More stories

  • in

    U.S. Marshals Service hires custodian to hold crypto seized in criminal activity

    Yuriko Nakao | Getty ImagesThe U.S. Marshals Service, one of the primary law enforcement agencies of the Department of Justice, has hired custodian Anchorage Digital for cryptocurrency seized or forfeited in various criminal cases.The Marshals Service has spent more than a year seeking a custodian and financial services provider for its stockpile of seized crypto. The contract was previously awarded to BitGo, which was acquired in May by Galaxy Digital.The agency’s Asset Forfeiture Division removes financial incentives for crime operations, which often also include real estate, art, vehicles, jewelry and cash.Anchorage will provide custody and liquidation services, which could include accounting, customer management, managing blockchain forks, transforming token assets into coin assets as well as future actions associated with the USMS virtual currency forfeiture process.”Critical, reliable infrastructure will be the most important factor in a stable crypto asset class,” Anchorage Digital President and co-founder Diogo Monica told CNBC.The agency has auctioned bitcoin since at least 2014. In addition to investing in dozens of crypto start-ups, much of venture capitalist Tim Draper’s bitcoin fortune came by winning the U.S. Marshals Service’s 2014 auction of 30,000 confiscated bitcoins from the now-defunct Silk Road.The Marshals Service has seized and sold more than 185,000 bitcoins worth more than $7.2 billion since about 2014. It most recently auctioned 4,040 bitcoins in early 2020. More

  • in

    Pelosi says Biden doesn't have power to cancel student debt

    U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi arrives at a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C.Alex Wong | Getty Images News | Getty ImagesHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested on Wednesday that people who believe President Joe Biden can forgive student debt on his own are misinformed.”The president can’t do it,” Pelosi said, at a press briefing. “That’s not even a discussion.”Pelosi said any student debt forgiveness would have to be carried out by Congress. Other people in her party have said otherwise.Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., have repeatedly called on Biden to forgive $50,000 in federal student debt for all borrowers through executive action.More from Personal Finance:Cryptocurrencies can be a tool for building personal wealthAmericans are house-rich. How to access that cashThis investment option can provide protection against inflation”All you need is the flick of a pen,” Schumer has said.Biden has asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education to review his legal authority to forgive student debt. Decisions from those agencies are not yet public.”They are likely to reach the same conclusion as the one reached by Speaker Pelosi,” said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz.The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Even if Biden doesn’t move to cancel the debt, Congress could still do so.Given their razor-thin majority, Democrats might find it hard to pass legislation forgiving student loans, but they could include such a bill in the budget reconciliation process in the fall. That avenue wouldn’t require the support of Republicans. More

  • in

    A key deadline for a 9/11 relief program approaches. How survivors can apply for relief

    The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy is less than two months away.There will be many commemorations, many reflections on how downtown New York and the country has changed since then. But for the people who lived and worked downtown during that time and are still with us, this is also time to take stock of their own health. The federal government has created two programs to assist the 300,000 people who lived and worked downtown, the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. One of those programs is up against a deadline that is expiring this week.We talk with Chris Sorrentino, a market maker who worked on the NYSE floor for 24 years before and after 9/11, and Michael Barasch, an attorney who has been involved in 9/11 health issues.Sorrentino is a cancer survivor and discusses how the Health Program helped pay for his medical expenses.Barash discusses the Victim Compensation Fund, which was set up to compensate people who have illnesses linked to 9/11 and have experienced pain, suffering and lost income. Jon Stewart was instrumental in obtaining a permanent extension of this fund. However, there is a deadline approaching for a key part of the program.The law requires that all claims be submitted within two years of the WTC Health Program certifying an illness, and within two years of someone’s death. The VCF Special Master has extended the deadline for family members to register claims on behalf of loved ones who died of 9/11 illnesses more than two years ago, but the deadline expires on July 29, 2021.  Barash explains how both these programs work and how those worked downtown can apply for them. More

  • in

    A historic eviction crisis could be coming to the U.S. in days, this housing expert warns

    In this articleWMTEmily BenferSource: Emily BenferMost evictions have been banned in the U.S. since last September, but that protection is now set to end in days. In August, millions of families could be pushed out of their homes.The share of adult renters who remain behind on their housing payments — around 16% — has been slow to drop. The $45 billion in federal rental assistance allocated by Congress to address the crisis has been painfully slow to reach people, and the economic recovery has been uneven.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national eviction moratorium has faced numerous legal challenges and landlords have criticized the policy, saying they can’t afford to house people for free or shoulder the country’s massive rental arrears, which could be as high as $70 billion.More from Personal Finance:Walmart to pay 100% of college tuition and books for its associatesHow much vaccine lottery winners could owe in taxesWays to make your monthly child tax credit payments growCNBC spoke this week to the country’s leading expert on evictions, Emily Benfer, about what we can expect to see when the ban ends on July 31.Benfer is a visiting professor of law and public health at Wake Forest University and the chair of the American Bar Association’s Task Force Committee on Eviction. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.CNBC: The CDC’s eviction ban has been extended several times. Any chance that happens again?Emily Benfer: Millions of families are facing a loss of their homes. Congress could ratify the moratorium and give the Biden administration the authority to extend it, but it sounds like they’d need a certain number of Republicans, and that support is just not there.CNBC: How many families could face eviction come August?EB: I’ve been looking at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and their analysis of the Household Pulse Survey. Their most recent count was that more than 10 million Americans are behind on their rent. They could be at risk of eviction. The other number to be looking at is the Eviction Lab’s tracking system. All of those cases filed, to the extent that they haven’t gone forward yet, could be scheduled for a hearing in the first weeks of August. That’s over 350,000 cases that were halted in the pandemic and could go forward pretty quickly.CNBC: Just around $3 billion out of the $45 billion Congress has allocated in rental assistance had reached households by the end of June. How surprised are you that the money is moving this slowly?EB: It’s horrifying. Cities and states, over a year ago, were facing heightened eviction risk and had the opportunities to create this infrastructure and the lack of attention and robust intervention has led to this moment where they’re unprepared to prevent the eviction surge.CNBC: How effective has the CDC’s ban been at preventing evictions?EB: While it had its shortcomings, it was still instrumental at keeping filings far lower than normal. We could have seen twice as many eviction cases across the country than what we saw during this period.CNBC: Despite the uptick in vaccine rates and improvements to the economy, the number of people behind on their rent hasn’t really dropped since March. Why do you think this is?EB: Only a fraction of the rental assistance has reached the people who are at the highest risk of eviction.CNBC: Who will be hardest hit by the crisis?EB: When the moratorium expires, the people who will be facing evictions will predominantly be from historically marginalized communities, so Black families, mothers and children.CNBC: What are the some of the biggest consequences of an eviction?EB: We know that eviction increases infection and mortality related to Covid, and we also know vaccination rates are the lowest in the communities with the highest risk of eviction at this moment. Eviction makes it incredibly challenging to secure housing in the future because it creates a mark on a person’s record. Eviction prevention must be our national priority. Without it, we’ll see multi-generational impacts that our country will be hard-pressed to ever recover from.Are you at risk of eviction? If you’re willing to share your story for an upcoming article, please email me at annie.nova@nbcuni.com. More

  • in

    Economic growth likely hot in the second quarter, but shortages may have kept it from overheating

    Residential single family homes construction by KB Home are shown under construction in the community of Valley Center, California, U.S. June 3, 2021.Mike Blake | ReutersThe U.S. economy is expected to have grown at the strongest pace of the year, but growth could have been even more rapid were it not for supply-chain disruptions and a shortage of workers.According to Dow Jones, economists expect to see that U.S. gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 8.4% in the April to June period, after growing by 6.4% in the first quarter. That estimate is lower than the more than 10% that had been expected earlier in the year. The GDP report will be released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET.That would be the fastest pace of growth since early 1983, with the exception of last year’s big bounce back in the third quarter as the economy reopened.”The big story remains the consumer. It looks like real consumer spending was up about 10% in the second quarter and some of that relates to the ongoing boost from the rebate checks,” said Amherst Pierpont chief economist Stephen Stanley.Stanley said he expects growth of 8.7% for the second quarter.”That’s not indicative of where demand was. There was a point in time where I had as much as 12% for GDP for Q2, but it’s been pared back because of supply issues,” said Stanley.During the quarter, the auto industry cut back production due to chip shortages, and home construction slowed because of scarce and expensive materials. Companies across many industries are complaining about a lack of qualified workers.”If anything it extends the recovery stage of the expansion,” Stanley said. He added that some of the activity that would have come in the second quarter will now roll into the second half of the year.”For me, the second half should be maybe 6% real growth, something along those lines: 6% or 7%, which is easily double what it was before the pandemic,” he said.The supply issues are affecting a range of industries, from industrial firms to retail stores.”Not only did it stop some production from happening, it’s also stopped some construction from happening,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. “It also turned housing, one of the biggest drivers in the economy, into a drag.”She expects a half-percent decline in residential investment, compared with a 0.6% increase last quarter. Housing was a much bigger drag at the peak of the pandemic but aside from that it has not been this negative since 2010, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, she said.”We have double-digit consumer spending. Investment will be a little lackluster. Inventories will still be drained but not as rapidly,” said Swonk. “Government spending will show up as support, and the trade situation deteriorates a bit because we’re finally exporting to the rest of the world again. We’re still importing more than we export.” More

