Articles Tagged with VXX

shutterstock_183801500-300x168The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) ordered Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC (Wells Fargo) to pay more than $3.4 million in restitution to customers for unsuitable recommendations of volatility-linked exchange-traded products (ETPs) and supervisory failures concerning the sales of these products.  FINRA found that between July 2010, and May 2012 Wells Fargo brokers recommended volatility-linked ETPs without fully understanding their risks and features.

These complex products are extremely difficult to understand and are easy to improperly sell.  In recent years many exotic ETN have been created that either use leverage or futures exposure to replicate an index.  However, many of these investments are appropriate only for institutional investors and short term trading for various reasons.

The most popular volatility-linked ETP is the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX).  The VIX tends to be negatively correlated with broader financial indexes and rises in period of market distress.  However, it is not possible to directly invest in the VIX and instead investments are made in VIX derivatives such as futures or options.   The three main Volatility ETPs offered to retail investors are VXX, VXZ, and VIXY.  Volatility ETPs attempt to provide exposure to the VIX through VIX futures contracts but these Volatility ETPs do not track the VIX Accordingly, VIX investments held for long periods of time will almost certainly lose value.

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shutterstock_143685652The securities fraud attorneys of Gana LLP are investigating potential recovery options for investors with broker Zachary Bader (Bader). Recently The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) brought an enforcement action (FINRA No. 20130363873) which resulted in a permanent bar form the securities industry. The complaint alleged that from February 2012 through July 2013, Bader engaged in excessive trading (churning) in three customer accounts with a reckless disregard for the interests of those customers. FINRA also alleged that from March 2012 through January 2013, Bader made unsuitable recommendations of a complex Exchange Traded Note (ETN), the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX) to 21 customers without a reasonable basis to believe that the ETN was suitable for at least some investors.

Bader entered the securities industry in 2011 with brokerage firm Brookstone Securities, Inc. From February 2012 until August 2013, Bader was associated with Craig Scott Capital, LLC. Thereafter, from August 2013 until August 2013, Bader was associated with National Securities Corporation out of the firm’s Melville, New York office location.

As a background, when brokers engage in churning the broker will typical trade in and out of securities, sometimes even the same stock, many times over a short period of time. Often times the account will completely “turnover” every month with different securities. This type of investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is engaged in only to profit the broker through the generation of commissions created by the trades. Churning is considered a species of securities fraud. The elements of the claim are excessive transactions of securities, broker control over the account, and intent to defraud the investor by obtaining unlawful commissions. A similar claim, excessive trading, under FINRA’s suitability rule involves just the first two elements. Certain commonly used measures and ratios used to determine churning help evaluate a churning claim. These ratios look at how frequently the account is turned over plus whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably profit from the activity.

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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.

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shutterstock_102757574According to the records kept by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Wade Lawrence (Lawrence) has been suspended following the broker’s failure to comply with an arbitration award or settlement and by failing to comply with the regulator’s request for information concerning compliance. In addition, FINRA permanently barred Lawrence for failing to respond to requests for information concerning allegations that he misappropriated funds from customers.

Lawrence first became registered with FINRA in 2002 with MML Investors Services, LLC. Thereafter, from June 2008 through July 2011, Lawrence was registered with Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. (Oppenheimer) Finally from August 4, 2011, until December 2013, Lawrence was registered with Southwest Securities, Inc. (Southwest). On December 12, 2013, Southwest filed a Form U5 that terminated Lawrence’s registration.

In addition to the FINRA regulatory actions Lawrence has been the subject of at least nine customer disputes. These statistics are troubling because multiple customer complaints on a broker’s record are rare. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. FINRA’s disclosure records do not just cover customer complaints but also include IRS tax liens, judgments, and even criminal matters. The number of brokers with multiple customer complaints is far smaller.

The complaints against Lawrence allege unauthorized trading in options, promises to cover investment losses, unsuitable investments in closed-end notes, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty. Some of the unsuitable investments appear to be in the Vixx volatility index (VXX). Trading in the Vixx is almost always unsuitable because the costs of the index over time causes it to fail to accurately track its benchmark volatility index. Thus, holding Vixx will almost always cause investment losses. Some of the claims also allege that personal loans were made to the broker that were never paid back.

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