It’s not hard to imagine having some ETFs you own stolen. Perhaps the broker you’ve been having an affair with misappropriated your accounts to make all sorts of unauthorized trades, potentially including said ETF shares. Perhaps in a bit of delicious irony, hackers broke into said brokerage account and transferred shares in a cybersecurity ETF with the ticker symbol “HACK” to their own accounts in Switzerland or the Caymans or wherever, demonstrating the value of such an ETF and thereby driving up its value, pouring salt in the wound. Pretty standard stuff.
But stealing the entire ETF? Not just misappropriating some shares, but taking control of a whole ETF complex and misappropriating tens of millions in fees from them? That is also possible, and takes a special kind of daring, especially when you’re stealing the ETF from the very exchange on which said ETF is listed. That, however, is exactly what a judge says ETF Managers Group did.
In October 2017, Nasdaq sued the firm, saying it “fabricated frivolous legal claims” to take control of HACK and several other funds, depriving Nasdaq of millions of dollars of profits. At the time Nasdaq said HACK was generating profits of more than $300,000 a month through collecting fees from investors….
ETF Managers Group was to handle back-office operations for several ETFs that had been conceived by a third firm, PureShares LLC, which does business as PureFunds.
Nasdaq acquired ISE in 2016, inheriting its ETF business.
Nasdaq accused ETF Managers Group of unlawfully seizing control over the funds. ETF Managers Group said it acted lawfully and took profits from HACK to compensate for funds that Nasdaq owed it for a separate contract.
“We took this thing that you didn’t own to make up for some other thing you owe is money for” is a curious-sounding legal strategy to this non-lawyer’s mind, but ETF Managers is sticking to it, and will appeal the $80.6 million verdict.