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By Fahad Nazer, Official Spokesperson, Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia entered a new era on February 14, 1945, when King Abdulaziz Al-Saud met President Franklin Delano Roosevelt aboard the USS Quincy. In the 76 years since, relations between our two nations have continued to deepen and to broaden. Indeed, our partnership is rich and multilayered. It has political, security, cultural, and importantly, economic dimensions that have served the interests of both nations and our peoples. Strong bilateral ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have helped advance stability across the Middle East and have led to decades of economic strength for both Saudis and Americans.

Saudi Arabia’s economic relationship with the U.S. is a critical component of this partnership. The U.S. is one of Saudi Arabia’s largest and most important trading partners. In 2019, there was over $17 billion in trade between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. While much of the attention on trade has focused on the critical role that Saudi Arabia plays as the world’s biggest exporter of crude oil, the economic partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has steadily diversified over the years. Today, our economic relationship includes cooperation across high-tech sectors, Artificial Intelligence (AI), sustainable development and green technologies, and even tourism and entertainment that bring our two countries closer together. This economic diversification will further strengthen the relationship and will undoubtedly provide opportunities for companies in both Saudi Arabia and the U.S., including in Wisconsin.

This rapid economic diversification is a key pillar of the historic transformation currently underway in Saudi Arabia known as Vision 2030. Under the leadership of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, Vision 2030 was unveiled in 2016 to serve as a blueprint for developing Saudi Arabia’s potential and achieving our ambitions for the 21st century. While Vision 2030 has impacted all facets of Saudi life, it seeks to develop a thriving economy for the Kingdom through innovation, diversification, and utilizing the Kingdom’s youth power to create a sustainable economy for the future.

For Wisconsin companies, Vision 2030 is an opportunity for generating continued growth and developing new partnerships. Saudi Arabia and Wisconsin companies have already established strong ties. For example, Fincantieri Marinette Marine currently has a multi-billion-dollar contract to build four ships for the Saudi Navy, the Oshkosh Corporation has a joint venture with a Saudi company called Al Tadrea, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Wisconsin in 2020 exported $234,237,738 worth of commodities to Saudi Arabia and imported $1,641,938 of commodities that same year. Both of our countries benefit from these business relationships.

Additional opportunities and expanding the existing trade relationship between Wisconsin and Saudi Arabia are essential to the future of the U.S.-Saudi partnership. Our bond with the U.S. is strengthened and improved when every region and state in America is included and prospers because of the partnership. I would encourage Wisconsin business leaders to consider Saudi Arabia as not just a new market for expansion but as a long-term economic partner that can become an important ally for The Badger State, through collaboration, investment, and trade.

Finally, while I hope that my description of the historic transformation occurring in Saudi Arabia is informative, there is no substitute to visiting the Kingdom. I would invite all the newsletter’s readers, all those interested in learning more about Saudi Arabia, our people, and the significant investment and economic opportunities in the Kingdom, to come visit us and to see this exciting transformation for themselves.

For more information, please contact Info.was@mofa.gov.sa.

A widow invests her late husband’s insurance proceeds with the helpful insurance lady who picks up her prescriptions and drives her to doctors’ appointments. A widower allows the gentleman who drives him to church and mows his lawn to move into his house. An elderly couple’s tax preparer convinces them to invest in a bill-paying business started by his friend. What do these three people have in common? They were all victims of investment fraud in cases investigated by the Division of Securities in the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). 

These scenarios are real, and unfortunately, most victims are unlikely to recover any money, even if after the successful prosecution of the deception. Investors must cautiously watch for red flags of fraud in any investment. 

Red Flags of Investment Fraud

  • High-pressure sales tactics, such as asking you to make an investment decision right away, without time to read the documentation (if they even offer you any) or get a second opinion.
  • The person offering the investment is promising high returns with little or no risk. 
  • There is no written information, or what is provided is riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors.
  • The person asking you to invest tells you to keep the opportunity quiet, since it is only being offered to a few carefully chosen people, or they ask you to misrepresent your assets and income on a form. 
  • The opportunity is unsolicited, and you are told to invest by wiring money overseas, using prepaid gift cards, or bitcoin. 
  • The most significant red flag is that the person selling the investment is not registered with DFI to offer securities.

Please check out the salesperson by using BrokerCheck.FINRA.org or adviserinfo.sec.gov, or call our Examiner of the Day at (608) 266-2139. Our staff can help explain the information in BrokerCheck or IARD.  Choosing to work with a registered financial professional can decrease the risk of fraud, but you should be aware that red flags may also exist in transactions involving registered professionals. 

If you believe you are a victim of investment fraud, please report it right away to the Division of Securities. Do not be embarrassed—many intelligent, wealthy, and famous people have been victimized (just think of the Madoff case), and scam artists are good at what they do. The sooner a scam is reported, the better the chances are that it can be shut down while there is still money to repay victims and prevent the scammer from defrauding others. We work closely with local law enforcement and other state and federal agencies, including the Office of the Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance (OCI), the FBI, and the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. If we cannot handle a matter, we take steps to direct you to the appropriate agency to review your case.

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Elder Abuse encompasses a range of behaviors including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, unreasonable confinement or restraint, and financial exploitation. In 2019, Dane County Adult Protective Services investigated 389 calls of elder abuse, with 81% of those calls substantiated as elder abuse.  Of those calls, 141 (36%-highest of all abuse categories) were for reports of financial exploitation.  Nationally, it is estimated that individuals over age 60 lose $36.5 billion each year as victims of financial exploitation. In 2020, the Securities Division opened approximately 58 investigations, and issued 28 orders against 53 perpetrators of investment fraud, with losses exceeding $24 million. Senior victims can be found in at least one-third of those cases.

Financial exploitation of seniors is a growing problem in Wisconsin, and we all need to work together to put a stop to it. That is why we recognize the importance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and have partnered with our colleagues at the Dane County Adult Protective Services, the Elder Rights Project at Legal Action of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to share these important tips with you.

To report suspected abuse or neglect of adults age 60 and older, please call Wisconsin Elder Abuse Hotline at (toll-free) 1-833-586-0107 or Dane County Elder Abuse and Neglect Helpline at 608-261-9933.

Kathy Blumenfeld PortraitAbout DFI Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld

Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld is a leader with extensive experience in the financial services industry, business, and government.

In January 2019, Secretary Blumenfeld was appointed by Governor Tony Evers to her current role as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, commonly referred to as DFI.

Before taking this position, she served as Executive Vice President of Special Operations at TASC – the Total Administrative Services Corporation. There she led a federal contract modernizing the workplace charitable giving program for all federal employees and retirees.

Prior to her work at TASC, Secretary Blumenfeld was Vice President of Lending & Payment Security for CUNA Mutual Group, where she worked for 26 years. She began her career in the financial realm as a Certified Public Accountant and has also been active in her community serving on a variety of non-profit and business boards.

As secretary, she has been committed to developing caring and diverse teams that are passionate about their jobs and providing great customer service. A few of her top priorities at DFI include financial literacy and capability at all life stages, protecting consumers from financial fraud – particularly financial abuse of our seniors, entrepreneurship, and college affordability.

By, Cassie Krause