  • in

    Another 1.5 million refunds are going out to those who paid taxes on 2020 unemployment pay

    People line up outside a newly reopened career center for in-person appointments in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., April 15, 2021.Amira Karaoud | ReutersThere’s good news for some who claimed unemployment benefits in 2020.The IRS is sending another 1.5 million refunds to people who were taxed on unemployment income last year before a portion of the benefits were made tax-free, the agency said in a statement.Refunds being sent by direct deposit will start to go out Wednesday, according to the agency. Paper checks will be sent starting Friday, July 30.More from Invest in You:Facing high jobless rates, formerly incarcerated people start businessesEmployers are planning larger pay raises. How to negotiate for even more10 work-from-home jobs that pay six figuresThe average refund is $1,686.Adjusting returns for unemploymentGenerally, unemployment compensation is taxable. But in March, the American Rescue Plan waived taxes on the first $10,200 in unemployment income, or $20,400 for a couple who both claimed the benefit, for those who made less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income in 2020 in light of the coronavirus pandemic.Passage of the law came after some people had already filed their 2020 returns, leaving those taxpayers wondering if they’d need to submit an amended return. The IRS later confirmed it would adjust returns and automatically send refunds to eligible taxpayers.The first of those payments went out in May. The IRS has since sent roughly 8.7 million unemployment compensation refunds totaling some $10 billion.The agency will continue to adjust returns and send refunds through the summer, it said. It started the readjustment process with the simplest returns and is now moving through more complex ones.Most people do not have to take any action or file an amended return to get a refund if they overpaid on unemployment compensation, according to the IRS. Some taxpayers who had their 2020 returns readjusted may not get a refund because the IRS first applied their overpayment to outstanding taxes or other debts owed at the state or federal level.SIGN UP: Money 101 is an 8-week learning course to financial freedom, delivered weekly to your inbox.CHECK OUT: How to make money with creative side hustles, from people who earn thousands on sites like Etsy and Twitch via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns. More

  • in

    Here are your best moves while the Fed keeps rates near zero

    The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it will keep its benchmark interest rate near zero despite signs inflation is heating up.While rising prices brought on by supply constraints and a sudden spike in consumer demand are paving the way for the Fed to unwind last year’s bond buying, the central bank said it is sticking with ultra-accommodative monetary policies for now. (The tapering of bond purchases is seen as the first step on the way to interest rate hikes.)”Right now, there’s two things happening: a squeeze in supply and an increase in demand,” said Yiming Ma, an assistant finance professor at Columbia University Business School. “A squeeze in supply tends to be temporary, demand is likely here to stay.”More from Personal Finance:Wages are rising, but inflation may have given workers a pay cutThis investment option can provide protection against inflationAmericans’ inflation fears reach a fever pitchThe International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday that there’s a risk inflation will prove to be more than just transitory, pushing central banks to take pre-emptive action. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also cautioned that the price increases are likely to continue for at least several months.And cases of the delta variant are spiking in a handful of states, putting the economic rebound from the pandemic in jeopardy.”The Covid delta variant puts a wrinkle in what we’d thought was a steady path toward Fed tapering,” Bankrate.com chief financial analyst Greg McBride said. “Rising infection rates and belief that peak economic growth is behind us make the Fed even more hesitant to consider removing accommodation.”Although the federal funds rate — which is what banks charge one another for short-term borrowing — is not the rate that consumers pay, the Fed’s moves still affect the borrowing and saving rates they see every day.The Fed’s historically low borrowing rates make it easier to access cheaper loans, but also make it less desirable to hoard cash.Here’s a breakdown of how consumers can take advantage of these easy monetary policies while they last.Borrowers get a leg upFor starters, homeowners have an unparalleled opportunity to refinance or take some money out of their houses at record-low rates.The average 30-year fixed rate home mortgage is around 3.04%, the lowest since February, according to Bankrate.”The ability to refinance a mortgage and cut your payment by $150 to $200 a month creates valuable breathing room in the household budget,” McBride said.The ability to refinance a mortgage and cut your payment by $150 to $200 a month creates valuable breathing room.Greg McBrideBankrate’s chief financial analystOnce the Fed starts to slow the pace of bond purchases, long-term fixed mortgage rates will inevitably move higher, since they are influenced by the economy and inflation.Many homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages or home equity lines of credit, which are pegged to the prime rate, will also be affected. While some ARMs reset annually, a HELOC could adjust within 60 days.The same goes for other types of debt, particularly credit cards.Credit card rates are now as low as 16.16%, down from a high of 17.85%, according to Bankrate.When the federal funds rate does rise, the prime rate will as well, and credit card rates will follow suit since most credit cards have a variable rate, which means there’s a direct connection to the Fed’s benchmark. Cardholders will see the impact within a billing cycle or two.For now, borrowers can use a home equity loan or personal loan to consolidate and pay off high-interest credit cards.The average interest rate on personal loans is down to 10.77% and a home equity line of credit is as low as 4.24%, according to Bankrate.When it comes to college debt, even student borrowers are getting a break thanks to the CARES Act, which paused federal student loan repayment through September.This is a great time to stay up-to-date on payments, McBride said. “With no interest accumulating on federal student loans, you can really make a big dent in the principle,” he said.Savers need to be resourcefulAnyone stashing cash will have a harder time leveraging low interest rates to their advantage.Although the Fed has no direct influence on deposit rates, those tend to be correlated to changes in the target federal funds rate, and, as a result, savers are earning next to nothing on their cash.Since March 2020 when the Fed cut its benchmark rate to near zero, the average online savings account yield has fallen from 1.75% to 0.45%, according to DepositAccounts.com founder Ken Tumin.At some of the largest retail banks, the average savings account rate is even lower, down to a mere 0.06%, or less.”In addition to Fed policy, the record level of deposits at banks along with weak loan demand has contributed to record-low deposit rates,” Tumin said. “This will likely be a headwind on deposit rates even after the Fed begins to raise its benchmark rate,” he added.When the inflation rate is higher than savings account rates, the money in savings loses purchasing power over time. Investors concerned about inflation eroding the value of their money may want to be more proactive when it comes to the fixed income portion of their portfolios.One of the ways to do that is with Treasury inflation-protected securities. Stocks and mutual funds will also beat inflation over the long haul, but that will require taking on more risk — at a particularly precarious time, according to HYCM chief currency analyst Giles Coghlan.While equity investments have increased in value over recent months as global indices hit unprecedented levels, that’s largely due to the support they have found in loose monetary policy, Coghlan noted.Once the Fed signals an end to their easy monetary policy stance, “then equity markets will fall, which will affect those with holdings in this market.””Diversify across a range of investments that would fare well under different circumstances,” Columbia’s Ma advised. “Some protection is good,” she said, but don’t “put all the eggs in the basket of high inflation.”Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube. More

