and our strategy.

Fifth, spend time learning about the practical bits of management.

Spending nearly $60,000 per year on tuition, you might be hoping to learn something about management. I might hope so, too, as your tuition has grown nearly twenty fold since I was a freshman at Wharton. Yes, tuition was only $3,430 per year in 1975! I’m not sure that would even cover your books!

I believe that one only truly learns about management, though, when finally doing it. When you get to that first management role, be sure to spend lots of time with your people. Communicate with and mentor them. Set clear goals.

Learn from those in your organization who do it well. Here are three key management lessons I learned from others along the way:

The first is simply the importance of keeping lists. I recall when I first saw Bob Rubin pull out his yellow pad and jot down a list. He was always doing it. Lists of tasks that needed to be done. Lists or relevant information that he needed for a decision. Lists of people to call. And he constantly followed-up with his staff on those lists, holding folks accountable and paying attention to the details of his lists. Try it on an iPad if you wish, but make those lists.
The other list man I learned from was Neil Armstrong. I kid you not. I met and befriended Neil Armstrong when advising an Ohio media company in the mid-1980s. As you all know, he was a remarkable man, but, when I worked with him, he also was the ultimate low ego, cool, quiet man, but under pressure, he just kept calm and got the job done.

When I once asked him if he enjoyed the views passing time on the way to the moon, he looked at me and said, “Gary, what I was always doing was reviewing in my head the next ten things I had to do on my checklist.” He was the ultimate list man, though he did admit to having enjoyed a few peeks back at the Earth along the way.

The second was from one of the best managers at Goldman Sachs. He spent a considerable amount of time on how to arrange the organization into boxes around clear lines of authority and accountability. He then spent even more time on getting the right people with the right skills for each of the “boxes.”
I kept this lesson at the forefront when I joined the CFTC with a clear goal on the Post-it note of enacting robust comprehensive swaps market reforms. That is why one of our first critical hires was an extraordinarily talented young speechwriter and former debater to help guide a public advocacy effort for reform. He’s one of your classmates, Scott Schneider.

The third lesson is the importance of identifying value drivers gating factors. Find those things in your organization that create value or are the constraint for higher performance. And then change the factor to open up the gate and create value.
Once Congress finalized financial reform in the Dodd Frank Act, at the CFTC we had to find a way to write and implement more than 60 new rules, though the agency was gravely underfunded and had never completed more than five rules in a year. We went after every gating factor we could find to move such a significant amount of reform “inventory.” We set up an entirely new team structure, new means of public openness and methods of outside regulatory consultations. Now we’ve nearly completed writing all the new Dodd-Frank rules, and financial institutions are coming into compliance with this new regulatory infrastructure. This would not have been possible had we not removed the gating factors at the CFTC.

Lastly, find a good partner.

I married Francesca, a beautiful woman I met at a party in New York four years after Wharton. We lost her to cancer seven years ago, but every minute of our 20 years of marriage was a blessing. We moved from New York to Tokyo to New York to Washington to Baltimore and had three beautiful daughters. So find a good partner in life. It does take work and a lot of communication, but life really is better with a good partner.

Before I close, I want to acknowledge that Wharton equipped me with many of the tools I needed both in the private sector and in public service. It was a remarkable experience that helped prepare me for each of my roles in business and government.

Thank you again for inviting me here today. I’d be glad to take any questions that you may have.

SEC COMMISSIONER AGUILAR'S REMARKS ON INTERNET AND THE ACCESS TO CAPITAL

FROM:  SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Harnessing the Internet to Promote Access to Capital for Small Businesses, While Protecting the Interests of Investors
 Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar
Washington, D.C.

Oct. 23, 2013

Today, the Commission is proposing new rules to implement Title III of the JOBS Act, which exempts qualifying crowdfunding transactions from the registration and prospectus delivery requirements of the Securities Act.[1]  The new Regulation Crowdfunding is expected to be used primarily by small companies.  As is well known, although personal savings is the largest source of capital for most start-ups, external financing is very important to many small and medium-sized businesses.[2]  Unfortunately, as is also well known, many small businesses have difficulty finding external capital.[3]  It is worth noting that the need for outside investment is even greater among minority entrepreneurs, who tend to have lower personal wealth than their non-minority counterparts.[4]  

Supporters of crowdfunding believe that it may offer a potential solution to the small business funding problem.[5]  Observers point to the success of existing crowdfunding services around the world, which raised almost $2.7 billion in 2012, an increase of more than 80% from the prior year.[6]

However, even the strongest supporters of crowdfunding acknowledge that it carries substantial risks.[7]  Small business investing is inherently risky and, the fact is, the majority of new business establishments fail.[8]  Research indicates that, in the U.S., about 70% of initial venture-capital investments lose money.[9]  Moreover, small business investments tend to be highly illiquid, as most securities offerings may be too small for an active secondary trading market to develop.[10]  As a result, crowdfunding investors must be prepared to hold and bear the risk of their investments indefinitely.

