In a ruling sure to cause a buzz among financial regulators, a federal judge has publicly disagreed with the policy of the Securities and Exchange Commission in how it treats investors in Ponzi schemes who were lucky enough to get their money back before the scheme collapsed.

As U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond sees it, the policies of the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are potentially unfair to later investors whose funds are typically used to pay back principal — and provide the false “profits” — to the early investors.

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