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G-7 nations to announce import ban on Russian gold

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The move would add to a series of punitive penalties imposed by the West on Russia since its onslaught of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.

Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

The leaders of the G-7 nations will announce a ban on Russian gold imports for Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed on Sunday morning.

As the leaders met in Munich, Germany, for the latest G-7 summit, Biden took to Twitter to confirm earlier reports of an imminent ban.

“The United States has imposed unprecedented costs on Putin to deny him the revenue he needs to fund his war against Ukraine,” he said early Sunday.

“Together, the G7 will announce that we will ban the import of Russian gold, a major export that rakes in tens of billions of dollars for Russia.”

The move would add to a series of punitive penalties imposed by the West on Russia since its onslaught of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.

The sanctions have aimed to crush the Russian economy and have included bans or curbs on oil and gas imports and trading with Russian banks and individuals. Indeed, U.S., Canada and their European allies agreed in February to remove key Russian banks from the interbank messaging system, SWIFT, effectively severing the country from much of the global financial system.

Tuesday announcement

The U.K. government on Sunday also confirmed the move to ban Russian gold imports, saying it would apply to newly mined gold and refined gold — excluding gold that may have come from Russia but had already been exported.

Russia is the world’s second-largest producer of gold, according to the latest data from the World Gold Council, with around a 10% slice of the globe’s output. Reuters reports that its holdings of gold have tripled since it illegally annexed Crimea in 2104 and the commodity is an important asset for Russia’s central bank — which is already operating under severely limited conditions.

A senior U.S. administration official said Sunday, according to Reuters, that the ban would be announced on Tuesday, adding that the “the president and other G-7 leaders will continue to work to hold Putin accountable.”

Ruble strength

Despite the unprecedented level of sanctions imposed on the Kremlin, the Russian ruble actually hit its strongest level in seven years last week following a February collapse.

Russia’s ruble hit 52.3 to the dollar on Wednesday, its strongest level since May 2015, and its surge is being cited by the Kremlin as “proof” that Western sanctions aren’t working.

In fact, the ruble has actually gotten so strong that Russia’s central bank is actively taking measures to try to weaken it, fearing that this will make the country’s exports less competitive.

—CNBC’s Natasha Turak contributed to this article.



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Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather crypto scam lawsuit dismissed

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A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit by investors against the founders of the cryptocurrency EthereumMax, as well as celebrity endorsers including Kim Kardashian and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. over their promotion of the cryptocurrency on social media.

Investors who bought EMAX tokens alleged they had suffered losses after taking the word of the celebrity influencers about the value of the crypto. The suit claims the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to artificially inflate the value of the EMAX tokens.

Judge Michael Fitzgerald wrote that he recognized that the lawsuit’s claims raised legitimate worries about “celebrities’ ability to readily persuade millions of undiscerning followers to buy snake oil with unprecedented ease and reach.”

“But, while the law certainly places limits on those advertisers, it also expects investors to act reasonably before basing their bets on the zeitgeist of the moment,” wrote Fitzgerald, of the Central District of California.

The judge found that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficiently backed, especially “given the heightened pleading standards” for fraud claims, according to his ruling in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

In addition to Kardashian, Mayweather and former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, the defendants in the case included Steve Gentile and Giovanni Perone, the co-founders of EthereumMax, and Justin French, a consultant and developer for the cryptocurrency, court documents state.

Fitzgerald in his ruling said he would allow lawyers for the plaintiffs to refile their suit after amending some of their claims under a number of the statutes cited in the original complaint, which included the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO.

“We’re pleased with the court’s well-reasoned decision on the case,” Michael Rhodes, a lawyer for Kardashian, told CNBC.

The dismissal came weeks after investors in fallen crypto exchange FTX filed a class-action lawsuit against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and celebrity advertisers for the company, among them NFL superstar Tom Brady, for allegedly overstating the value of the crypto tokens in promotional messaging.

And the ruling came two months after Kardashian agreed to pay $1.26 million, and not to promote cryptocurrency for three years, to settle claims by the SEC for her failure to disclose a $250,000 payment touting EthereumMax on her Instagram account.

Fitzgerald in his ruling Wednesday said the EthereumMax lawsuit reflects a broader conflict surrounding celebrity and influencer promotional schemes.

“This action demonstrates that just about anyone with the technical skills and/or connections can mint a new currency and create their own digital market overnight,” Fitzgerald wrote in his dismissal.

Investors sued EthereumMax and its celebrity advertisers in January after a slew of influencers started snagging sponsorships to promote cryptocurrencies to their millions of social media followers.

Kardashian’s Instagram post in June 2021 had written, “Are you guys into crypto??? This is not financial advice but sharing what my friends told me about the Ethereum Max token.”

Her post included “#ad” at the bottom, indicating she had been sponsored. But it did not disclose her $250,000 payment from EthereumMax.

Mayweather promoted EMAX at a boxing match and a large Miami bitcoin conference in June 2021.

But by January, the cryptocurrency had lost 97% of its value.

Fitzgerald at a hearing last month indicated he was inclined to dismiss the case.

Bloomberg News, in an article about that hearing, said that an attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit asked the judge to allow him to revise the suit’s racketeering claims to show how the statements by the celebrity defendants harmed the investors.

“If plaintiffs had known the true facts related to the promoters’ financial interest in the tokens, and that they were being paid to shill these tokens, they wouldn’t have paid as much for the tokens as they did,” the attorney, John Jasnoch, told Fitzgerald, according to a transcript cited by Bloomberg.



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Cathie Wood says the Fed is making a serious mistake as bond market flashes worst signal since 1980s

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How the U.S. became a global corn superpower

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The United States has just about 90 million planted acres of corn, and there’s a reason people refer to the crop as yellow gold.

In 2021, U.S. corn was worth over $86 billion, according to calculations from FarmDoc and the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA, the U.S. is largest consumer, producer and exporter of corn in the world.

“We’re really good at [corn production],” Seth Meyer, chief economist at the USDA, told CNBC. “And that’s why you see big acres, big demand, export competitiveness.”

It’s not just what we eat.

“We turbocharged the value of corn through the application of science,” Scott Irwin, agricultural economist and professor at the University of Illinois, told CNBC.

Corn is in what we buy, including medications and textiles, and corn is turned into ethanol, which helps to fuel cars across the nation.

The rest of the world relies on U.S. corn, too. 

At $2.2 billion in 2019, corn is the most heavily subsidized of all crops in the country.

“A lot of these subsidies … do get embedded into the cost of farmland and they essentially bid up the price of farmland marginally,” Joseph Glauber, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and former USDA chief economist, told CNBC. “So the benefits accrue largely to those who own land.”

The federal crop insurance program’s net spending is forecast to increase to nearly $40 billion from 2021 through 2025, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

At the same time, farmland values have reached all-time record highs.

“Do we get the corn acres because we’ve got the support, or do we have the support because we have the corn acres?” Meyer said, posing the chicken-and-egg question about the nation’s grain superpower.

Watch the video above to learn more about how corn fuels the U.S. economy from its people to its vehicles, the power of the corn belt states, the role of subsidies and where government policy for the industry may go from here.



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