In addition to these risks, commenters, including state securities regulators, have noted that small business investments may pose relatively high risks of fraud, and may afford the potential for self-dealing or overreaching by controlling shareholders.[11]

As contemplated by the JOBS Act and our proposed rules, the hope is that such risks will be minimized by the disclosures that will be required under Regulation Crowdfunding, and by the individual and aggregate investment limits to be imposed in such offerings.  It is also hoped that the risks will be further offset by the gatekeeping role of the crowdfunding intermediary—a registered broker-dealer or registered funding portal—which sits between the investor and the issuer.  Under the proposed rules, the crowdfunding intermediary is required to keep an eye out for fraud and to have a reasonable basis for believing that the issuer has complied with the requirements of the exemption.[12]  The crowdfunding intermediary will also provide a forum for information sharing, with communications by an issuer or paid promoter clearly identified as such.  However, it is acknowledged that, while those and other proposed conditions may possibly reduce harm, they can never eliminate the risks.[13]  

Many believe that, if structured appropriately, crowdfunding can bring great benefits to our economy.  However, for crowdfunding to have a positive impact on the small business funding problem, it must work for both issuers and investors.  In particular, it is vitally important that investors have confidence in the crowdfunding process—or they will stay away.  The need for both investor protection and investor confidence is why Section 302(c) of the JOBS Act specifically directs the Commission to issue such rules “as the Commission determines may be necessary or appropriate for the protection of investors” to carry out the statutory exemption.[14]  As we enter the public comment process for this rulemaking, it will be important to hear from investor advocates if the proposed rules have enough safeguards built-in to protect investors from fraud and self-dealing and to provide them with confidence that they are being dealt with fairly and honestly.

The use of crowdfunding to reach potentially vulnerable segments of society is a particular concern.  Many of the SEC’s enforcement cases arise from “affinity frauds” that exploit the trust and friendship that often exists among members of any ethnic, religious, or other community.[15]  Given the possibility that crowdfunding may facilitate affinity fraud by making it easier to identify and target vulnerable groups, I would urge the Commission’s enforcement staff and state securities regulators to take a proactive approach to monitor the crowdfunding space for potential problems.  In that regard, I am pleased to note that the North American Securities Administrators Association announced the formation of a task force on Internet fraud investigations shortly after the enactment of the JOBS Act.[16]

Clearly, all investments bear some degree of risk.  However, to the extent that crowdfunding increases the risks of fraud, illiquidity, and self-dealing to relatively unsophisticated investors, it will be incumbent upon the Commission and state securities regulators to take appropriate measures.  Problems that arise from the actions of crowdfunding issuers or portals could generally affect investor confidence in the capital markets and have an adverse effect on capital formation.

It is therefore essential that the Commission work to establish this new financing technique in a responsible manner.  Because of the importance of small business funding, I support the issuance of this proposal.  However, I recognize that crowdfunding may entail substantial risks.  I look forward to public comments, particularly from investors and investor advocates, as to how the rules can be improved.  I also note that Title III of the JOBS Act expressly requires that, in carrying out the rulemaking required to implement the crowdfunding exemption, the Commission shall consult with the state securities commissions.[17]  To that end, I look forward to hearing from state regulators.

I thank the staff for their hard work on this proposal.


[1] Crowdfunding can be defined as using the Internet to raise small investments from a large number of investors.  See, C. Steven Bradford, Crowdfunding and the Federal Securities Laws, 2012 Colum. Bus. L. Rev. 1, 10.  Title III of the JOBS Act amended the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”) to add Section 4(a)(6) and Section 4A to the Securities Act.  Together, these new sections establish the foundation for a regulatory structure for the offering and sale of securities through crowdfunding.  See, Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, Pub. L. No. 112-106, 126 Stat. 306 (2012) (the “JOBS Act”).   The rules proposed today would both govern the offer and sale of securities in transactions that qualify for the crowdfunding exemption and create a framework for the regulation of crowdfunding platforms.

