(Reuters) - Oppenheimer & Co agreed to pay nearly $3 million in fines and restitution to settle U.S. regulatory charges that it improperly sold risky exchange-traded funds to risk-averse elderly customers and other retail investors.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said on Wednesday the Oppenheimer Holdings Inc unit will pay a $2.25 million fine and reimburse $716,832 to roughly 150 customers.
Oppenheimer did not admit or deny wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.
FINRA said that from August 2009 to September 2013, New York-based Oppenheimer sold leveraged, inverse and inverse-leveraged ETFs that were unsuitable for clients based on their ages, investment objectives and finances, and lacked proper supervision to ensure that such sales were not made.
The clients included an 89-year-old “conservative customer” making $50,000 a year and who lost $51,847 investing in ETFs, and a 91-year-old “conservative customer” making $30,000 a year who lost $11,161 in ETFs, the brokerage regulator said.
Oppenheimer conducted roughly 30,740 non-traditional ETF transactions totaling $1.7 billion in retail brokerage accounts during the four-year period, FINRA said.
ETFs trade on exchanges and typically track indexes or other securities. Inverse ETFs are designed to move in the opposite direction of what they track, and leveraged ETFs are designed to magnify the returns of what they track. Many brokerages no longer sell non-traditional ETFs.
In a statement, Oppenheimer said it was happy to settle, and “has for several years put in effective enhanced procedures and controls surrounding the sale of leveraged ETFs.”
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by W Simon, Bernard Orr