UPDATE: CONSOB, Italy’s Securities Regulator, Issues New Order In Probe Related To Club Asteria; Findings And Effect Not Immediately Clear; Google Translation Software Calls CONSOB A ‘Bag’; Yahoo Calls Club A ‘Starfish’; PP Blog Awaits Official Government Translation

Dear Readers,

The PP Blog became aware last night that CONSOB, Italy’s equivalent of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), had issued a new order on Monday in its investigation into certain claims made online in Italy about the purported Club Asteria business “opportunity.”

Club Asteria has been widely promoted online as a “passive” investment program that provides a weekly return that projects to yearly gains in the hundreds of percentage points. The firm, which claims to be a revenue-sharing program, is based in Virginia. Its offer is targeted at the world’s poor.

The CONSOB order, which addresses concerns first raised by the agency during the spring about how citizens of Italy were approached in online solicitations to join Club Asteria, was signed by CONSOB President Giuseppe Vegas on Aug. 22 and announced yesterday.

The PP Blog has a copy of the order. What it does not have is a reliable translation from Italian to English.

Italy first raised issues about Club Asteria in May. It is believed to be the first nation to have done so publicly, and Club Asteria may have sales affiliates in 150 or more countries worldwide. The Italian probe — coupled with claims about Club Asteria in other languages or in butchered or even highly polished, stylized English — led to questions about whether Club Asteria and tens of thousands of affiliates were selling unregistered securities on a global scale — with Club Asteria being the beneficiary of an unlawful offering.

Because Google’s translation tool leaves a lot to be desired — and because the CONSOB order potentially affects thousands of Club Asteria members and was released in Italian — the PP Blog contacted CONSOB by email at 5:49 a.m. (EDT, U.S.A.) today to see if an official English translation was available and to clarify certain CONSOB findings. The Blog addressed CONSOB in English — and is uncertain if its email was received in Italy and understood.

It’s easy to imagine an Italian reporter who did not speak English and needed the SEC to provide a document in Italian or an SEC employee to answer questions in Italian encountering the same information hurdles.

At 1:08 p.m. (EDT, U.S.A.) today — approximately seven hours after asking CONSOB for assistance and lacking confidence that its email to CONSOB in Italy had been received and understood — the PP Blog contacted Italy’s U.S. Embassy in Washington by phone. The Blog asked the Embassy’s assistance in translating the new CONSOB order from Italian to English, and the Embassy provided an email address through which the Blog could submit a request for journalistic assistance through the Embassy. At 1:55 p.m. (EDT, U.S.A.), the Blog emailed the Embassy with the CONSOB order as it exists in Italian, and also supplied a link to the CONSOB webpage at which the agency’s order is published. The Blog is awaiting the Embassy’s response.

An English translation by Google of the CONSOB order is available, but it is highly confusing, if not tortured. CONSOB, for instance, is described in the translation as “THE NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR THE SOCIETY AND THE BAG.” A translation available through Yahoo is no better; it refers to Club Asteria as “Club Starfish.”

Club Asteria, which trades on the name of the World Bank and has blamed members for its PR problems and a freeze of its PayPal account, has not updated its news webpage since July 21. Members across the globe have been left in an information vacuum for weeks, while the firm directs attention to its glossy “e-Magazine” and asks members to “Imagine the Possibilities with Club Asteria.”

The PP Blog hopes to publish a comprehensive report about CONSOB’s findings after it hears back from the Embassy.

For now, the Blog is reporting that suspension orders against two websites CONSOB identified in May as Club Asteria troublespots apparently continue to be in effect and that the sites are serving PDFs in Italian of the Italian allegations.

Posters on Ponzi scheme forums well-known to U.S. law enforcement claim that Club Asteria has more than 300,000 members globally — and Club Asteria sales pitches on the Ponzi forums and websites independent of the forums are almost incomprehensibly reckless.

Some members have claimed that a monthly payment of $19.95 to Club Asteria produces a “passive” income of $20,800 a year. In other words, more or less pay Club Asteria a yearly total of $240 in 12 easy installments of $20 a month. Do nothing else unless you want to sponsor new members to make even more money. Receive  nearly $21,000 annually — forever.

The offers are targeted at the world’s poor.

Whether the impoverished people of the world made any meaningful money after becoming pitchmen for Club Asteria remains far from clear. What is clear — if the “I Got Paid” posts on Ponzi forums are reliable — is that well-known Ponzi pitchmen cleaned up by recruiting members for Club Asteria.

In July 2010, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a warning about HYIP schemes popularized in web forums and through social-media outlets. FINRA called the HYIP sphere a “bizarre substratum of the Internet.”

Just a month before, in June 2010, the United States and six other member-nations of the International Mass Marketing Fraud Working Group (IMMFWG) issued a warning about global marketing fraud.

It is known that some promoters race from online scheme to online scheme.

A photograph of Hank Needham, a Club Asteria principal, appears online in a 2008 sales pitch for the alleged $110 million AdSurfDaily Ponzi scheme. Like Club Asteria, ASD was based in the United States — and also was promoted on the Ponzi boards.

ASD President Andy Bowdoin was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service in December 2010 after his indictment on felony charges of wire fraud, securities fraud and selling unregistered securities online.

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3 Responses to “UPDATE: CONSOB, Italy’s Securities Regulator, Issues New Order In Probe Related To Club Asteria; Findings And Effect Not Immediately Clear; Google Translation Software Calls CONSOB A ‘Bag’; Yahoo Calls Club A ‘Starfish’; PP Blog Awaits Official Government Translation”

  1. I found a better translator. The last paragraph reads:

    D E L I B E R A: it is forbidden to offer to the public residing in Italy of investment programs with the “Club Asteria” put in place by Asteria Corporation and Asteria Holdings Limited and of any other entity. This decision will be brought to the attention of those concerned and published in the Bulletin of the Consob. Against this measure is subject to appeal the Lazio Regional Administrative Court within 60 days from the date of communication.

    http://translation.babylon.com/italian/to-english/

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  2. Thanks, Tony. Perhaps that’s a start while awaiting an official translation.

    Patrick

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  3. Actually, Yahoo’s translator is the closest as it should be called ‘Club Chocolate Starfish’ because, you are going to take it in the dumper.

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