Retirement funding is tricky enough without deceptive managers targeting self-directed IRA funds for questionable investments. But that is just what happened in three cases that prompted the SEC to file charges and issue an investor alert. In one case, principals of United American Ventures in Irvine, Calif., allegedly promised guaranteed returns in convertible bonds in medical technology companies, and raised $3.5 million from self-directed IRA users. Another case accused Robert Stinson, principal of Life's Good and Keystone State Capital, of selling fraudulent "units" of private real estate hedge funds. In that case, $9.2 million came from self-directed IRAs. In the third case, Francois Durmaz and Robert Pribilski, principals of USA Retirement Management Services, allegedly ran a Ponzi scheme, persuading retirees in California and Illinois to invest $20 million in what they called Turkish Eurobonds.
THE PRIME CHOICE
RIAs are not a default option for investors looking for brokerage firm alternatives, according to TD Ameritrade Institutional research. The findings came from a survey of 502 RIAs in August. About 30% of clients who chose the RIA model say the fact that RIAs are required to offer advice that's in their best interest prompted them to do so. That reason topped others, including dissatisfaction with full-service brokerage firms, at 19%, and wide selection of investment options and no pressure to sell proprietary products, at 6%.
In a push to develop ways to handle equity market volatility, Boston-based FFCM has introduced QuantShares, a series of seven market-neutral ETFs. Each fund has equal weightings in long and short positions of U.S. stocks, and aims to generate spread returns between those purchases and shorts, says Richard Block, FFCM's director of marketing. If one position outperforms the other, the fund's performance will go up. Each fund is benchmarked to a Dow Jones index and will be rebalanced monthly. FFCM will remove underlying stocks that lose the highest or lowest ranking in its Dow Jones sector. The funds' holdings total $40 million.
ON THE MOVE
Barclays Wealth appointed Michele Huff Powell as a director and investment representative in its Dallas office. Powell spent 25 years at U.S. Trust and Bank of America Private Wealth Management.
The Investment Management Consultants Association appointed Elizabeth Piper-Bach, CFP, as chair of its 2012 board of directors. She leads a slate of four new officers and four new board members. Margaret M. Towle, partner and managing director at HighTower Advisors in Minneapolis, is treasurer. Bruce Curwood, director of investment strategy at Russell Investments in Toronto, becomes board secretary. The new board members are: Stewart Koesten, CFP and CIMA, president of KHC Wealth Management in Overland Park, Kan.; John Moninger, an executive vice president for advisory and brokerage consulting services at LPL Financial; David Koulish, senior vice president and chief investment officer at Northern Trust in Vero Beach, Fla.; and Kevin Sanchez, CFP and CIMA, a senior institutional consultant with UBS Institutional Consulting in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Lori Van Dusen launched LVW Advisors, an RIA firm that will focus on developing comprehensive wealth plans for high-net-worth clients and family offices. Van Dusen had been co-head of Convergent Wealth Advisors' Institutional Group, where she served on the executive and investment committees. - D.M.