New Leveraged ETFs Hit The Market — Investors Beware

Leveraged ETFs have recently returned to the news as Direxion announced the release of two new funds. As reported on Marketwatch.com, one of these new funds seeks to obtain returns equal to 300% of the two-year Treasury yield, while the other fund seeks to obtain returns equal to 300% of the inverse return of the two-year Treasury yield (in other words, when the Treasury yield declines, the investor profits).

Despite the repeated warnings issued by FINRA and the SEC as to the tremendous risk presented by leveraged ETFs, it appears that these fund families are forging “full steam ahead.” The announcement from Direxion comes only weeks after its rival, ProShares, released eight additional leveraged ETFs. Four of the new ProShares funds seek to obtain returns equal to 300% of the daily return of the Nasdaq 100, Dow Jones Industrial Average, Standard & Poors 400 Index, and the Russell 2000 Index. The other four funds seek returns equal to 300% of the inverse daily return of these same indices (again, investors in these funds profit when the value of the respective index declines).

Leveraged ETFs invest their shareholders’ money in futures and/or derivatives in order to multiply the daily return of an index. Some leveraged ETFs seek a return that is 200% or even 300% of the daily performance of the index. Inverse ETFs work in much the same way, except that these funds seek a return that is equal to 100%, 200%, or even 300% of the opposite of the daily performance of the index. With these funds, an investor actually profits when the index declines in value. Typical leveraged ETFs and inverse ETFs reset each day and therefore, over periods longer than one day, their performance can vary considerably from the index.

Leveraged ETFs may be appropriate investments for professional asset managers and highly sophisticated investors; however, in this author’s opinion, leveraged ETFs are inappropriate for the vast majority of individual investors. Given the level of volatility in the stock markets in recent times, leveraged ETFs expose investors to tremendous potential for loss in a short period of time. Furthermore, in various instances in the retail setting, leveraged ETFs have been sold to investors without full disclosures related to these risks.

The Kueser Law Firm represents investors who have lost money in leveraged ETFs. If you are concerned that your investments have been mismanaged, contact us to learn more about your rights.

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Leveraged and Inverse ETFs May Not Be Suitable For All Investors

ProFunds Group, one of the largest issuers of leveraged and inverse ETFs recently issued a warning that some of its leveraged and inverse ETFs may not be suitable for all investors. In the prospectus dated October 1, 2009, the company repeatedly states:

The Fund is different from most exchangetraded funds in that it seeks leveraged returns and only on a daily basis. The Fund also is riskier than similarly benchmarked exchange-traded funds that do not use leverage. Accordingly, the Fund may not be suitable for all investors and should be used only by knowledgeable investors who understand the potential consequences of seeking daily leveraged investment results. Shareholders should actively monitor their investments.

(See, e.g., prospectus at pp. 49, 54, 59, 64, 69, 74, 79.)

While additional disclosures are an improvement, this disclosure is still somewhat vague. It is similar to telling someone that an investment is suitable for them if they are seeking growth of their investment. Who isn’t seeking growth of their investments? I have never heard anyone say “I am looking for an investment that will cause me to lose money.”

In addition, many investors who are sold leveraged ETFs such as these never receive a copy of the prospectus. If an investor does not receive the prospectus, the disclosure does not protect them (however, it could protect the fund company from liability).

Leveraged ETFs invest their shareholders’ money in futures and/or derivatives in order to multiply the daily return of an index. Some leveraged ETFs seek a return that is 200% or even 300% of the daily performance of the index. Inverse ETFs work in much the same way, except that these funds seek a return that is equal to 100%, 200%, or even 300% of the opposite of the daily performance of the index. With these funds, an investor actually profits when the index declines in value. Typical leveraged ETFs and inverse ETFs reset each day and therefore, over periods longer than one day, their performance can vary considerably from the index. In addition to ProFunds, the most popular leveraged ETFs and inverse ETFs are managed by Rydex and Direxion.

FINRA has already declared that leveraged ETFs are typically unsuitable for retail investors. Therefore, the announcement by ProFunds is not a revelation. If your stockbroker or financial advisor has sold you any leveraged ETFs or inverse ETFs, or purchased any leveraged ETFs or inverse ETFs in your accounts, you may be entitled to recover any losses on these investments. The Kueser Law Firm represents investors who were sold leveraged ETFs and inverse ETFs. If you are concerned that your investments have been mismanaged, contact us to learn more about your rights.

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SEC joins FINRA In Cautioning Investors About Risks of Leveraged ETFs

Earlier this week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a joint warning cautioning investors on the dangers in investing in leveraged ETFs and inverse ETFs. The two regulators issued the warning because they “believe individual investors may be confused about the performance objectives of leveraged and inverse exchange-traded funds (ETFs).”

The warning also notes that leveraged ETFs are designed to achieve their investment performance objectives on a daily basis, rather than a long-term basis as with typical exchange-traded and mutual funds. In fact, the performance of these funds can vary significantly from their stated objectives over long-term periods. The joint warning contains a detailed description of leveraged and ETFs, as well as examples of how the funds generally operate. The SEC also included a link to a NYSE “Informed Investor” Bulletin entitled “What You Should Know About Exchanged Traded Funds.”

While this warning is welcome, it unfortunately has come after many investors have sustained significant losses in these risky and unsuitable investments. As previously discussed in this blawg, FINRA has already declared that leveraged ETFs are typically unsuitable for retail investors. The most popular of these investments are managed by Rydex, Direxion, and ProShares. If your stockbroker or financial advisor has sold you any leveraged ETFs, or purchased any leveraged ETFs in your accounts, and you have lost money on these investments, you may be entitled to recover these losses. The Kueser Law Firm represents investors who were sold leveraged and inverse ETFs. If you are concerned that your investments have been mismanaged, contact us to learn more about your rights.

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