Broker Kenneth Popek (Popek) has had four customer complaints filed against him over his career as a financial advisor. That many claims are rare. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. These disclosures do not necessarily have to include customer complaints but can include IRS tax liens, judgments, and even criminal matters. In Popek’s case the broker has four customer complaints and one bankruptcy.
Popek was registered with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. from December 2006 until May 2008. Thereafter, Popek was registered and still is registered with Calton & Associates, Inc.
One of Popek’s complaints went to hearing where a panel awarded the customers $342,956 concerning allegations of suitability, misrepresentations, churning, and breach of fiduciary duty. According to the award the causes of action involved, in part, investments in General Motors, Lehman Brothers, and Washington Mutual stocks that all went bust.
The other complaints against Popek involve similar claims of suitability and breaches of fiduciary duty. The claims allege unsuitable investments in ETFs and options. While Popek’s BrokerCheck records do not specify the types of ETFs it is possible that allegations involve Non-Traditional ETFs.
Non-Traditional ETFs are behave drastically different and have different risk qualities from traditional ETFs. While traditional ETFs simply seek to mirror an index or benchmark, Non-Traditional ETFs use a combination of derivatives instruments and debt to multiply returns on underlining assets, often attempting to generate 2 to 3 times the return of the underlining asset class. Non-Traditional ETFs are also used to earn the inverse result of the return of the benchmark.
In addition, regular ETFs can be held for long term trading, but Non-Traditional ETFs are generally designed to be used only for short term trading. The use of leverage employed by these funds causes their long-term values to be dramatically different than the underlying benchmark over long periods of time. For example, between December 1, 2008, and April 30, 2009, the Dow Jones U.S. Oil & Gas Index gained two percent while the ProShares Ultra Oil and Gas, a fund seeking to deliver twice the index’s daily return fell six percent. In another example, the ProShares UltraShort Oil and Gas, seeks to deliver twice the inverse of the index’s daily return fell by 26 percent over the same period.
Because of these risks, The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned that most Non-Traditional ETFs reset daily and FINRA has stated that Non-Traditional ETFs are typically not suitable for most retail investors. Consequently these funds typically have very limited uses and in many cases are completely inappropriate for retail investors. Increasingly, brokerage firms are prohibiting the solicitation of these investments to its customers due to suitability concerns.
The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP represent investors in securities arbitration matters concerning a variety of investment related claims. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.