WASHINGTONâThe U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said yesterday it has filed civil charges against Terry's Tips Inc. and its founder, alleging clients lost money after enrolling in "auto trading" programs that falsely promised high returns. The SEC said Terry Allen, a self-proclaimed options-picking guru and a graduate of Harvard Business School, had managed more than $14 million (U.S.) in assets through the auto trading programs, which allow investors to designate an online adviser to automatically direct trades for their brokerage accounts. Clients turned over access to their accounts, but instead of making 100 per cent a month on an annualized basis, as advertised, some clients lost from 60 per cent to 100 per cent of their investments, regulators said. "The filing of this case illustrates that an investor should exercise care and appropriate skepticism before giving another person authority to direct trading in his account, particularly where that person claims to provide unrealistically high returns to the investor," said Ken Israel, director of the SEC's Salt Lake District Office. Allen, 65, of Ferrisburg, Vt., founded Terry's Tips in May 2003. As of August 2004, Terry's Tips had about 1,200 auto trading clients, the SEC said. The company continues to seek out new subscribers using misleading performance projections, the SEC said. It said it is seeking to impose civil penalties on Allen and Terry's Tips and to return money lost by investors. "Mr. Allen and Terry's Tips intend to defend the case vigorously," said defence attorney William Nissen. He said that the case was "inconsistent" with a Supreme Court ruling known as Lowe V. SEC, which "held that a person who provided impersonal trading recommendations could not be regulated as an investment adviser due to concerns that his first amendment rights to freedom of speech and press would be infringed."