Articles Posted in Exchange Traded Funds

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has filed a case against Richard William Lunn Martin, a former broker. According to the self-regulatory organization, from at least 3/11 through 7/15, and while he was a GF Investment services broker, Martin encouraged clients to invest in high-risk non-traditional exchange-traded funds so he could hedge against what he anticipated would be a pending financial crisis. Martin purportedly believed that the financial and monetary system was going to fail. FINRA said that he lost customers $8M as a result of the bad investment advice he gave them.

Because of his fears, said FINRA, Martin recommend that clients put their money in inverse and leveraged funds, which are typically not suitable for retail investors. This is especially true when the market is volatile and the investor intends to hold the funds for longer than one trading session. Examples of recommendations that he made:

· Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bear 2x Shares (DUST)

· Proshares UltraPro Short Russe112000 (SRTY)

· Proshares UltraPro Short QQQ (SQQQ)

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FINRA is fining Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. (OPY) $2.2M for the sale of non-traditional exchange-traded funds, including inverse, leveraged, and inverse-leveraged ETFs, to retail customers without proper supervision and for suggesting them to clients even though they were not appropriate investments for them. The self-regulatory organization is also making the firm pay over $716,000 to the customers who were impacted.

FINRA said that even though Oppenheimer put into place policies barring representatives from both selling non-traditional ETFs to retail customers and executing non-traditional ETF purchases that were unsolicited for said customers unless they met certain requirements—including liquid assets greater than $50OK—the firm did not do a reasonable job of making sure that these policies were properly enforced. (The firm had put them into effect after FINRA issued a notice advising brokerage firms of the risks involved in non-traditional ETFs.) Because of this, Oppenheimer continued to market non-traditional ETFs to retail customers and effect transactions that were unsolicited for those who failed to meet the requirements.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is barring Nicholas Rowe, the former owner of registered investment advisor Focus Capital Wealth Management, from the industry. The charges come in the wake of parallel proceedings in New Hampshire where state regulators barred him from being licensed as an investment adviser. The New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation also said he had to pay $20K.

Rowe and his RIA are accused of using inverse and leveraged exchange-traded funds in a way that was not suitable for clients. They also purportedly made misrepresentations regarding the fees that the clients would be charged.

Focus Capital had been registered with the SEC until 2012 when it registered with New Hampshire instead. The state launched a probe into the RIA’s investment practices, which allegedly included placing the assets of older investors into unsuitable strategies without notifying them that was what was happening. A number of elderly clients, including three widows, allegedly lost close to $1.M.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel has awarded The Elliot Family Trust DTD, Eugene Elliot, Genraza LLC, and Shawn Elliot Over $1M in their securities arbitration case against J.P. Morgan Securities (JPM).

The claimants are contending fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation and omissions, failure to control and supervise, and violations of federal and state securities laws related to the alleged short trading of US Treasury securities and the unsuitable purchase and allocation of securities, including leveraged exchange-traded funds and unspecified options. They had initially sought compensatory damages no lower than $1.75M, rescission of the purportedly unsuitable investments, punitive damages, legal fees, and other costs. Meantime, the financial firm sought to have their case dismissed.

Following the pleadings, the FINRA arbitration panel decided that the respondent is liable for and must pay claimants over $1.145M in compensatory damages, interest on that amount, and over $43,000 in other fees.
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In the last five years, artificially low interest rates have resulted in yield hungry investors being drawn to investments such as iShares Mortgage Real Estate Capped ETF, an exchange-traded fund that trades under the symbol REM. Since 2010, this ETF has gathered over $1 Billion in assets, in part because of its 14% dividend.

Unlike older and more traditional REIT ETFs, REM does not own companies that possess properties. Instead, the exchange-traded fund puts its money in financial firms that borrow at short-term rates and buy long-term mortgage securities while making a profit from the difference and passing that over as income. All this creates the 14% yield.

Unfortunately, with the increased likelihood of a Fed rate hike, the yield curve has started to become flat, reducing the spread that creates the 14% yield for REM. Also, short-term rates have started going up faster than long-term ones. The result has been that REM’s price has started to drop. And, if the central bank were to initiate a rate hike, that 14% yield and REM’s performance could end up in even more trouble. Bloomberg says that already REM has been down 5% since the Memorial Day weekend.

According to Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas Partner and Securities Fraud Attorney Sam Edwards, “Funds like REM seem very attractive to investors, especially when rates are so low. The risk of a fund like REM is far greater than traditional REIT investments and will suffer greatly in a rising interest rate environment. The vast majority of investors in funds such as this do not comprehend the risk of such a complicated strategy and find out too late they were taking more risk than was appropriate.”
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Exchange-traded fund manager F-Squared Investments Inc. has filed for bankruptcy. The firm wants the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to allow it to sell its intellectual property, including its investment strategies and contracts to manage money, to Broadmeadow Capital, a Chicago-based money manager.

