VanEck to Pay $1.75M SEC Fine for Not Disclosing Influencer's Role in ETF Launch



The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has hit exchange-traded fund (ETF) issuer VanEck with a $1.75 million fine.

Investment advisor VanEck agreed to pay the fine without admitting or denying the charge that it had failed to disclose a social media influencer’s role in the launch of its VanEckSocial Sentiment ETF—which trades on the NYSE Arca under the BUZZ ticker—back in 2021.

BUZZ is meant to track 75 large cap securities with the “highest degree of positive investor sentiment and bullish perception” based on content mined from social media, news articles, and blog posts, according to VanEck. At the time of writing, the BUZZ portfolio includes Coinbase (COIN), Paypal (PYPL), Tesla (TSLA) and MicroStrategy (MSTR).

The SEC alleged that VanEck used an unnamed social media influencer to promote the fund—but failed to disclose this to investors.

“To incentivize the influencer’s marketing and promotion efforts, the proposed licensing fee structure included a sliding scale linked to the size of the fund so, as the fund grew, the index provider would receive a greater percentage of the management fee the fund paid to Van Eck Associates,” the SEC statement said.

“However, as the SEC’s order finds, Van Eck Associates failed to disclose the influencer’s planned involvement and the sliding scale fee structure to the ETF’s board in connection with its approval of the fund launch and of the management fee.”

Dave Portnoy, president of sports and pop culture blog Barstool Sports, was heavily involved in the fund’s launch but the SEC did not name him in the complaint. Decrypt didn’t get an immediate reply when trying to reach him through his media company, Barstool Sports.

VanEck is one of the many high-profile Bitcoin ETF issuers. The fund manager’s Bitcoin Trust launched in January with nine other funds, giving investors exposure to the biggest cryptocurrency by market cap.

The firm has also proposed a spot Ethereum ETF to the SEC. The regulator has until May 23 to approve or deny the proposed product.

Edited by Stacy Elliott.



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