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Alerian MLP ETF's Little Secret

However, leverage can also be less than 100%. In the case of AMLP, the fund's market value is based on 100% daily leverage while the fund's NAV calculation (what the shareholder sees) uses 62.5% leverage and seeks to track 62.5% of the daily change of the underlying index. This fact doesn't appear to be disclosed anywhere to shareholders -- not in the AMLP prospectus, not in the Statement of Additional Information, and certainly not in the marketing materials.

The fund's custodian, Bank of New York Mellon (BK), is responsible for the daily calculation of the NAV and has apparently been informed about the daily leverage factor it should apply to its calculations.

In my original article, I said the "total expense ratio" of 0.85% appears to be misleading since it did not account for any of the 35% corporate tax impact. It now appears that "misleading" was much too soft of a word because the real expense ratio is closer to 0.85% plus 37.5% of the daily movement of the underlying index. Anyone can verify this by comparing the daily change of the Alerian MLP Infrastructure Index to the daily change of AMLP. Note: The typical daily factors for AMLP range between 59% and 66%. I am using 62.5%, with a 37.5% reciprocal, based on information supplied in the response I received from ALPS. Contrarily, the Web site states "a tax expense of 0.00% has been assumed since it cannot be predicted whether the Fund will incur a benefit or liability in the future." Seems to me they think it will be 37.5% of the daily change.

After less than a month of trading, the 37.5% daily clipping has added up to $1,026,353.10 as of Sept. 22. This figure is derived by subtracting AMLP's net asset value (what shareholders own) of $127,764,948.39 from the $128,791,301.46 market value (value of securities held). You can calculate the current difference using the data as listed on the performance page of the Web site. The 0.8% difference also happens to equal to AMLP's performance lag and amounts to a huge increase in the effective expense ratio.

If I were a shareholder, I would want to know where the other 37.5% of my promised gains went. Those profits are supposedly being held back to pay AMLP's corporate taxes. AMLP is touting its tax efficiency while at the same time clipping shareholders 37.5% of the daily movement for tax reasons. Now tell me again how the ETF structure is superior, especially for investors wanting to hold AMLP in an IRA like the marketing materials suggest?

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