The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has sanctioned Infinex Investments, Inc. (Infinex Investments) concerning allegations that from April 2009, through March 2011, Infinex Investments permitted 35 registered representatives who received minimal training on inverse and inverse-leveraged Exchange-Traded Funds (Non-Traditional ETFs) to sell them to customers. FINRA alleged that the firm and brokers failed to perform reasonable due diligence to understand the risks and features of the product necessary in order to recommend 229 customers approximately 835 transactions in these products. In addition, FINRA also found that some of the recommendations were also unsuitable on a customer specific basis. Finally, FINRA also found that Infincx Investments also failed to establish and maintain a supervisory system reasonably designed to achieve compliance with applicable FINRA rules relating to the sale of Non- Traditional ETFs.
Infinex Investments has been a FINRA firm since 1994, is a full service broker-dealer with its primary business being the retail sale of mutual funds and variable annuities. The firm employs approximately 400 registered representatives located in approximately 500 branches.
As a background, ETFs attempt to track a market index. ETFs can be either attempt to track the index or apply leverage in order to amplify the returns of an underlying stock position. A leveraged ETF with 300% leverage will attempt to return 3% if the underlying index returns 1%. Nontraditional ETFs can also be designed to return the inverse or the opposite of the return of the benchmark. Leveraged ETFs are generally used only for short term trading. The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned that most Non-Traditional ETFs reset daily and are designed to achieve their stated objectives on a daily basis. In addition to the risks of leverage the performance of Non-Traditional ETFs held over the long term can differ drastically from the underlying index or benchmark during the same period. FINRA has also acknowledged that leveraged ETFs are complex products that carry significant risks that are typically not suitable for retail investors.