The volume dried up, and as you can see from the red line here (which is the shares outstanding), by 2009, most of the initially created shares had been put back to the Swedish Export Credit Corporation. By calendar year 2012, it was trading 40,000 shares a year. That’s right. All year long, just 40,000 shares traded hands. Still, miraculously, it somehow managed to trade at something like fair value.
I say “miraculously” because it wasn’t just investors who forgot about the Elements. Throughout most of the last five years, there’s literally been nobody home at Merrill to claim these products. We’ve tried countless emails, phone calls and personal pleas, and never had anyone stand up and take ownership.
For a few years, the website was stuck in a time machine. In 2009, Credit Suisse had the grace to formally delist three Elements ETNs that had gone fallow with Credit Suisse as the underlying bank. In 2011, Deutsche Bank played Boy Scout and just called the three ETNs it had its name behind, handing existing shareholders’ cash. And as far as anyone can tell, that’s the last time anyone touched the website except to advance the copyright date to 2014.
So already, any of the Elements ETNs would be candidates for “worst ever.” But there have been a few holdouts. The ETFs associated with the Rogers commodities indexes have real money in them. The Elements Rogers International Commodity Total Return ETN (RJI | B) has almost $800 million under management, despite the website being down. (At least Rogers maintains an index website you can find easily.)
Things Get Nefarious
The real prize actually comes from recent activity. Check out the last year in EEH: