Television personality and Conservative party leadership hopeful Kevin O'Leary has had his name used without authorization by people promoting trading in binary options, the Ontario Securities Commission revealed Monday.
The OSC issued an investor alert, saying Mr. O'Leary's likeness has been used without his knowledge in "get rich" schemes involving several companies promoting software and platforms for options trading.
"OSC staff have communicated with representatives of Kevin O'Leary and confirmed that he has not approved the use of his image in any advertisements or news articles involving binary options, and that he is not promoting or otherwise associated with any binary options trading software or programs," the regulator said.
The OSC said some of the organizations involved include Millionaire Blueprint, Play it on Point, Eurostreet Money and Boss Capital.
Of the four websites cited by the OSC, two were still using his image prominently on their sites on Monday afternoon, while the Millionaire Blueprint website did not appear to be in operation and the Boss Capital site did not appear to have any mention of Mr. O'Leary on its home page.
Play it on Point's website contained a large photograph of the former Dragons' Den star with a quote saying: "I like to take risks. That's how I make money. But they are calculated risks."
The website contained an article about investing with binary options, saying Mr. O'Leary is "sending shock waves throughout the world" by revealing his secret formula to make money quickly from home.
The website does not provide a contact name for Play it on Point, but lists an address for the company in Palo Alto, Calif. A phone call to a contact phone number was answered by a voice mail message that did not mention the company's name.
Eurostreet Money also had a photograph of Mr. O'Leary on its site and a lengthy article about his use of binary options, saying has been earning millions with a new "secret system from the United States." Eurostreet's web site did not contain contact information for the company.
Mr. O'Leary could not be reached for comment Monday.
Canadian regulators have issued warnings about the growth in websites targeting Canadians to promote offshore trading in binary options.
The Canadian Securities Administrators, an umbrella group for provincial securities commissions, said last year that no businesses are registered or authorized to market or sell binary options in Canada.
The CSA said binary options are "all or nothing" wagers on how an asset, such as as currency or stock, will perform over a limited period of time.
In a statement last year, CSA chair Louis Morisset said websites touting the options were asking investors for credit-card numbers to pay for the transactions, and investors risked losing thousands of dollars in unauthorized withdrawals on the cards.
Even when investors appear to have earned virtual gains on their bets, the CSA said they often cannot access their profits "as they don't exist." Because the companies operate offshore, investors often find it impossible to recover their money, the CSA said.
Mr. O'Leary appeared on the CBC hit show Dragons' Den until 2014 and now appears in the ABC show Shark Tank. He recently joined the race to replace Stephen Harper as the leader of the federal Conservative Party.