When it comes to investing, celebrities are just like the rest of us. They need to do their research before putting their money into anything. Unfortunately, many stars have fallen victim to investment schemes in the past without doing the proper due diligence. However, an issue that is becoming even more prevalent is celebrities who use their influence and followings to promote securities, without including the proper disclosures, to unsuspecting fans and investors. So, with the SEC cracking down on celebrities and companies, it’s important to know what you’re getting into when dealing with an investment opportunity tied to a celebrity endorsement.
Celebrity Endorsement and Investment Opportunities
The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) has warned investors not to make investment decisions based solely on celebrity endorsements. While celebrity endorsements exist for a wide variety of products and services, a celebrity endorsement does not mean that an investment is legitimate or appropriate for all investors. As the OIEA says, “It is never a good idea to make an investment decision just because someone famous says a product or service is a good investment.”
Celebrities can be lured into participating in a fraudulent scheme or be linked to products or services without their consent. According to the SEC, even if the endorsement and investment opportunity are genuine, the investment may not be good for you. Before investing, always do your research, including these steps:
- Research the background, including registration or license status, of anyone recommending or selling an investment through the search tool on Investor.gov.
- Learn about the company’s finances, organization, and business prospects by carefully reading any prospectus and the company’s latest financial reports, which may be available through the SEC’s EDGAR database.
- Evaluate the investment’s potential costs and fees, risks, and benefits based on your personal investment goals, risk tolerance, investment horizon, net worth, existing investments and assets, debt, and tax considerations.
Kim Kardashian and the SEC
The SEC’s announcement followed an investigation that found Kim Kardashian failed to disclose that she was paid $250,000 to publish a post on her Instagram account promoting EMAX tokens, a crypto asset security offered by a company called EthereumMax. The post contained a link to the EthereumMax website, which provided instructions for potential investors to purchase the tokens. Since the investigation, she has agreed to settle the charges and pay $1.26 million in cooperation. SEC Chair Gary Gensler noted that “investors are entitled to know whether the publicity of a security is unbiased,” and the SEC’s Director of Enforcement Gurbir S. Grewal added that “Ms. Kardashian’s case also serves as a reminder to celebrities and others that the law requires them to disclose to the public when and how much they are paid to promote investing in securities.”
This case highlights the need for transparency surrounding celebrity endorsements of investments. Federal securities laws are clear that any celebrity or other individual that promotes a security must disclose the nature, source, and amount of compensation they received in exchange for the promotion. Without this type of disclosure, investors cannot make informed investment decisions. The SEC’s investigation is ongoing, and it remains to be seen if any additional action will be taken in this case. This case serves as a reminder that celebrities and influencers are not above the law. When considering any investment opportunity, it is important to do your own research and consult with a financial advisor to ensure it is right for you. Be sure to ask questions and demand transparency if you are asked to invest in a security based on a celebrity endorsement.