Van Eck fined $1.75 million for secretly paying BarStool’s Dave Portnoy to plug ETF launch

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced on Friday that it has fined registered investment adviser Van Eck Associates $1.75 million for failing to disclose it had paid a “well-known and controversial social media influencer” as part of a promotional campaign tied to the launch of a new exchange traded fund that tracked companies with positive buzz.

While the SEC did not name the influencer, numerous press and social media reports have identified him as Dave Portnoy, the caustic founder of sports media and marketing empire Barstool Sports.

According to an SEC statement, a partner that Van Eck used to operate the fund informed the company it was going to retain an influencer to promote the new product. The arrangement involved paying the influencer—Portnoy—on a sliding scale where his fees would increase with the size of the fund. The agency said Van Eck never informed it of the arrangement, in contravention of disclosure laws.

“However, as the SEC’s order finds, Van Eck Associates failed to disclose the influencer’s planned involvement and the sliding scale fee structure to the ETF’s board in connection with its approval of the fund launch and of the management fee,” the agency said.

Van Eck, which reported assets under management of $89.5 billion as of the end of 2023, operates a variety of specialized ETFs that provide exposure to everything from gaming to gold. In January, it was one of 10 companies to launch a Bitcoin ETF after an appeals court forced the SEC to approve such products. The ticker for Van Eck’s Bitcoin fund is HODL, a nod to crypto slang that describes refusing to sell a favorite cryptocurrency.

On Friday, shortly after the SEC announced the Van Eck fine, Portnoy tweeted “I really f***ed myself with Bitcoin.” The tweet was accompanied by a video of him cursing repeatedly in apparent regret that he and his company hadn’t purchased more of the cryptocurrency.

Portnoy has long been a controversial figure who has been repeatedly criticized for allegedly fostering a culture of misogyny at his company.

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