Articles Posted in Exchange Traded Funds

In a settlement reached with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Financial Sherpa and its principal James L. Beyersdorf will pay more than $232K of disgorgement, over $15K of prejudgment interest, and a $188K penalty for allegedly defrauding investment advisory clients by engaging in a cherry picking scam. The regulator contends that Beyersdorf allocated a disproportionate amount of option trades that were profitable to himself and his wife while distributing the unprofitable ones to the firm and his clients. Beyersdorf oversaw some $6.7M in assets for 13 individual investors.

According to the SEC, he purchased options in the firm’s omnibus trading account during the morning, distributing the trades later in the day. The regulator claims that because of the allegedly illegal trading, over six months– from October 2017 and April 2018– Beyersdorf and his wife ended up with a net positive one-day return of more than 45% on the options trades that were sent to their accounts. Meantime, the negative one-day return for the firm’s individual clients that received the unprofitable trades was also 45%. The Commission said that the odds of the “disparate performance” occurring by chance was under one-in-a million.

Also, while the registered investment advisory’s strategy for the majority of its clients involved placing about 90% of each of their assets in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and 10% in short term options trading, the account of Beyersdorf’s wife traded nearly exclusively in options and did not hold any ETF positions.

The Texas State Securities Board is ordering William H. Lowell, the president of Lowell & Co., to pay a $40K fine after he allegedly failed to properly supervise one of his firm’s ex- financial representatives. The formerly registered broker and investment advisor, Jody Bryant Bowers, allegedly lost nearly all of the assets in two client accounts after holding onto an exchange traded fund (ETF) for too long.

According to the state’s disciplinary order, Bowers bought and sold Proshares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (UXVY) shares, which she “exclusively” traded in in the accounts of certain clients. This type of fund makes money through S&P 500 Index volatility, benefiting when there is a drop in the index.

Because the UXVY ETF is a leveraged exchange-traded fund that is a high-risk and costly investment, it is intended for short-term trading and must be monitored every day. However, Bower allegedly disregarded the warnings that were in the ETF’s prospectus and proceeded to hold on to positions in UVXY in two client accounts for too long, including 11,000 shares in one client’s account that were held there for 987 days. This caused the loss of 93% of that client’s initial investment. Bower also allegedly held on to 2,000 UXVY shares in another client’s account for 356 days, causing a 93% loss on the initial investment.

A former America Northcoast Securities broker is barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) after he traded in non-traditional exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the accounts of firm clients, even when the investments were not suitable for them.

According to the self-regulatory authority (SRO), Dominic Anthony Tropiano solicited the buying and selling of leveraged ETFs in at least 47 America Northcoast Securities customers’ accounts between 5/2015 and 4/2016, including 866 securities transactions involving 15 non-traditional exchange-traded funds.

Of these transactions, 33 of them were purportedly conducted in just one customer’s account. Another 19 took place in another client’s account. The customers were not aware these transactions were going to occur and they did not give their consent.


Shareholders Can Proceed with $13B CDO Fraud Case Against Goldman Sachs

A US district court judge has given Goldman Sachs (GS) shareholders the right to move forward with their $13B collateralized debt obligation fraud lawsuit accusing the bank of not disclosing certain conflicts of interest. Judge Paul A. Crotty granted the investors’ case class action certification.

The CDO fraud lawsuit revolves around investments that Goldman Sachs created and sold prior to the collapse of the housing market. According to the plaintiffs, the bank made false and misleading statements and acted counter to clients’ best interests.

Howard Present, the ex-CEO and cofounder of F-Squared Investments, must pay more than $13M—nearly $11M of disgorgement, almost $1.4M of interest and a nearly $1.6M penalty. The final judgement, issued by U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin in Boston, comes after a federal jury found Present liable for the false and misleading statements made to investors.

It was in 2014 that the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged Present and his investment management firm with misleading investors about its AlphaSector strategy. At the time, F-Squared was the biggest market of index products that use exchange-traded funds.