It was in December that F-Squared agreed to pay investors $35 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges alleging that the firm misled investors about the performance of its Alpha Sector investment strategy. The regulator said that the ETF fund manager falsely marketed the strategy as having a successful track record that was based on actual performance.

Instead, contends the SEC, the data was from a hypothetical performance for a past period that was generated from backtesting. Also, a performance calculation error caused results to be inflated by 350%.

Advisers were attracted to this inflated performance record and F-Squared’s contention that its strategy could get around tough market shifts by engaging in opportunistic trading in and out of multiple industrial-sector ETFs. In seven years, the firm went from being practically a nonentity to having a $28.5 billion strategy as of last year.

F-Squared became the largest marketer of index products using ETFs. By the end of the year that ended in March 2015, however, the firm experienced a close to $8 billion asset decline. It reduced its workforce by 25%.
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A client of Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) is looking to recover at least $100,000 in damages for losses he sustained from investing with F-Squared Investments Inc. The arbitration case comes six months after F-Squared consented to pay $35 million to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the asset manager of making false claims about its flagship investment product’s performance. The 68-year-old widower’s claim will test whether investors can pursue broker-dealers for selling F-Squared products.

The claimant, a moderately conservative investor who was looking for moderately conservative growth for his retirement account assets, began working with a Wells Fargo financial adviser in 2011. The brokerage firm made F-Squared managed-accounts available to advisors in 2013.

According to InvestmentNews, The investor’s advisor put about $900K of the client’s money-most of his savings, says his attorney-in products managed by two ETF strategists. Over 50% of the money went into F-Squared’s AlphaSector Allocator Select. Meantime, the investor said it paid Wells Fargo about $19,000 in fees for recommending the products. He believes that the firm had a conflict when it recommended investments because they came with such high commissions. Also, the fees erased potential capital gains for the claimant.
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F-Squared Investments Inc. has laid off 40 workers-that’s one-fourth of its staff-as it continues to deal with the ongoing asset losses in the wake of the securities fraud charges filed against it by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year. During a routine examination, the regulator discovered that the asset management company allegedly had deceived investors by claiming its performance history was based on a real trading record going as far back as 2001 when F-Squared had just back-tested its algorithm. F-Squared is the biggest marketer of index products using ETFs (exchange-traded funds).

The SEC accused the firm of falsely promoting its AlphaSector investment strategy and its supposed excellent track record as based on its investment performance for real clients instead of the backtesting. Due to a calculation error, the results were inflated by 350%.

F-Squared settled the SEC charges for $35 million and the firm’s new CEO, Laura P. Dagan, said that F-squared has been putting more effort into compliance and its main product line. However, in the last several months, investors have withdrawn billions of dollars from F-squared strategies while several brokerage firms refuse to let advisers put more funds into the strategies.

SEC Accuses Elm Tree Investment Advisors, its Founder, of $17M Securities Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Elm Tree Investment Advisors LLC and its founder Frederic Elm for running a Florida-based securities scam that raised over $17 million in a little over a year. The regulator contends that Elm, his firm, and the funds Elm Tree Motion Opportunity LP, Elm Tree “e”Conomy Fund LP, and Elm Tree Investment Fund LP misled investors and used the bulk of the funds to issue Ponzi-like payments. Elm also is accused of using the money to purchase expensive homes, jewelry, and autos, as well as cover his daily living expenses.

According to the SEC, Elm, his unregistered advisory firm, and the three funds violated the regulator’s anti-fraud rules as well as federal securities laws. The Commission wants relief for investors as well as the restoration of the purportedly ill-gotten gains and financial penalties.

F-Squared Investments Inc. has consented to pay $35M to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the firm of making false claims regarding the performance of a key investment product. F-Squared admitted that it misled clients for several years about its AlphaSector strategy.

F-Squared is the largest marketer of index products that use Exchange-Traded Funds. The SEC claims that F-Squared falsely advertised that the AlphaSector investment strategy had a successful track record that was based on actual investment performance for real clients when, in fact, the algorithm touted didn’t even exist during the noted time period.

The algorithm was the basis of signals sent from a third party data provider indicating when to sell or buy an investment. F-Squared and Howard Present, its co-founder and ex-CEO, used the signals to develop the AlphaSector, a model portfolio of sector ETFs that could be rebalanced from time to time when the signals changed. After its launch in 2008, AlphaSector’s indexes became the company’s largest revenue source.