The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority today revealed new sanctions against Citigroup Global Markets, Inc; Morgan Stanley & Co., LLC; UBS Financial Services; and Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC totaling more than $9.1 million for selling leveraged and inverse exchange-traded funds “without reasonable supervision and for not having a reasonable basis for recommending the securities.”
According to FINRA, from January 2008 through June 2009, the firms did not have adequate supervisory systems in place to monitor the sale of leveraged and inverse ETFs, and failed to conduct adequate due diligence regarding the risks and features of the ETFs. As a result, the firms did not have a reasonable basis to recommend the ETFs to their retail customers.
The firms' registered representatives also made unsuitable recommendations of leveraged and inverse ETFs to some customers with conservative investment objectives and/or risk profiles. Each of the four firms sold billions of dollars of these ETFs to customers, some of whom held them for extended periods when the markets were volatile.
Brad Bennett, FINRA’s chief of enforcement, stated, "The added complexity of leveraged and inverse exchange-traded products makes it essential that brokerage firms have an adequate understanding of the products and sufficiently train their sales force before the products are offered to retail customers. Firms must conduct reasonable due diligence and ensure that their representatives have an understanding of these products."
The firms neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to FINRA's findings.