The SEC accused F-Squared of false advertising related to its touting of a “successful seven-year track records” for its AlphaSector strategy that it claimed was based on real investments, real clients, and real performances, when, in fact, the algorithm that the company claimed to use didn’t even exist during that time period of this supposed success. Instead, the data that the F-Squared marketed was a product of backtesting—not real testing—even though Present and his firm specifically stated that their AlphaSector strategy had not been backtested.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has imposed a $1.75M penalty on Ameriprise (AMP) related to its sale of F-Squared Alpha Sector strategies. The financial firm must also disgorge $7.3M.

According to the regulator, F-Squared Investments made mistakes when calculating the historical performance of its Alpha Sector investment strategies. These sector rotation strategies were predicated upon the use of an algorithm that gave off a “signal” noting whether to sell or purchase certain exchange-traded funds that collectively comprised the industries in the S & P 500 Index.

However, claimed the regulator, F-Squared erred when it implemented these signals prior to when they could have happened. The Commission accused the firm of employing back-tested and hypothetical historical performance data that was inflated, rather than using what the AlphaSector’s performance would have been if there hadn’t been any signal-related errors, to come up with the investment’s track record.

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Craig Scott Capital, LLC Loses FINRA Membership After Its Representatives Are Accused of Excessive Trading

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has expelled Craig Scott Capital, LLC over finding that three of the firm’s registered representatives allegedly engaged in excessive trading in the accounts of customers. The self-regulatory organization said that the charges imposed on customers, including markdowns, markups, and commissions, were not in line with the latter’s financial states and goals.

Now, FINRA is holding Craig Scott Capital accountable for the excessive trading, which it described as churning. This type of excessive trading involves making trades in a customer’s account in order to earn a commission.

FINRA is also accusing the firm of not putting into place and enforcing a “reasonable supervisory system” to prevent excessive trading and failing to properly supervise the registered representatives involved in the alleged wrongdoing so these behaviours could have been prevented. The regulator accused Craig Scott’s owners of not taking reasonable action even though they detected the red flags indicating that excessive trading might be taking place.

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A federal jury in Boston has found Howard Present, the ex-CEO of F-Squared Investments Inc., liable in the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s civil lawsuit alleging exchange-traded fund fraud. The ruling determined that Present was in violation of the Investment Advisers Act.

According to the regulator, Present sought to defraud investors and acted recklessly in the way he marketed the history of the AlphaSector, which was F-Squared’s flagship product.

The SEC filed its securities fraud lawsuit against Present in 2014. That was when the regulator announced a $35M settlement reached with F-Squared, in which the firm admitted wrongdoing over claims that it misled investors in the way that it falsely marketed AlphaSector as having a lengthy and successful track record that utilized a strategy that a multibillion-dollar wealth manager had developed.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said that Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network and Wells Fargo Clearing Services LLC must pay over $3.4M in restitution to customers who were impacted by unsuitable recommendations involving exchange-traded products and the supervisory failures involved. By settling, Wells Fargo (WFC) is not denying or admitting to the regulator’s charges.

According to FINRA, between 7/1/200 and 5/1/2012, there were registered representatives at Wells Fargo (WFC) who recommended these volatility-linked ETPs without fully comprehending the investments’ features and risks. The self-regulatory organization also found that the broker-dealer did not put into place a supervisory system that was reasonable enough to properly supervise the ETP sales during the period at issue.

The regulator said that the brokers did not have reasonable grounds for recommending these ETPs to customers whose risk profiles and investment goals were considered moderate or conservative. The representatives are accused of making inappropriate recommendations about when to leave these positions in a “timely manner.”

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has secured a final judgment by default in its broker fraud case against Demitrios Hallas. The former broker was charged by the regulator in April for allegedly trading unsuitable investment products in five customers’ accounts. The customers were unsophisticated investors with not much, if any, experience in investing. Their net worth and income levels were modest enough that risky investments were not a good fit for their portfolios.

According to the regulator’s complaint, in a period of a little over a year, Hallas traded 179 daily leveraged exchange traded funds and exchange traded notes in these accounts. (Both ETFs and ETNs products are considered high-risk, volatile, and only suitable for sophisticated investors.)

The SEC said that Hallas had no reasonable grounds for recommending these investments to customers. Meantime, the latter were charged fees and commissions of about $128K. The net loss sustained over all the positions was about $170K.

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