[2] Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 2013 State of Entrepreneurship Address (February 5, 2013), p.2, http://www.kauffman.org/uploadedFiles/DownLoadableResources/SOE Report_2013pdf.pdf .  Many entrepreneurs max out their credit cards, or take loans or investments from friends and family; others rely on trade credit and other forms of vendor financing, or seek commercial bank loans and lines of credit.  See, Alicia M. Robb and David Robinson, The Capital Structure Decisions of New Firms, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (November 2008), http://www.kauffman.org/uploadedfiles/Capital_Structure_Decisions_New_Firms.pdf .  

[3] A 2012 study by the National Small Business Association found that 43% of small business owners surveyed could not get the financing they needed.  National Small Business Association, Small Business Access to Capital Survey (July 11, 2012), p. 4, http://www.nsba.biz/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Access-to-Capital-Survey.pdf .

[4] U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency, Disparities in Capital Access between Minority and Non-Minority-Owned Businesses: The Troubling Reality of Capital Limitations Faced by MBEs (January 2010), pp. 6-8, et seq., http://www.mbda.gov/sites/default/files/DisparitiesinCapitalAccessReport.pdf.  Women and persons of color also face additional obstacles raising outside capital for their small businesses.  See, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Report to the Congress on the Availability of Credit to Small Businesses (September 2012), pp. 42-45, http://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/other-reports/files/sbfreport2012.pdf; supra note 23, pp. 19-22.

[5] See, e.g. Bradford, p. 5.

[6] Today, crowdfunding platforms in the U.S. generally operate on a “pre-sale” or “donation-and-reward” model, in which participants contribute to a project they wish to support in exchange for a copy of the finished work or some other token of thanks.  See, Kent Bernhard Jr., Crowdfunding’s tally: $2.6 B in 2012 and growing, Upstart Business Journal (April 8, 2013), http://upstart.bizjournals.com/money/loot/2013/04/08/crowdfundings-tally-26-b-in-2012.html .

[7] See, e.g. Bradford, pp. 9, 99.

[8] See, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Employment Dynamics, Entrepreneurship and the U.S. Economy, http://www.bls.gov/bdm/entrepreneurship/entrepreneurship.htm.

[9] Telephone Interview by Marc Leaf, Counsel to Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar, with Shikhar Ghosh, Senior Lecturer, Mel Tukman Faculty Fellow, Harvard Business School (October 22, 2013).  See, Deborah Gage, The Venture Capital Secret: 3 Out of 4 Start-Ups Fail, The Wall Street Journal (September 20, 2012), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390443720204578004980476429190 (citing research by Shikhar Ghosh).

[10] See, e.g. Bradford, pp. 9, 99; see, also, Dina ElBoghdady, “‘Crowdfunding’ trend poised to make mark on U.S. investing landscape,” The Washington Post (April 29, 2013), available at  http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-04-29/business/38902177_1_crowdfunding-small-businesses-investors (citing NASAA president Heath Abshure).

[11] See, e.g. Bradford, pp. 9, 99.  See, also, letter from Andrea L. Seidt, Commissioner, Ohio Division of Securities (January 9, 2013), available at http://www.sec.gov/comments/jobs-title-iii/jobstitleiii-199.pdf (crowdfunding provides investors with “almost no bargaining power and little information”).

[12] See, Crowdfunding, Release No. 33-XXXX (October 23, 2013) (the “Proposing Release”).  The crowdfunding intermediary is required, at a minimum, to conduct a background and securities enforcement regulatory history check on each issuer and its officers, directors and 20% beneficial owners, and must deny access to its platform if (i) the intermediary believes that the issuer or the offering presents the potential for fraud or otherwise raises concerns regarding investor protection, or (ii) the intermediary believes that it is unable to effectively assess the risk of such fraud.  If, after it has granted access to an issuer, an intermediary becomes aware of information that causes it to believe that the issuer or offering presents the potential for fraud, or otherwise raises concerns regarding investor protection, the intermediary must promptly remove the offering from its platform, cancel the offering, and return (or direct the return of) any funds that have been committed by investors in the offering.

[13] Bradford, pp. 9, 99.

[14] JOBS Act § 302(c).

[15] See, e.g., “Investor Bulletin: Affinity Fraud,” SEC Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (September 2012), www.sec.gov/investor/alerts/affinityfraud.pdf.

[16] Press release, “NASAA Sees Sharp Spike in Crowdfunding Presence on the Internet” (December 5, 2012), http://www.nasaa.org/18951/nasaa-sees-sharp-spike-in-crowdfunding-presence-on-the-internet/

[17] JOBS Act § 302(c).