Losing the Game: Video Game Business Charged with Fraud

By Caitlyn Scofield, Spring 2019 IAC Student intern

As millennials come to the age where they are investing, they often follow the old mantra stick to what you know and often what we know is the power of social media and mobile gaming. This relatively new and burgeoning industry has become a gold mine for investors and entrepreneurs due to microtransactions and ad revenue.  This force driven by monetary transactions ranging from .99 cents to hundreds of dollars has a business model which focuses on what are referred to as “whales” in the industry. These are individuals who instead of making periodic small in-game purchases spend thousands of dollars on one game.  Many innovative and driven individuals have made significant profits following this trend. Yet not all entrepreneurs want to put in the effort to make their business successful and instead take advantage of hopeful investors. Continue reading

Wednesday Word: the Howey Test

By: Caitlyn Scofield , Spring 2019 IAC Student Intern

Have you ever looked at your bank account and wondered where your money went? As an investor, you ask yourself the same question “what am I putting my money into”? There are many investment opportunities out there. The government has put into place certain regulations for investments. These ensure that certain information about specific investments are provided honestly and accurately to the investor. This is done through the Securities act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange act of 1934.  Yet not all investments are covered under these acts, only those that are determined to be securities are regulated in this way.

“How do I know if my investment is a security” you might ask?  In 1946, the Supreme Court answered that question by developing “the Howey Test”. Continue reading

Investor Ed Crossword Puzzles: Prohibited Conduct

All forms of investing carry some degree of risk. Brokers must be diligent in protecting their customers from additional, unnecessary risk. Brokers must never guarantee market or product performance. Unless a customer has given discretionary authority to trade on a consumer’s account, a broker must obtain authorization  or permission before conducting transactions. It is important to always read all documents before signing so you know whether your permission is required before a trade or if a broker can make a trade without express permission. Brokers should never recommend unsuitable securities, nor should they ever misrepresent a material fact about the product.

FINRA’s Best Execution and Interposition Rule 5310 requires a broker to use reasonable diligence in ensuring a customer’s transaction is executed at the best possible price available. A Broker should never charge excessive commissions or mark-ups on the purchase or sale of a security.

Furthermore, a broker engages in prohibited conduct if he or she engages in the switching of one mutual fund for another without a legitimate purpose. A broker should not remove a customer’s funds or securities from the customer’s account without the customer’s prior authorization. FINRA also prohibits brokers from trading ahead. FINRA Rule 5320 states a broker should never trade ahead by placing an order for the firm’s account before entering a customer’s order.

Test out your knowledge with this crossword puzzle: Continue reading

Wednesday’s Word: Alternative Dispute Resolution

By: Brook Ptacek, Spring 2019 IAC Student Intern

Alternative dispute resolution or “ADR” is where parties agree, by contractual agreement or otherwise, to resolve their dispute outside of the court system.  It is another forum to get your matter quickly and efficiently resolved…and most importantly, a way to save extra money spent on attorney fees and court costs to reach a resolution.

There are two main forms of ADR: arbitration and mediation.  In the Investor Advocacy Clinic, you will hear us refer to arbitration a lot.  The main difference between the two is that the rulings in arbitration are binding, while mediation voluntary. Click here for FINRA’s break-down comparison. Continue reading

Know When to Run… Don’t Be A Gambler

By G. Kevin Mathis, Investor Advocacy Intern

On February 7, 2019, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Robert Alexander (Alexander) with fraudulently raising approximately $9 million.  The SEC complaint alleges that Alexander sold investments on Kizzang LLC defrauding more than 50 individuals.  Alexander allegedly claimed that investment funds would start up his online sweepstakes and fantasy sports entertainment services company.  Instead, Alexander allegedly used the investors’ funds for himself. Continue reading