Tradenet Capital Markets Ltd. for offering and selling security-based swaps to over 5,000 retail investors without registration and for failing to transact its swaps on a registered national exchange.
According to the SEC’s order, Tradenet sold investors packages of materials that claimed to be for the purpose of educating investors about day trading but also paid investors a portion of net profits from simulated trades conducted in a funded trading account provided as part of the packages. As set forth in the order, Tradenet charged from $500 to $9,000 for the educational packages that included the simulated trading accounts. According to the order, investors whose portfolios increased in value received payouts equal to a percentage of the simulated net profits, but if the value of the portfolio decreased by a certain amount, the funded trading account was closed. The SEC’s order finds that the contracts to provide funded trading accounts were security-based swaps under the U.S. federal securities laws. The SEC’s order further finds that no registration statement had been filed for the swaps, and that the swaps were not sold through a national securities exchange.
Tradenet provided its customers “Day Trader Education Packages” that included a simulated “funded account” in which they could “trade” securities. The participants received a portion of the upside, and their downside was capped as their accounts were closed if they fell below predetermined thresholds. Some purchasers of these packages appear to have voluntarily purchased successive packages, and participants appear to have transacted with Tradenet voluntarily and with clear information about the terms of the deal. While Tradenet’s product offering had an educational component, it was primarily about the simulated “funded account,” which could not have been offered to U.S. retail investors under the existing rules
However, the some believe that there is room in our regulatory framework for creative investor education programs that give investors the opportunity to simulate trading in various financial products and assembling an investment portfolio. Gamification of educational experiences can promote learning, and the use of awards or prizes—even cash prizes—can provide incentives to take the game seriously and thus increase the educational value of the experience.
Firms, schools, and entrepreneurs who are interested in offering genuine learning opportunities to investors through simulated trading experiences with financial incentives but are concerned that their design may raise issues under the securities laws should engage with the Commission to explore how they could offer it in a manner consistent with the rules