Investment advisors pay the price for selling what looked a lot like AI fairy tales

SEC bags $400K in settlements

Two investment advisors have reached settlements with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly exaggerating their use of AI, which in both cases were purported to be cornerstones of their offerings.

Canada-based Delphia and San Francisco-headquartered Global Predictions will cough up $225,000 and $175,000 respectively for telling clients that their products used AI to improve forecasts. The financial watchdog said both were engaging in "AI washing," a term used to describe the embellishment of machine-learning capabilities.

"We've seen time and again that when new technologies come along, they can create buzz from investors as well as false claims by those purporting to use those new technologies," said SEC chairman Gary Gensler. "Delphia and Global Predictions marketed to their clients and prospective clients that they were using AI in certain ways when, in fact, they were not." 

Delphia claimed its system utilized AI and machine learning to incorporate client data, a statement the SEC said it found to be false.

"Delphia represented that it used artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze its retail clients' spending and social media data to inform its investment advice when, in fact, no such data was being used in its investment process," the SEC said in a settlement order [PDF].

Despite being warned about suspected misleading practices in 2021 and agreeing to amend them, Delphia only partially complied, according to the SEC. The company continued to market itself as using client data as AI inputs but never did anything of the sort, the regulator said.

Global Predictions, meanwhile, made several AI claims, such as being the "first regulated AI financial advisor," but when asked [PDF] by the SEC to prove those claims, it "could not produce documents" to that end.

Global Predictions also failed to disclose conflicts of interest between it and individuals giving testimonials, as well as falsely claiming it offered tax-loss harvesting services and included impermissible language in its advisory contract "among other securities law violations," the SEC said. 

Meanwhile, Global Predictions told us it has clarified its use of machine learning on its website, explaining the rebranding of its AI as “your personal AI financial adviser” instead of being the “first regulated AI financial adviser,” which it said was done “to more accurately reflect our unique value proposition.”

No mention was made of the SEC case against the outfit, though the company told us it has “cooperated fully with the inquiry and is pleased to put this behind us.”

The SEC has warned investors to be wary of scammers preying on those being pulled into this latest AI hype cycle.

Delphia has yet to respond to questions from The Register. ®

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