The Oil Bet Of UWTI(F): A Fool And His Money

December 09, 2016

I’ll admit it: I just had to be a part of it. We’ve covered here, over and over again, the pending demise of the VelocityShares triple leveraged oil ETNs backed by Credit Suisse: the VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETN (UWTI) and the VelocityShares 3X Inverse Crude Oil ETN (DWTI).

I wanted to have firsthand experience of what it was like to be an investor in one of these products during what has to be the most bizarre two days in ETF history. Here’s how I managed to throw $50 away in the process.

We first heard that UWTI was delisting these funds back on Nov. 17. Earlier this week, I was curious if I could still buy them. So on Dec. 6, I went to my brokerage account, and put in a marketable limit order for 10 shares of UWTI, the larger of the two, with $662 million in assets as of this morning. I didn’t receive any note about the pending delisting. However, I did get a note about how leveraged and inverse funds are risky and not for long-term investing. I paid my $9 commission and got a fill at $24.64.

Yesterday, knowing with absolute certainty that I was pointing a gun at my own head, I watched as the market closed, and then kept checking my account to see if anyone was going to let me know it was delisting. I received no emails or alerts.

In fact, I was half expecting to get a note from Credit Suisse letting me know it would indeed be calling my exchange-traded note shares, and giving me my money back (which has been the case in almost every other ETN delisting in history). Alas, no note has come.

The Story Gets Weirder

At 9:30 this morning, I logged back in to my account, curious what would have happened. A few things:

1) The ticker for UWTI had changed to UWTIF, and was now listed as OTC, or “over the counter.” That means that if I wanted to sell it, I would have to go to a different market: the OTCBB or pink sheets.

2) In a bizarre twist, overnight, VelocityShares (which is fundamentally just a marketing agent for these products) had found a new bank to replace the 3X oil products: Citi. At 9:30 a.m., two brand-new, technically unrelated securities, with the tickers VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETN (UWT) and the VelocityShares 3x Inverse Crude Oil ETN (DWT), were trading, providing essentially the exact same exposure as the now delisted UWTI(F) and DWTI(F), just 15 basis points more expensive.

Human Intervention

So, putting myself in the shoes of a normal non-ETF-nerd consumer, I did what I thought I should do, and called my broker. I contacted someone extremely nice on the phone immediately, and here’s the transcript of my conversation.

Me: “Hi there. I bought a small speculative position earlier this week, and now I find that it got delisted.”

Broker Dude: “It looks like we received notification of delisting last week. I can see if we sent out any notifications. Please hold.”

“Last week?” I thought? “This thing’s been on the delisting block since before Thanksgiving!” My very nice broker dude comes back …

Broker Dude: “When you went to buy it, was there any block that said ‘this is being delisted?’”

Me: “Nope, not that I can recall. Did you send out any sort of notice to people holding this thing?”

Broker Dude: “If you were a holder before we got the delisting notice, we would have forwarded you the delisting notice, but we didn’t send another one out yesterday.”

Me: “What do I do now? Can I sell it?”

Broker Dude: “Yes. Although right now, there’s no market [9:50 a.m.]. But you can put in the order and see what happens.”

 

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