Tags: SEC | Investor | Watchdog | Risky Products

SEC's New Investor Watchdog Warns of Risky Products

Tuesday, 23 Dec 2014 12:56 PM

The U.S. securities investor watchdog office on Tuesday unveiled its list of the top products and practices that bedeviled mom and pop investors in 2014.

In an annual report on market activities, the Securities and Exchange Commission's Office of the Investor Advocate said private placements, variable annuities, non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITS) and binary options all presented problems for investors.

The report also highlighted concerns about "reverse churning," in which a broker transfers the account of a client who does not frequently trade into another account with fees based on asset size so the brokerage can boost its compensation.

"The Investor Advocate does not believe that changes in rules or regulations are required to address the problem of reverse churning," the report says. "Rather, aggressive enforcement action ... should be sufficient to deter this type of unethical practice."

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law required the SEC to create the Office of the Investor Advocate, tasked with analyzing how new rules will affect investors, helping retail investors resolve problems with the SEC, spotting problematic trends and advocating for rule changes as needed.

The office first got up and running in February, and is led by Rick Fleming, former deputy general counsel for the North American Securities Administrators Association.

The law requires the office to file two reports a year. One, due in June, concerns the office's objectives and one, in December, is about activities that may pose risks for investors.

Among the top risks highlighted include private placements, a popular fundraising method in which companies issue shares or bonds to a select group of higher net worth investors through private sales executed by brokerages.

The deals do not need to be registered with the SEC, so they do not need to disclose as much information to investors.

Many of the risks, such as conflicts of interest involving how companies often pay third-party firms to conduct due diligence checks prior to selling the deals, were highlighted by Reuters in a recent series of articles.

Tuesday's report did not make any policy recommendations on private placements, but noted they are "highly illiquid" and "lack transparency."

It also said it was concerned about confusing fees associated with variable annuities and high up-front costs that investors face in non-traded REITS.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

   
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The U.S. securities investor watchdog office on Tuesday unveiled its list of the top products and practices that bedeviled mom and pop investors in 2014.
SEC, Investor, Watchdog, Risky Products
378
2014-56-23
Tuesday, 23 Dec 2014 12:56 PM
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