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Mutual Funds

How Bob Bacarella Promotes His Fund

The manager of Monetta Young Investor has been touting its strengths in unusual ways.

Bob Bacarella, manager of Monetta Young Investor, is so jazzed about the fund that he seems to take any opportunity he can to tell investors about it. In fact, he’s been promoting the fund by posting comments on assorted Web sites, including Kiplinger.com, since at least December 2007, roughly one year after he launched Young Investor.

As far as we can tell, however, Bacarella never acknowledges any connection to the fund, and in several instances he admits having promoted Young Investor from his wife’s e-mail address, signing his name as “Kathy.”

Bacarella’s posts seem harmless enough. One missive on Kiplinger.com, under the name “Bob,” said, “Have you looked at the Monetta Young Investor Fund (MYIFX)?”

A December 2007 post on Yahoo.com was more expansive. Bacarella called Young Investor "an innovative kids-themed fund that actually strikes a balance between investing, learning and fun." He also wrote, "It is one of the few funds that promotes financial literacy while offering 'free' college tuition credits that can be used at over 200 colleges nationwide." Bacarella attached his name to that post but didn’t identify himself as the fund’s manager.

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When I asked Bacarella whether it was appropriate for him to promote the fund without identifying himself as its manager, he responded that he’s trying to get some attention: “It’s hard to spot a raft in the middle of the ocean.”

No disputing that point. But Finra, the financial industry’s self-regulatory body, may look askance at Bacarella’s informal promotional activities. A Finra spokesman tells me: “Generally, when a registered person or firm posts something on the Web, it is an advertisement under Finra rules. That means the person or firm must identify the firm in the advertisement, and the ad must be fair and balanced. A fund ad must also meet certain disclosure standards under SEC Rule 482,” which establishes guidelines for mutual fund advertising. The spokesman would not comment about Bacarella specifically.

See Why This Kid-Themed Fund Isn't Appealing.