David Lerner & Associates Ignored Suitability of REITs When Recommending to Investors, Claims FINRA

FINRA has filed securities charges against David Lerner & Associates, Inc. accusing the broker-dealer of not taking into account suitability when soliciting vulnerable investors-in particular, elderly clients, to buy shares in the non-traded, $2B Apple REIT Ten offering. The SRO is also accusing the broker-dealer of posting misleading information online about distributions.

DLA has been Apple REITs only underwriters for nearly two decades. The broker-dealer has sold almost $6.8B of the securities into about 122,600 customer accounts. The series has made $600M in fees and other earnings for the broker-dealer, making up 60 to 70% of the firm’s yearly business. Since January, DLA also has been sole underwriter for Apple REIT Ten, which has sold over $300M of a $2B offering of shares. DLA associates earn numerous fees, including 10% of all offerings.

The SRO says that for at least seven years, the closed Apple REITs have “unreasonably valued” their shares at $11 (notwithstanding performance declines, market fluctuations, and increased leverage). The REITs, which were launched from 2004 and 2008 and were used mainly used to buy extended hotel stays, have managed to keep up “outsized” distributions of 7-8% through leveraged borrowing and returning of capital to investors. The SRO contends, however, that DLA did not disclose on its website that the income from real estate was not enough to support these. FINRA also claims that DLA provides “misleading” distribution rates on its website for all past Apple REITs.

DLA is denying the allegations.

Finra Sues David Lerner Firm, Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2011
FINRA Charges Firm With Ignoring Suitability, Providing Bad Data on REITs, BNA, June 1, 2011

More Blog Posts:

Ameriprise Must Pay $17 Million for REIT Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 12, 2009
W.P. Carey & Co Settles SEC Charges Over Payments of Undisclosed REIT Compensation, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 25, 2008
UBS Financial Services Fined $2.5M and Ordered to Pay $8.25M Over Lehman Brothers-Issued 100% Principal-Protection Notes, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, April 12, 2011
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