Articles Tagged with Exchange Traded Funds

shutterstock_188141822-300x200The securities and investment lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a customer complaint and an employment separation after allegations filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) again broker Louis Frederick Scherschel (Scherschel). According to FINRA’s BrokerCheck records for Scherschel, there is a disclosure on his record for a customer complaint that resulted in arbitration. In October 2015, a customer complaint alleged that Scherschel made unsuitable sales of leveraged EFTs and failed to follower the customer’s instructions to implement sell stops. The original requested damages amount was $500,000 and the case was settled in September 2016 for $295,000.

In September 2015, Scherschel was discharged from his position at Sigma Financial Corporation for failing to comply with the company’s correspondence policy for leveraged ETFs.

Scherschel entered the securities industry in 2009. He was previously registered with:

shutterstock_176198786The securities and investment attorneys of Gana Weinstein LLP are interested in speaking with clients of Evan Wuhl (Wuhl). According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Wuhl has been the subject of at least 15 customer complaints and 1 employment termination. The customer complaints against Wuhl allege securities law violations that claim unsuitable investments among other claims. Many of the more recent claims appear to involve allegations of unsuitable leveraged and inverse exchange-traded funds (Non-Traditional ETFs) and mutual funds.

In December 2011, Wuhl voluntarily resigned from UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS) under circumstances where it was alleged that Wuhl worked client orders inconsistent with firm policy and industry rules concerning two clients’ use of credit lines to purchase securities.

The most recent customer complaint was filed in September 2012 alleging that Wuhl inappropriately recommended multiple shares of an inverse-leveraged ETF and then liquidated the trades without authorization from July 2008 through January 2010 resulting in damages of $277,180. The case was resolved for $220,000.

shutterstock_183525503The Securities and Exchange Commission issued a press release announcing securities fraud charges against a Florida based purported “investment adviser” Arthur F. Jacob (Jacob) and his firm, Innovative Business Solutions LLC (IBS), for allegedly deceiving clients over a period of at least five years. According to the SEC, the unregistered investment adviser had about 30 client households and approximately $18 million under management.

In the SEC order the agency alleges that from at least mid-2009 through July 2014 Jacob and IBS misrepresented the risks and profitability of investments he purchased for advisory clients. The SEC alleged that Jacob was informed of investment risks of certain exchange traded funds but failed to disclose these risks to clients and told them that the investment strategy he was using was safe, carried low or no risk, and would produce predictable profits when in fact it was not.

For instance, the SEC alleged that Jacob bought and held for long term a highly volatile exchange-traded product (ETP) called the Barclays Bank PLC iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX). The VXX is designed to provide exposure to stock market volatility through futures contracts on the CBOE Volatility Index. However, importantly the VXX does not track the performance of the VIX Index because of the use of futures causes the investment to drift significantly from its benchmark and is therefore inappropriate for long-term holding. Nonetheless, the SEC alleged that Jacob purchased VXX in clients’ accounts in March 2010, and again in the May through July 2010 time period and held the VXX positions in clients’ accounts for years causing steady declines until the investors lost almost all of their investment.

shutterstock_78659098According to the New York Times, the Spruce Alpha hedge fund was pitched to investors as providing large returns in periods of market turbulence through the implementation of a complex trading strategy. According to the Spruce Alpha fund, during the 2008 financial crisis investors should have had made gains of more than 600 percent. But what Wall Street pitches in theory almost always goes wrong in practice. Thus when markets turned volatile in August 2015, Spruce Alpha, which had only just started up in April 2014, did not turn the volatility into gains for investors. Instead, the fund turned in one of the worst performances losing 48 percent of their money.

The fund’s holdings at the time were under $100 million and was managed by the $1.5 billion Spruce Investment Advisors. Spruce Investment specializes in managing money for the wealthy and institutional investors. According to the New York Times, half of Spruce Investment’s assets under management come from three family offices, a corporation, and a pension plan. The Spruce Alpha fund was the asset management firm’s first direct hedge fund trading fund that was intended to raise a $500 million portfolio.

After the collapse the Spruce Alpha moved its positions into cash and told investors that they can redeem what remains of their money. The Spruce Alpha tale is only the latest example of how managers market hedge funds and complex investment products to investors that often turn out to be too good to be true. Using back-tested results in hedge fund marketing materials are fantasy recreations with all the benefits of hindsight knowledge that are then advertised as likely future performance. However, back-tested results are derived assuming optimum trading conditions, not what the fund will encounter in real life.

shutterstock_102242143The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating brokerage firms that placed investors in oil and gas related investments and who have suffered losses as a result. One company under investigation is oil and gas producer Halcón Resources Corporation (Halcón) (Stock Symbol: HK). According to news sources, Halcón received a de-listing warning from the New York Stock Exchange amid company moves to reduce its debt.

Halcón is a Houston based exploration and production company that recently worked out a deal to reduce its long-term debt by $548 million through private negotiations. Earlier this year, Halcón had its borrowing base cut by more than 50 percent as the company teeters on the edge during the ongoing oil downturn.  The stock’s price has fallen under $1 after trading at about $3 just one year ago.

