On February 28, 2018, FINRA Enforcement entered into a settlement via Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (“AWC”) with Respondent Western International Securities, Inc. (“WIS”) (CRD# 39262). Specifically, without admitting or denying any wrongdoing — WIS consented to paying a fine of $521,908, in addition to restitution to certain investors in the amount of $125,000 — in connection with FINRA’s findings of fact that from January 2011 – November 2015, WIS allegedly failed to supervise its registered representatives with regard to sales of certain leveraged, inverse, and inverse-leveraged Exchange-Traded Funds (“Non-Traditional ETFs”).
As our firm has highlighted in a number of recent blog posts, Non-Traditional ETFs are extremely complicated and risky financial products. Non-Traditional ETFs are designed to return a multiple of an underlying benchmark or index (or both) over the course of one trading session (typically, a single day). Therefore, because of their design, Non-Traditional ETFs are not intended to be held for more than a single trading session, as enunciated by FINRA Enforcement in its recent AWC as concerns Respondent WIS:
“[t]he performance of Non-Traditional ETFs over periods of time longer than a single trading session ‘can differ significantly from the performance… of their underlying index or benchmark during the same period of time.” FINRA Regulatory Notice 09-31.