ProShare Advisors, pursuant to a separate Management Services Agreement, performs certain administrative services on behalf of the Funds, such as negotiating, coordinating and implementing the Trust’s contractual obligations with the Funds’ service providers; monitoring, overseeing and reviewing the performance of such service providers to ensure adherence to applicable contractual obligations; and preparing or coordinating reports and presentations to the Board of Trustees with respect to such service providers as requested or as deemed necessary. For these services, the Trust pays to ProShare Advisors a fee at the annual rate of 0.10% of average daily net assets for each of the Funds. ProShare Advisors has entered into an Advisory and Management Services Fee Waiver Agreement that waives this management services fee for the Morningstar Alternatives Solution ETF through at least October 31, 2018. Prior to this date, ProShare Advisors may not terminate the arrangement without the approval of the Board.
• Futures Position Limit Risk — Limits on the amount of futures any one entity can hold may negatively impact the Fund’s ability to meet its investment objective if such limits are reached and exceptions to such limits are not granted. Currently the position limits for bitcoin futures contracts are much lower than they are for most other futures contracts.
On May 7, 2014, the SEC published an investor alert that highlighted fraud and other concerns relating to certain investment opportunities denominated in bitcoin and fraudulent and unregistered investment schemes targeted at participants in online bitcoin forums. On July 25, 2017, the SEC issued a Report of Investigation or Report which concluded that digital assets or tokens issued for the purpose of raising funds may be securities within the meaning of the federal securities laws. The Report emphasized that whether a digital asset is a security is based on the particular facts and circumstances, including the economic realities of the transactions. This was reiterated in a December 11, 2017 Public Statement emphasizing the risks of investing in digital assets such as bitcoin and noting the possibility that bitcoin and other digital assets may be deemed to be securities. The SEC continues to take action against persons or entities misusing bitcoin in connection with fraudulent schemes (i.e., Ponzi scheme), inaccurate and inadequate publicly disseminated information, and the offering of unregistered securities.
Words of caution are appropriate when talking about going short and using leverage. These strategies are incredibly effective because they allow investors to not only profit from a general upward trend in bitcoin but to profit from the fluctuations in the market. At first, it is hard to think of a more perfect asset than bitcoin for such purposes. The upward trends have been fast and extreme, yet fluctuations are very common and tend to be substantial.
One traditional attraction of trading futures is the ability to use relatively small amounts of money to potentially achieve outsized returns. In many futures markets the margin, the amount of money that your broker requires up-front before executing the trade can be quite small compared to the ultimate value of the contract. For example, as of 22-Dec-2017, each E-mini S&P 500 contract was worth $134K ($50*S&P 500 index value)—this “list price” of the contract is called its notional value. The CME only requires you to maintain a minimum margin of $4.5K (3.4% of notional) to control this contract (brokers often require additional margin). Margin requirements this low are only possible because the volatility of the S&P 500 is well understood and your margin account balance is adjusted at the end of every trading day to account for the winnings or losses of the day. If your account balance falls below the margin minimum of $4.5K you’ll need to quickly add money to your account or your position will be summarily closed out by your broker. On the plus side, if you’ve predicted the S&P’s direction correctly your profits will be that same as if you completely owned the underlying stocks in the index. A +1% daily move in the S&P500 would yield $1340 in profit even though you only have $4500 invested— a 29% return—this multiplier effect is called leverage.
Futures markets create an immense amount of flexibility. They enable investors to readily bet on an asset or bet against it (go long or go short), and they are usually characterised by an immense amount of leverage. In the case of bitcoin, this means one can trade a high volume of coins while only paying for a fraction of them, essentially operating with borrowed money. Leverage is used to amplify profits on a small volume of assets, but it is a double-edged sword in that it also amplifies losses.
The primary risks associated with the use of futures contracts are imperfect correlation between movements in the price of the futures and the market value of the underlying assets, and the possibility of an illiquid market for a futures contract. Although each Fund intends to sell futures contracts only if there is an active market for such contracts, no assurance can be given that a liquid market will exist for any particular contract at any particular time. Many futures exchanges and boards of trade limit the amount of fluctuation permitted in futures contract prices during a single trading day. Once the daily limit has been reached in a particular contract, no trades may be made that day at a price beyond that limit or trading may be suspended for specified periods during the day. Futures contract prices could move to the limit for several consecutive trading days with little or no trading, thereby preventing prompt liquidation of futures positions and potentially subjecting a Fund to substantial losses. If trading is not possible, or if a Fund determines not to close a futures position in anticipation of adverse price movements, the Fund will be required to make daily cash payments of variation margin. The risk that the Fund will be unable to close out a futures position will be minimized by entering into such transactions on a national exchange with an active and liquid secondary market. In addition, although the counterparty to a futures contract is often a clearing organization, backed by a group of financial institutions, there may be instances in which the counterparty could fail to perform its obligations, causing significant losses to a Fund.