Our offices continue to report on investment losses suffered by investors in energy and oil and gas related investments that brokerage firms have increasingly recommended to retail investors in recent years. According to Bloomberg, U.S. high-yield debt issued to junk-rated energy companies grew four-fold to $208 billion. Most of these companies are now struggling to stay afloat with oil prices at $45. Investors have been exposed to energy investments through a variety of investment vehicles including private placements, master limited partnerships (MLPs), leveraged ETFs, mutual funds, and even individual stocks.

shutterstock_836360The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating brokerage firms that placed investors in oil and gas related investments and who have suffered losses as a result. One company under investigation is oil and gas producer Goodrich Petroleum Corp., (Goodrich) (Stock Symbol: GDP). Goodrich has gone through a number of negative events such as a credit downgrade, the company’s CFO resigned within a year of his predecessor, the chairman of the board announced his retirement for health reasons, and even Henry Goodrich, the company’s founder, has died. According to Bloomberg the company is laden with debt and investors are jockeying for position in a potential bankruptcy.

Recently, investors holding $158.2 million of Goodrich’s debt agreed to take 47 cents on the dollar in exchange for stock warrants for some note holders and a lien on Goodrich’s oil acreage. The purpose of the exchange was to place them in a better position if Goodrich liquidates its assets in bankruptcy.

Our offices continue to report on investment losses suffered by investors in energy and oil and gas related investments that brokerage firms have increasingly recommended to retail investors in recent years. According to Bloomberg, U.S. high-yield debt issued to junk-rated energy companies grew four-fold to $208 billion. Most of these companies are now struggling to stay afloat with oil prices at $45. Investors have been exposed to energy investments through a variety of investment vehicles including private placements, master limited partnerships (MLPs), leveraged ETFs, mutual funds, and even individual stocks.

shutterstock_156972491The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating brokerage firms that placed investors in oil and gas related investments and who have suffered losses as a result. One company under investigation is Oil and gas producer Magnum Hunter Resources Corp, (Magnum Hunter) (Stock Symbol: MHR). Magnum Hunter is mainly a natural gas producer that operates in the Marcellus and Utica shale fields located in Ohio and West Virginia. According to news sources the company is laden with debt and has been forced to cancel its dividends as well as hire a financial adviser to explore strategic alternatives to keep the company afloat amid the oil downturn.

The company has stated that it is actively working to repair its balance sheet by exploring assets sales among other measures. Magnum Hunter posted a net loss in the second quarter of $30.5 million on revenue of $39.9 million. The companies total liabilities were $1.1 billion.

Our offices continue to report on investment losses suffered by investors in energy and oil and gas related investments that brokerage firms have increasingly recommended to retail investors in recent years. Investors have been exposed to energy investments through a variety of investment vehicles including private placements, master limited partnerships (MLPs), leveraged ETFs, mutual funds, and even individual stocks.

shutterstock_180412949The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned (Case No. 2014038906201) brokerage firm BestVest Investments, Ltd. (BestVest) concerning allegations that from January 2012, through August 2014, BestVest failed to establish and maintain a supervisory system reasonably designed to monitor transactions in leveraged, inverse, and inverse leveraged exchange traded funds (Non-Traditional ETFs).

As a background, Non-Traditional ETFs behave drastically different and have different risk qualities from traditional ETFs. While traditional ETFs 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.

However, the risks of holding Non-Traditional ETFs go beyond merely multiplying the return on the index. Instead, Non-Traditional ETFs are generally designed to be used only for short term trading as opposed to traditional ETFs. 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.

shutterstock_172154582The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating brokerage firms that placed investors in oil and gas related investments and who have suffered losses as a result. One company under investigation is Miller Energy Resources Inc. (Stock Symbol: MILL). According to a Wall Street Journal article, creditors of Miller’s Cook Inlet Energy LLC subsidiary filed an involuntary chapter 11 petition claiming about $2.8 million in debts owed.

The involuntary bankruptcy filing comes shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused the company of a valuation related accounting fraud. The SEC alleged that Miller Energy acquired oil and gas properties in Alaska in late 2009 for $2.5 million and then allegedly overstated the value of its holdings by more than $400 million in order to boost the company’s net income and assets.

The SEC’s complaint charged Miller Energy, its former chief financial officer and its current chief operating officer for allegedly inflating values of oil and gas properties. The alleged scheme had the effect of taking Miller Energy from a penny stock into a security that was listed on the New York Stock Exchange reaching a $9 per share high in 2013. Trading in Miller Energy was suspended at the end of July. Miller Energy stated that the SEC’s civil action is related to alleged valuation errors from five years ago and the action is not warranted by the facts or the law.

shutterstock_70513588The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) entered into an agreement whereby the regulatory fined Broker Dealer Financial Services Corp. (BDFS) concerning allegations that between March 2009 and April 2012, BDFS failed to establish and maintain a supervisory system, including written procedures, that was reasonably designed to ensure that the firm’s sales of leveraged or inverse exchange-traded funds (Non-Traditional ETFs) complied with the securities laws.

BDFS is a FINRA member firm since 1979 and headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa. The firm employs about 270 registered representatives located in more than 130 branch offices throughout the country.

According to FINRA, from March 2009 to April 2012, BDFS failed to implement a supervisory system, including written procedures, reasonably designed to ensure the suitability of Non-Traditional ETF sales. For instance, FINRA issued guidance that specifically dealt with issues related to the sales and supervision of Non-Traditional ETFs. FINRA’s guidance requires a firm to have a reasonable basis for believing that a product is suitable for any customer before recommending any purchase of that product. Part of having a reasonable basis for making the recommendation includes understanding the terms and features of the Non-Traditional ETFs being offered including how they are designed to perform, how they achieve that objective, and the impact that market volatility, the ETF’s use of leverage, and the customer’s intended holding period.