Gray capital market

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The gray capital market is the unregulated but still legal part of the capital market. Some of it is not under state supervision. In particular, companies operating there do not need BaFin approval and do not have to meet any or a few legal requirements. BaFin recommends particular caution when investing in gray capital market products. The Stiftung Warentest warns of fraud.

Starting position

On the one hand, the gray capital market gives poorly capitalized companies (such as start-ups ) access to investor capital ; on the other hand, the low (or nonexistent) regulatory hurdles are also exploited by dubious product providers. Or as it says in a publication by BaFin: "Small and medium-sized providers often only want to avoid the costs associated with supervision. However, there are also abusive business models in which the providers specifically choose designs and sales methods in order to or a prospectus obligation to get the capital of inexperienced small investors and to reinvest in high-risk business to their advantage. (...) The providers of investment offers often refer to the models they have designed as products. From the point of view of sales, this may be an appropriate and desirable description for The investor, on the other hand, must always be clear that by subscribing to a non-securitized investment, he is not acquiring an existing product that already has its own value, but - on the contrary - initially only undertakes to transfer part of his assets to a third party or managed by a third party allow. In return, he receives a return promise from the provider, which he has to honor later. That is why trust is a central pillar of the gray capital market in particular. "

To distinguish the individual market segments are often named after the achromatic colors white, black and gray. The white capital market includes those institutions, service providers and insurance companies that have a license for their activities in accordance with the relevant supervisory laws ( Banking Act (KWG), Capital Investment Code (KAGB), Insurance Supervision Act (VAG), Payment Services Supervision Act (ZAG)). They are subject to ongoing supervision. The illegal black capital market defines itself as a complement to this: It is characterized by the fact that its actors carry out transactions that require authorization without the required permission from BaFin or even conduct prohibited transactions. The gray capital market, on the other hand, is the sum of market participants and offers that do not require BaFin approval and are therefore not subject to its supervision. A certain interaction with the white capital market can be observed: the more it is regulated, the more often providers switch to investment offers that, in their opinion, do not require authorization. The gray capital market is often presented to the public as an unregulated market segment. In fact, the Bafin also performs a wide range of tasks here.


The offers are often characterized by the fact that

  • Attract providers with high interest rates or returns above the general market level,
  • advertised with the supposed security of the capital investment,
  • Providers pretend to be able to achieve double-digit returns in the same way as institutional investors,
  • Investment decisions should be influenced by positive or ethically correct investment objects or
  • Investors should liquidate their previous investments and re-invest for alleged security or return reasons.


The offers on the gray capital market are very diverse. Again and again providers invent new investment opportunities. That is why they cannot be listed conclusively. For example, you can find the following offers:

Profit participation rights and other hybrid forms of bonds

The Federal Court of Justice describes profit participation rights as "continuing obligations of a special kind that do not justify membership rights based on company law but are limited to a certain monetary claim [of the profit participation rights holder]". These claims can also be evidenced in transferable securities, the profit participation certificates. Since the purely contractual participation rights do not give the owner the status of a partner, he does not automatically have the information and control rights of a partner according to Section 233 of the Commercial Code. However, the contracting parties usually agree on individual participation elements that are similar to those of shareholders, such as participation in current losses, subordination clauses in the event of insolvency or liquidation of the profit participation rights issuer and other rights and obligations that shareholders typically have.


Crowd investing in Germany has been partially regulated by the Small Investor Protection Act since July 10, 2015 . With regard to prospectus liability, there are corresponding exemptions. Therefore, there is often a risk, as shown by the example of Coa Holding GmbH in Frankfurt.


Financial products based on cryptocurrencies and similar systems are often also included in the gray capital market due to the low level of regulation.

Form of distribution

The offers of the gray capital market are advertised through all possible usual distribution channels: postal prospectus advertising, telephone, advertisements, email, fax, also structured sales. Unsolicited telephone advertising is widespread. From the form of distribution alone no conclusion can be drawn about the seriousness of an offer, but problematic providers often use unsolicited telephone advertising.


The Gray capital market makes, according to Federal (BKA) related to investment and financial crimes (for example, fixed and participations. Amounted to § 263 StGB , investment fraud by § 264a StGB; credit fraud by § 265b CC) a significant role.

The seriousness of the offers is very different. For each type of offer there is a full range from fully correct to unequivocally criminal (specifically capital investment fraud ).

In the gray capital market, the proportion of problematic or dubious providers is significantly higher than in the regulated capital market. Stiftung Warentest, for example, regularly warns of “dubious, dubious or very risky investment offers”. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office , the annual damage is estimated at 20 to 25 billion euros .

Many investors use tax-deductible money in this market and shy away from government education. In such cases, even in the case of fraud, there is usually no notification. Furthermore, the investment decision has often been so irrational that it should not be known to the social environment out of shame. For the investor it is often foreseeable that there is no prospect of getting the money back. No notification is made because it unnecessarily increases the annoyance of the wrong decision.

The North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center informs that around 30 billion euros are lost annually through real estate and stock transactions that are not subject to adequate control: These investments in the gray area cause a high capital loss in macroeconomic terms and destroy savings that were often intended for retirement provision . Many of those affected were financially ruined because they lost most or even all of their invested capital in such investment transactions.

Risks of individual products

Some examples of typical offers of the gray capital market are company investments , tax saving offers of all kinds ( tax saving model ) real estate investments, but also gambling investments , diamond trading , futures or ship and real estate funds.

  • In the case of real estate investments , the problem is usually the inflation of prices and a contract with hidden contingency risks, often due to intentions of tax optimization. A high level of outside financing often hides the inflation. However, the properties are then sustainably in deficit, i.e. offer the opposite of the expected property security.
  • The acquisition of shares in real estate funds in the course of the tax-subsidized building boom in East and West Germany after reunification was often characterized by junk property .
  • In the case of gemstones , it is the problem of the often excessive prices for the end buyer and, in some cases, the sale of completely worthless stones. There is no capital investment effect if the prices are, for example, five times the possible proceeds from a resale.
  • In futures the gray market of bank institutional form of distribution is not meant, but a mediation that works especially on unsolicited telephone advertising. The attempt is made to lure you with the high profits that can occasionally be achieved in the futures business. In the best case scenario, the funds received are actually invested in the agreed form - more or less efficiently - experience has shown that they are usually loss-making. In the worst case, the investment and performance records may be falsified. A pyramid scheme can exist.

In addition, fraud in money transactions is occasionally attributed to the gray capital market , such as bank guarantee transactions , letter of credit , Nigeria connection (advance fraud) or

  • Deposit loan . However, this is not a financial investment, nor is it a derivative for institutional capital markets. The allocation to the gray capital market is therefore rather unusual.


  • Thomas Werner, Ralf Burghardt: The gray capital market. Opportunities and risks . Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-8349-0009-5 .
  • Michael H. Hagemann: "Gray Capital Market" and criminal law (= Osnabrück treatises on the entire economic criminal law . Vol. 3). V&R unipress, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 978-3-89971-239-1 .
  • Martin Klaffke: Investment fraud on the gray capital market. Theory-based empirical analysis from an economic perspective . Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2002, ISBN 3-8244-0662-4 (also: Univ. Bamberg, Diss., 2002).

Web links

Individual evidence

  5. ^ Publisher: Small Investor Protection Act - Federal Ministry of Finance - Service. In: November 4, 2008, accessed March 3, 2019 .
  10. Warning list financial investment: Dubious companies and financial products , January 9, 2015, accessed on January 21, 2015.