Articles Tagged with Non-traditional ETFs

shutterstock_172399811-297x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Jay Jordan (Jordan), in August 2017, was sanctioned by FINRA and had a permanent bar imposed in connections with allegations of unsuitable investments in leveraged exchanged traded funds (Non-Traditional ETFs) based on the investor’s investment objectives, financial situation, risk tolerance, experience, and investment needs.  Jordan was previously terminated by his employer WFG Investments, Inc. (WFG).  WFG stated that Jordan was terminated due to his failure to follow certain policies of the firm including reporting a customer complaint, unauthorized use of personal email, and mischaracterization of an outside business activity.

In addition, Jordan has been subject to 14 customer complaints concerning his securities activity.  These investors have alleged millions in losses most likely stemming from FINRA’s allegations of unsuitable Non-Tradition ETF trading.

According to FINRA, Jordan become convinced that an economic crisis or stock market collapse was imminent and recommended concentrated Non-Traditional ETFs so that they clients could benefit from rising oil prices, rising interest rates, and declining equity values.  FINRA alleged that in June 2012, Jordan made widespread recommendations to his customers that they purchase Non-Traditional ETFs including: (1) UWTI (three times the daily performance of the S&P GSCI Crude Oil Index ER); (2) BOIL (two times the daily performance of the Bloomberg Natural Gas Subindex); and UGAZ (three times the daily performance of the S&P GSCI Natural Gas Index); (3) TBT and TMV (two and three times, respectively, the daily performance of the inverse of the ICE U.S. Treasury 20+ Year Bond Index); (4) SDS (two times the inverse of the daily performance of the S&P 500); (5) QID (two times the inverse of the daily performance of the NASDAQ-100 index); and (6) VIXY (matches the performance of the S&P 500 Short-Term Futures Index, which seeks to measure short-term volatility).

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_29356093The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are interested in speaking with investors of broker Mark Hughes (Hughes) According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Hughes has been the subject of at least 7 customer complaints, and 1 regulatory action over the course of his career. The customer complaints against Hughes allege securities law violations that claim excessive trading, unsuitable investments, and unauthorized trading among other claims. The most recent complaint was filed in November 2011, and alleged $500,000 in losses due to unsuitable variable annuities.

The most recent regulatory action was taken by the state of Virginia in 2010, when the state alleged that Hughes violated the states laws by offering and selling leveraged exchanged traded funds (Non-Traditional ETFs) to two Virginia residents when the investment was not suitable for them given their investment objectives, financial situation, risk tolerance, experience, and investment needs. The allegations were settled with the state and resulted in sanctions of $620,000 and the imposition of heightened supervision.

Hughes entered the securities industry in 1993. From June 2004, until November 2007, Hughes was associated with Suntrust Investment Services Inc. From October 2007, until November 2014, Hughes was associated with UBS Financial Services Inc. Presently, Hughes is associated with Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. out of the firm’s Washington, DC branch office location.

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_162924044The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently sanctioned supervisor Gregory Bray (Bray) concerning allegations that Bray failed to adequately supervise the firm’s chief executive officer and compliance officer Matt Maberry (Maberry), who FINRA refers to by the initials “MM”, concerning sales of certain complex products and recommendations of Class A mutual fund shares. In September 1996, Bray became registered with Alton Securities Group, Inc. (Alton Securities) where the alleged misconduct took place.

FINRA alleged that Bray was responsible for supervising the sales activity of Maberry. Maberry was responsible for all other supervisory functions at the Alton Securities. FINRA found that Bray’s supervision of Maberry’s sales activity consisted of a daily review of a trade blotter reflecting trades made by Maberry to customers together with conversations with Maberry regarding trading activity.

FINRA found that Maberry recommended and sold certain complex products to his customers. For example, FINRA found that Maberry recommended and sold leveraged or inverse exchange traded funds and leveraged/inverse mutual funds. In addition, Maberry is alleged to have recommended and sold a steepener note designed to increase in value as the gap between short and long term interest rates increased. FINRA found that Maberry’s sales were unsuitable because he lacked a reasonable basis to recommend these products to his customers because he did not fully understand the potential risks associated with these securities.

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.

shutterstock_186471755The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned broker Daniel Grieco (Grieco) concerning allegations that Grieco made recommendations of non-traditional exchange-traded funds (Non-Traditional ETFs) to various customers without having reasonable grounds to believe his recommendations were suitable.

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.

shutterstock_176319713The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) entered into an agreement whereby the regulatory fined LPL Financial LLC (LPL) and fined it $10 million for broad supervisory failures in a number of key areas, including the sales of non-traditional exchange-traded funds (Non-Traditional ETFs), certain variable annuity contracts, non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs) and other complex products, as well as its failure to monitor and report trades and deliver to customers more than 14 million trade confirmations. As part of the fine FINRA ordered LPL to pay approximately $1.7 million in restitution to customers who purchased non-traditional ETFs.

In a press release Brad Bennett, FINRA Executive Vice President and Chief of Enforcement, stated that “LPL’s supervisory breakdowns resulted from a sustained failure to devote sufficient resources to compliance programs integral to numerous aspects of its business. With today’s action, FINRA reaffirms that there is little room in the industry for lax supervision and that it will not hesitate to order firms to review and correct substandard supervisory systems and controls, and pay restitution to affected customers.”

This action is only one of many regulatory actions that our firm has tracked concerning LPL and its brokers including the following:

shutterstock_168737270Long time readers of this blog know that we have previously reported that brokerage firms have increasingly recommended that retail investors invest heavily in various types of oil & gas investments including private placements, master limited partnerships (MLPs), leveraged ETFs, mutual funds, and even individual stocks. See Overconcentrated in Oil and Gas Investments?, MLP Fund MainStay Cushing Royalty Energy Hurt by Failing Oil & Gas Prices; Oil and Gas Investments – Issuers Profit While Investors Take All the Risk

For instance, MLPs are publicly traded partnerships where about 86% of approximately 130 MLP securities, a $490 billion sector, can be attributed to energy and natural resource companies. Billions more have been raised in the private placement market. These oil and gas private placements suffer from enormous risks that often outweigh any potential benefits including securities fraud, conflicts of interests, high transaction / sales costs, and investment risk.

These investments have been recommended by brokers under the assumption that oil & gas would continue to be sold at around $100 and increase steadily over time. However, last summer the price of oil & gas plummeted due to a strengthening dollar and increased global supply of oil and remains below $60 to this day. Some experts are saying that if production volume continues to be as high as it currently is and demand growth weak that the return to $100 a barrel is years away.

shutterstock_186468539According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Jack McBride (McBride) has been the subject of at least 4 customer complaints over the course of his career. Customers have filed to recent complaints against McBride alleging that the broker made unsuitable investments in leveraged ETFs and the use of margin. McBride has been registered with FINRA since 1994. From that time until August 2014, McBride was registered with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise). In August 2014, Ameriprise discharged McBride claiming that the broker violated the company’s policies relating to making a settlement and for soliciting prohibited securities.

All advisers have a fundamental responsibility to deal fairly with investors including making suitable investment recommendations. Part of the suitability requirement is that the broker must have a reasonable basis to believe, based on appropriate research and diligence, that all recommendations are suitable for at least some investors. Thus, the product or investment strategy being recommended must be appropriate for at least some investors and the advisers must convey the potential risks and rewards before bringing it to an investor’s attention.

In the case of Non-Traditional ETFs, these products contain drastically different risk qualities from traditional ETFs that most investors and many brokers are not aware of. 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 can also be used to return the inverse or the opposite result of the return of the benchmark.