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Articles Posted in SEC Investor Bulletin

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Binary Options Fraud

Binary Options fraud is on the rise in recent years as regulators and government agencies continue to receive hundreds of complaints with losses totaling in the millions of dollars in the United States alone. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) issued a news release and the staggering damages associated with this type of fraud just keep increasing. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has also issued an Investor Alert concerning Binary Options and Fraud due to the increased number of victims of these schemes. Along with the FBI, the SEC is hoping to educate investors in order to prevent them from falling victim to these schemes.

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Silver Law Group and The Law Firm of David Chase are reviewing potential claims of fraudulent inducement of federal employees into purchasing high fee paying variable annuity products by LPL Financial LLC (CRD#6413) affiliated brokers Brandon Long (CRD# 5975459) , Christopher S Laws (CRD#4479529) , Johnathan Dax Cooke (CRD#5365691) and Danny Scott Hood (CRD#3236852).

Variable annuities (“VAs”) are highly-complex financial products.  According to FINRA, a good way to think of a VA is as a cross between an insurance product and an investment product.

Like other annuities, a VA is a contract between the investor and an insurance company.  The investor pays the insurer a single payment or a series of payments called premiums.  In exchange for those premiums, the insurer promises to make periodic payments to you either immediately or at some point in the future.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has formed a new group to increase oversight of private equity and hedge funds.  The SEC has assigned two former industry veterans to oversee the unit.  The SEC frequently creates these units when it sees increased activity in a particular type of investment product or is concerned that a particular segment of the securities industry may be violating the federal securities laws.  Over the last decade, alternative investments such as private equity and hedge funds have become very popular, and sales of these types of funds have expanded from the institutional level to the retail investor level.

The SEC’s 2014 Compliance Outreach Program focused on alternative investments such as hedge funds.   Private funds run by private equity firms, hedge funds, venture capital funds and other alternative investments have been the subject of heightened scrutiny during the last several years, furthered by the creation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in the wake of the financial crisis.

At the 2014 SEC Compliance Outreach Program, the SEC brought attention to a number of concerns it has relating to private equity.  Among the SEC’s rising concerns in this area are vague limited partnership agreements and poor disclosure practices to limited partnerships at private equity funds, the shifting of fees and expenses at those funds, and misleading performance and valuation metrics at private equity firms and hedge funds.

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The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), Investor Bulletin on fees and expenses reminds investors about the effect fees on investment accounts can have on a portfolio over the long run.  According to the SEC Investor Bulletin, “These fees may seem small, but over time they can have a major impact on your investment portfolio.”  The SEC’s Office of Investor Education illustrates the effects through the use of a graph.  In the hypothetical example, a $100,000 portfolio is assumed to grow 4% annually with annual fees of 0.25%, 0.50% and 1.00% that are deducted over a 20-year period.  The differences between the account values at the end of period show a $30,000 disparity in portfolio values between the portfolios with 1.00% and 0.25% in annual fees deducted from the respective portfolios.  This simplistic example should make investors wary about the fees they are paying, whether disclosed or not, these fees can greatly diminish any retirement nest egg.

The SEC Investor Bulletin urges investors to “get informed” by reviewing account statements, confirmations and investment prospectuses to become better informed.  The bulletin also provides helpful questions investors should ask their financial advisors before investing:

What are all the fees relating to this account?

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