Consumer Protection Agency Responds to SafeMoon FOIA
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a final response earlier this month to a FOIA request seeking records responsive to SafeMoon, a cryptocurrency surrounded by management controversy. The request was submitted by Expanding Frontiers Research (EFR) as part of its coverage of high profile UFO personalities and conferences that incorporated promotion of investing in cryptocurrency into their usual assortment of unverified stories of otherworldly visitors (see Following the Money: Cryptocurrency and UFO Culture). Several pages of records were obtained from multiple agencies during the course of the investigation. The records released by the CFPB, which document consumer complaints and allegations of SafeMoon fraud, are available for download at the end of this article.
The author of a particular email provided by the CFPB questioned how a “totally unregulated investment product,” referencing SafeMoon, was being sold by an unlicensed broker and framed in such capacities as “a crypto IRA” and “cryptocurrency banking.” The email author went on to cite another example of what was termed “the SafeMoon card,” and asked, “[T]his is a bank, how is it just being allowed to operate completely freely?”
A potentially larger takeaway than what was released by the CFPB may be what was withheld. While granting EFR its request for media status and a subsequent fee waiver, the agency explained in its final response of May 2 it was providing just one page in full and one page in part of a total 58 pages of documents identified as responsive to the request. Seven FOIA exemptions were cited as justification for the withheld 56 pages.
A CFPB FOIA manager further wrote, “Additionally, I have determined that response letters that have been issued to individual complainants as well as response letters from financial institutions would also be responsive to your request. I have determined that these letters should be withheld in their entirety under FOIA Exemptions 4 and 6.”
EFR is appealing the withholding of records, asserting that personal information may be properly redacted while the documents and letters should still be released in partial form. The public should be granted access to the salient content in the withheld documents and letters.
The struggling Utah-based SafeMoon was repeatedly given Twitter shoutouts from Brandon Fugal, a cast member of the cable television show Secret of Skinwalker Ranch and participant on the Utah Blockchain Advisory Board. A high profile crypto-related YouTube channel explored the controversial Fugal's apparent fondness of SafeMoon, documenting how Fugal asserted he owned more of the coin “than most [people].” Fugal ironically defended his investment expertise when challenged about his assessment of the integrity of SafeMoon and his subsequent confidence. He would later tell EFR he lost over 90 percent of his investment.
Correspondence and records obtained from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau pertaining to SafeMoon: