SEC Fines Wealthfront, Hedgeable For Misleading Consumer Claims

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced late last week that it settled with Wealthfront Advisors and Hedgeable, two FinTech robo-advisors, for misleading investors.

According to reports, the SEC slapped Wealthfront Advisors, a leading robo-advisor with $11 billion under management, with a $250,000 fine for what the SEC concluded were false statements about its automated financial services product. Wealthfront didn’t deny or admit guilt as part of the settlement. Meanwhile, the SEC fined Hedgeable, the New York FinTech with $81 million in assets under management, for boosting the performance for its service. The company agreed to the censure without admitting or denying guilt.

“Technology is rapidly changing the way investment advisers are able to advertise and deliver their services to clients,” said C. Dabney O’Riordan, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit, in a statement, according to reports. “Regardless of their format, however, all advisers must take seriously their obligations to comply with the securities laws, which were put in place to protect investors.”

In the case of Wealthfront, the charges have to do with its tax loss harvesting strategy and statements it made about that service. According to reports, Wealthfront told customers it would look for stock transactions that would spark a wash sale — but the company, according to the SEC, failed to monitor the accounts accurately, with about 31 percent of account holders enrolled in the strategy getting hit with penalties due to running afoul of wash sale rules.  Wealthfront was also accused of using client testimonials that were prohibited and paying bloggers for client referrals without disclosing the payments. It also was charged with failing to maintain compliance programs that prevent securities law violations.

In a statement to reporters, Wealthfront said: “We take our regulatory duties seriously at Wealthfront and are happy to have reached a settlement with the SEC. The settlement order addressed Wealthfront’s retweets of clients’ positive tweets from our corporate account and compensation to some bloggers for client referrals without proper disclosures.”

In the case of Hedgeable, the SEC found it manipulated results it reported by choosing the best performing accounts under management and then compared it to competitors in a way that made it look better. It was also cited for not having the proper compliance programs.



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