pursuit of its investment strategies will potentially be limited by the Fund’s intention to qualify for such treatment and could adversely affect the Fund’s ability to so qualify. The Fund can make certain investments, the treatment of which for these purposes is unclear. If, in any year, the Fund were to fail to qualify for the special tax treatment accorded a RIC and its shareholders, and were ineligible to or were not to cure such failure, the Fund would be taxed in the same manner as an ordinary corporation subject to U.S. federal income tax on all its income at the fund level. The resulting taxes could substantially reduce the Fund’s net assets and the amount of income available for distribution. In addition, in order to requalify for taxation as a RIC, the Fund could be required to recognize unrealized gains, pay substantial taxes and interest, and make certain distributions.
• Developmental risk. Blockchain technology is not a product or service within an individually attributable revenue stream. Blockchain technology may never develop optimized transactional processes that lead to realized economic returns for any company in which the Fund invests. Blockchain Companies that are developing applications of blockchain technology applications may not in fact do so or may not be able to capitalize on those blockchain technologies. The development of new or competing platforms may cause consumers and investors to use alternatives to blockchains.
Each Fund may purchase or sell futures contracts and options thereon as a substitute for a comparable market position in the underlying securities or to satisfy regulatory requirements. A physical-settlement futures contract generally obligates the seller to deliver (and the purchaser to take delivery of) a specified asset on the expiration date of the contract. A cash-settled futures contract obligates the seller to deliver (and the purchaser to accept) an amount of cash equal to a specific dollar amount (the contract multiplier) multiplied by the difference between the final settlement price of a specific futures contract and the price at which the agreement is made. No physical delivery of the underlying asset is made. The Managed Futures Strategy ETF, the Crude Oil Strategy ETF, the Bitcoin Futures Strategy ETF, the Short Bitcoin Futures Strategy ETF, the Blockchain/Bitcoin Strategy ETF, and the Bitcoin Futures/Equity Strategy ETF will each invest in cash-settled futures contracts where commodities are the underlying asset. The Managed Futures Strategy ETF, the Crude Oil Strategy ETF, the Bitcoin Futures Strategy ETF, the Short Bitcoin Futures Strategy ETF, the Blockchain/Bitcoin Strategy ETF, and the Bitcoin Futures/Equity Strategy ETF intend to achieve this exposure through investment in the ProShares Cayman Portfolio I, the ProShares Cayman Crude Oil Portfolio, the ProShares Cayman Bitcoin Futures Strategy Portfolio ProShares Cayman Short Bitcoin Futures Strategy Portfolio, ProShares Cayman Bitcoin Futures/Equity Strategy Portfolio and ProShares Cayman Bitcoin/Blockchain Strategy Portfolio, respectively, which may invest in futures contracts and options thereon.
The Declaration of Trust of the Trust disclaims liability of the shareholders or the Officers of the Trust for acts or obligations of the Trust which are binding only on the assets and property of the Trust. The Declaration of Trust provides for indemnification of the Trust’s property for all loss and expense of any Funds shareholder held personally liable for the obligations of the Trust. The risk of a Trust shareholder incurring financial loss on account of shareholder liability is limited to circumstances where the Funds would not be able to meet the Trust’s obligations and this risk, thus, should be considered remote.
As discussed above in “Investment in a Subsidiary”, each of the Managed Futures Strategy ETF, the Crude Oil Strategy ETF the Bitcoin Futures Strategy ETF, the Short Bitcoin Futures Strategy ETF, the Blockchain/Bitcoin Strategy ETF, and the Bitcoin Futures/Equity Strategy ETF (each, a “Parent Fund”) intends to achieve commodity exposure through investment in a wholly-owned foreign subsidiary (each a “Subsidiary”). Each Subsidiary is classified as a corporation and is treated as a “controlled foreign corporation” (“CFC”) for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Each Parent Fund will limit its investments in its Subsidiary in the aggregate to 25% of the Parent Fund’s total assets. Each Parent Fund does not expect that income from its investment in its Subsidiary will be eligible to be treated as qualified dividend income or that distributions from its Subsidiary will be eligible for the corporate dividends-received deduction.
When the Fund has an open futures contract position, it is subject to daily variation margin calls that could be substantial in the event of adverse price movements. If the Fund has insufficient cash to meet daily variation margin requirements, it might need to sell securities at a time when such sales are disadvantageous. Futures markets are highly volatile and the use of or exposure to futures contracts may increase volatility of the Fund’s NAV. Futures contracts are also subject to liquidity risk.
