HKC Securities, Inc., known as ACGM, Inc. (ACGM), and Harold Kenneth Cohen (Cohen) of Palm Beach, Florida, reached a settlement the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) over the firm’s use of certain hedge fund sales material that allegedly failed to fairly present the risks and potential disadvantages of hedge fund investing. According to FINRA, the sales materials violated FINRA Rule 2210(d) by only highlighting the hedge fund’s positive features, not providing a sound basis for evaluating the investment, containing exaggerated language, failing to identify the basis for factual statements made, and containing an inadequate discussion of the performance of the funds.
The settlement states that between January 2008 and June 2011, the firm marketed hedge funds to large institutional investors such as educational and other endowment funds. The regulator found that ACGM’s procedures for the review and approval of hedge fund institutional sales material were not reasonably designed or implemented to achieve compliance with FINRA’s content standards for institutional sales material and were not appropriate for a business actively engaged in the third-party marketing of hedge funds. Cohen was the firm’s Chief Compliance Officer and the principal responsible for the review and approval of institutional sales material. The complaint alleges that Cohen failed to adequately supervise the review of sales materials in order to achieve compliance with FINRA’s content standards.
The settlement provided some examples of the alleged misleading and exaggerated content provided to investors. One example referred to a fund as having “significantly outperformed its benchmarks” or a fund’s performance as “remarkable.” Another summary document referred to the performance of the underlying fund managers for a fund of funds over 1-year, 3-year, and 5- year time horizons, even though the fund of funds had only been in operation for approximately three months at the time of the document. Other documents failed to identify the basis for factual statements made and only described the fund as the “#l hedge fund in Israel” and describing another fund as the “#l performing equity market neutral fund in the world in 2005.”
In addition, FINRA alleged that the ACGM’s supervisory procedures provided insufficient guidance with respect to content standards for hedge fund advertising. Nor did the written supervisory procedures discuss required risk disclosures specific to hedge fund investing. FINRA also stated that the firm and Cohen failed to adequately supervise the use of institutional sales material by its registered representatives.
FINRA’s findings also indicated that ACGM did not maintain a complete file of institutional sales material used and the date that the document was first circulated. Cohen was also responsible for ensuring the firm’s compliance with these record keeping requirements. ACGM was censured and fined $50,000, and Cohen was censured and fined $10,000.
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