This is apparent from five judgments in court cases recently conducted on behalf of victims of providers of so-called CFDs. This stands for contracts for difference, an investment product with great risks because leverage is used.
What are CFDs?
As an investor, you speculate with a CFD on a rise or fall in the price of shares, currencies or commodities without actually buying them. The difference between the current price and the price at the time you close the contract is your profit as an investor. Or you lose.
And the latter can be quite expensive due to the aforementioned leverage. This leverage arises because you do not pay for your entire investment yourself, but also borrow a large part of it. This way you can achieve a much higher return with a smaller amount, as explained in the video below.
The same applies vice versa: the losses can also be much greater. And that’s what many investors find painfully. If the price falls, they not only lose their investment, but they also have to pay the loss. And that can lead to you losing a lot more than your investment, warns the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM).
More than 80 percent of investors in these products end up in the red, according to the regulator. That warns very emphatically for the ‘rogue’ foreign providers of CFDs. Foreign providers are not subject to the supervision of the AFM, but may be active in the Netherlands if they are established in another European country.
Lured with fake success stories
Private investors are seduced through fake advertisements with fictional success stories from celebrities – who have nothing to do with the advertisements. The fake advertisements are often for cryptos, but those who click through regularly end up with providers of CFDs that are not completely accurate, according to the AFM.
There is a lively trade in the data of people who fall for the fake advertisements with, for example, Jort Kelder or John de Mol. Traders in this data sometimes receive a bonus of a thousand euros per person who trades, says spokesman Kees Versluis.
And whoever starts trading will soon be the cigar. Providers charge high costs and, according to the AFM, it is ‘often unclear whether the transactions are fair’. Unsuspecting investors are given advice over the phone on how to invest, something that is not allowed at all.
The prohibition on advice applies precisely because mala fide sellers have an indirect interest in the loss of the investor, because these mala fide sellers belong to the same company as the providers of CFDs.
Because the companies are not subject to Dutch supervision, it was very difficult for investors who fell into the trap to get justice. Litigation in a country like Cyprus, where many of these cunning companies are based, is a costly and time-consuming affair.
Lawyer Marius Hupkes has dozens of clients who have lost their money to the scams under his care. He tried to reverse the investment agreements through the Dutch court. And so far this has been successful in five cases.
Jurisprudence helps others
Per customer, this involves hundreds of thousands of euros that have to be refunded, says Hupkes. And thanks to the judge’s rulings, it is also possible for other victims to try to get their money back through Dutch courts, he says.
And that also regularly happens outside the courtroom through settlements, he adds. How often is he not allowed to say because of confidentiality agreements.
Litigation is only useful in the event of significant losses, for damage amounts lower than 65,000 to 70,000 euros it becomes ‘more difficult to do good’, according to Hupkes. His office uses this limit to prevent people from being unnecessarily expensive, he explains.
This does not only concern the fee for the lawyer himself, but the start-up costs to litigate abroad are simply high. “Translation costs, issuing the summons abroad”, he gives as an example. In the amount that the company uses as a turning point for whether or not to litigate, it has also been taken into account that a victory in court does not automatically mean that all damage will be compensated.
Those costs could be shared with a group business, but ‘then I have to put people in the waiting room’, says Hupkes. He’d rather not do that. “Pace is also important in this kind of business, because those brokers can’t be trusted, they just disappear.” He hopes that the publicity will ensure that enough victims report to a group case.
Supervisor AFM therefore preaches the ‘prevention is better than cure’ slogan. It is best to hang up the phone if you are approached by these kinds of parties. Anyone who cannot resist the temptation to listen should realize that if ‘something sounds too good to be true’, it usually is, the AFM concludes.