Alexander Ilyasov, ProShare Advisors: Senior Portfolio Manager since October 2013 and Portfolio Manager from November 2009 through September 2013. ProFund Advisors LLC: Senior Portfolio Manager since October 2013 and Portfolio Manager from November 2009 through September 2013. Ryan Dofflemeyer, ProShare Advisors: Portfolio Manager since January 2011, and a registered associated person and an NFA associate member of ProShares Capital Management LLC since October 2010.
The equity markets are volatile, and the value of securities, swaps, futures, and other instruments correlated with the equity markets may fluctuate dramatically from day-to-day. Equity markets are subject to corporate, political, regulatory, market and economic developments, as well as developments that impact specific economic sectors, industries or segments of the market. Further, stocks in the Index may underperform other equity investments. Volatility in the markets and/or market developments may cause the value of an investment in the Fund to decrease.
Important agents interacting with those prices are operating in one of three roles: individual speculator, market maker, or arbitrageur. A key role is market maker—a firm that has agreed to simultaneously act as both a buyer and seller for a specific security. When companies sign up for this role they agree to keep the bid/ask prices relatively close to each other—for example even if they aren’t keen on selling Bitcoins at the moment they can’t just set the ask price to an outrageous level. The agreed-upon maximum bid/ask ranges might be tied to market conditions (e.g., wider when deemed a “fast market”) and might allow time-outs but in general, the market maker agrees to act as a buffer between supply and demand.
The Board has not adopted a policy of monitoring for frequent purchases and redemptions of shares that appear to attempt to take advantage of potential arbitrage opportunities. The Board believes this is appropriate because ETFs, such as the Funds, are intended to be attractive to arbitrageurs, as trading activity is critical to ensuring that the market price of Fund shares remains at or close to NAV.
Whether a Fund realizes a gain or loss from futures activities depends generally upon movements in the underlying currency, commodity, security or index. The extent of a Fund’s loss from an unhedged short position in futures contracts or from writing options on futures contracts is potentially unlimited, and investors may lose the amount that they invest plus any profits recognized on their investment. The Funds may engage in related closing transactions with respect to options on futures contracts. The Funds will engage in transactions in futures contracts and related options that are traded on a U.S. exchange or board of trade or that have been approved for sale in the U.S. by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”).
“Qualified dividend income” received by an individual is taxed at the rates applicable to net capital gain. In order for some portion of the dividends received by a Fund shareholder to be qualified dividend income, the Fund must meet holding period and other requirements with respect to some portion of the dividend-paying stocks in its portfolio and the shareholder must meet holding period and other requirements with respect to the Fund’s Shares. A dividend will not be treated as qualified dividend income (at either the Fund or shareholder level) (1) if the dividend is received with respect to any share of stock held for fewer than 61 days during the 121-day period beginning on the date which is 60 days before the date on which such share becomes ex-dividend with respect to such dividend (or, in the case of certain preferred stock, 91 days during the 181-day period beginning 90 days before such date), (2) to the extent that the recipient is under an obligation (whether pursuant to a short sale or otherwise) to make related payments with respect to positions in substantially similar or related property, (3) if the recipient elects to have the dividend income treated as investment income for purposes of the limitation on deductibility of investment interest, or (4) if the dividend is received from a foreign corporation that is (a) not eligible for the benefits of a comprehensive income tax treaty with the United States (with the exception of dividends paid on stock of such a foreign corporation that is readily tradable on an established securities market in the United States) or (b) treated as a passive foreign investment company. In general, distributions of investment income reported by a Fund as derived from qualified dividend income will be treated as qualified dividend income in the hands of a shareholder taxed as an individual, provided the shareholder meets the holding period and other requirements described above with respect to the Fund’s Shares.
That's why liquidity and volume are essential to a quality exchange. If you enter that contract at $400 and you see bitcoin spot price jumping to $500 but nobody is trading futures so you can't sell it to them, you get screwed. Luckily at this point in 2016 there are numerous options for trading futures that are liquid and settle on short time horizons. So you can typically trade contracts and get in and out of them with decent spreads and reasonable fees.
The Board has appointed a chief compliance officer (“CCO”) for the Trust (who is also the Chief Compliance Officer for the Advisor). The CCO reports directly to the Board and participates in the Board’s meetings. The Independent Trustees meet at least annually in executive session with the CCO, and the Funds’ CCO prepares and presents an annual written compliance report to the Board. The CCO also provides updates to the Board on the operation of the Trust’s compliance policies and procedures and on how these procedures are designed to mitigate risk. Finally, the CCO and/or other officers or employees of the Advisor report to the Board in the event that any material risk issues arise.
One of the biggest issues for institutional investors is the fragmented nature of the market, requiring them to operate on several exchanges. Often, this forces them to come up with customized ways to deal with the limitations of each exchange — a time-consuming and frustrating exercise. Not only that, but this can lead to liquidity and slippage problems, as even small trades can consume liquidity and cause prices to slip.