  • in

    As multimillion-dollar IRAs grow, lawmakers vow to curb abuse of these accounts

    Palantir Technologies co-founder and chairman Peter Thiel at a Tokyo news conference on Nov. 18, 2019.Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty ImagesPayPal co-founder Peter Thiel did it. Now, new data shows other investors are doing it, too.Figures released by the Joint Committee on Taxation finds that so-called mega individual retirement accounts, those with $5 million or more, are seeing big growth.Thiel recently made headlines when reports surfaced that he owns a Roth IRA that had grown to $5 billion as of 2019, up from less than $2,000 in 1999.More from Personal Finance:Ultra-wealthy have made full use of Roth individual retirement accountsDoes Biden tax plan affect those with income below $400,000? It depends Stimulus checks, child tax credit payments prompt calls to expand another creditThe growth of these giant IRA accounts prompted Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., to request figures on the number and size of these holdings.Data for the 2019 tax year shows that 497 taxpayers have $25 million or more in aggregate IRA balances. The average aggregate account balance for those taxpayers was more than $150 million.Moreover, almost 25,000 taxpayers had $5 million or more in IRA account balances.The number of outsized IRA accounts has swelled since tax year 2011, when almost 8,000 taxpayers had IRA account balances of $5 million or more.This kind of growth typically happens with so-called contributory IRAs, said Brian H. Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association, during a Senate hearing on Wednesday.For example, a venture capitalist may participate in 10 start-ups in a year and put stock from the ventures into 10 IRAs.”If one of them hits in a big way you could have hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars in this IRA,” Graff said.”The problem with these hard to value assets is that one, they’re hard to value, and two, the IRS really has practically no ability to enforce how to value them, because there’s typically no appraisal associated with it,” he said.Moreover, putting start-up stock in an IRA is more of a tax planning strategy that only registered sophisticated investors can access, than a retirement tool, he said.”It is shocking, but not surprising, to see how the use of mega-IRA accounts by mega-millionaires and billionaires has exploded,” Wyden said in a statement. “IRAs were designed to provide retirement security to middle-class families, not allow the super wealthy to avoid paying taxes.”About 100 million Americans have no retirement plan benefits or savings in retirement accounts, Wyden said.The Senate Finance committee will be looking to close those loopholes and make the tax code more fair, he said. The House Ways and Means Committee is also looking for ways to make sure the retirement accounts are no longer misused as a tax shelter for the richest Americans, Neal said. More