The Georgetown Center for Financial Markets and Policy hosted a two-day conference, “Emerging Frauds in the Digital Age,” in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The event was held at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business on May 23-24, 2017.

The Honorable Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, U.S. Department of Justice, delivered the opening remarks. According to Rosenstein, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) developed the idea for this conference as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Fraud Identification Center (FIC), which was established a couple of years ago with the goal of gathering and analyzing industry data to detect financial frauds as they emerge.

“Technology is rapidly transforming our financial ecosystem in both good and bad ways,” said Rosenstein. “Technology offers new investment vehicles to stimulate the economy and bring economic growth. At the same time, it paves new avenues for criminals to engage in larger, more devastating fraud schemes and to avoid detection.”

John Jacobs, executive director and distinguished policy fellow, Georgetown Center for Financial Markets and Policy, introduced Rosenstein. He also moderated the first panel session, “Digital Technology: A Transformation of Banking and Financial Industries.” This session analyzed whether there is anything not changing about the financial sector.

To begin the discussion, Jacobs posed this question to the panelists: “No matter their age, people are banking differently today. What is the future of retail banking in the digital age?”

“Threat data versus financial institutions, large and small, have become a big issue,” said Doug Johnson, senior vice president of payments and cybersecurity policy, American Bankers Association. “You do not want any threat. Fintech really is not a new phenomenon. There has always been and will be financial technology.”

“The change in technology is creating a more secure infrastructure,” said Jason Oxman, chief executive officer, Electronic Transactions Association. “In the payments industry, it used to be credit card fraud. Now, mobile payments are replacing infrastructure and are defining financial technology.”

“Thieves are sophisticated when it involves money,” said Steve Randich, executive vice president and chief information officer, FINRA. “As the markets are more electronic and are moving faster, criminals are investing more because it pays off. Also, with the invention of the cloud, there is no secure way to manage data.”

This two-day financial fraud conference brought together policymakers, industry leaders, and academics and offered sessions on emerging technologies, such as virtual currencies, distributed ledgers, smart contracts, crowdfunding and emerging payments. 

“One of the conference's recurring themes was the heightened need for collaboration,” explained Christine Kieffer, senior director of FINRA's Office of Investor Education. “And in many ways, the conference was a testament to the necessity, and value, of groups working together.”