What the experts say
Vanguard’s ‘Ultra’ ban
Starting this week, you can no longer buy high-risk exchange-traded funds, such as ProFunds’ so-called Ultras through Vanguard’s brokerage, said Gunjan Banerji and Dawn Lim in The Wall Street Journal. The ban applies to leveraged funds that magnify gains—and losses—on investments, and “inverse” products that are used to bet against the market. The Vanguard ban covers about 400 investments, and comes amid an explosion in leveraged funds. “Annual volumes for one popular product, ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures Exchange-Traded Fund, have soared to about 2 billion shares traded in 2018 from roughly 50 million in 2016.” Vanguard said such funds, which can suffer sudden major losses, were incompatible with the buy-and-hold investment strategy the company encourages.
Facebook’s littlest whales
Facebook profited from “in-game” purchases by children who used their parents’ credit cards to spend thousands of dollars, said Nathan Halverson in RevealNews.org. A federal judge in a class-action suit ruled last week that documents detailing the purchases should be made public. Complaints about kids racking up charges on cards that Facebook kept on file were so frequent that “Facebook employees began voicing their concerns that people were being charged without their knowledge.” In internal chats, some Facebook employees called high-spending kids “whales,” lingo taken from the casino industry. In one discussion, Facebook employees refused to refund $6,545 to a user who “looks underage.” Research by the social media firm found that the average age for players of Facebook’s version of Angry Birds—a game that allows in-app purchases—was 5 years old.
New rules on free trials
Mastercard announced new rules last week to crack down on retailers who sneakily turn free trials into paid subscriptions, said Jacob Passy in MarketWatch.com. The new standards—which apply only to physical goods, not digital subscriptions—will require merchants to “email or text a customer with information such as the transaction amount and payment date” before charging a customer. The email or text will also need to include instructions on how to cancel. The subscriptions, for products ranging from craft beers to skin creams, “can become especially dangerous to one’s financial health as one gets older,” and some “predatory” free-trial offers target the elderly.