Articles Posted in Non-Traded REITs

Broker-Dealer Owner and His Firm Settle SEC Case Alleging Overconcentration of Investor Money In Illiquid Investments

Jason Vanclef and his brokerage firm VFG Securities Inc. have settled the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s case accusing them of not adequately supervising their brokers so that clients’ portfolios did not end up concentrated in illiquid investments. Vanclef and VFG Securities, however, are not denying or admitting to the claims made in the complaint.

According to FINRA, from 11/2010 to 6/2012, nearly 95% of the broker-dealer’s revenue came from direct participation programs (DPP) and nontraded real estate investment trusts (nontraded REIT) sales. The illiquid investments were sold retail customers.

FINRA claimed that Vanclef had used “The Wealth Code,” which was the book that he authored, as a sales tool to promote investing in DPPs and nontraded REITs and to attract potential investors. The settlement with the regulator notes that in the book Vanclef repeatedly touted both types of illiquid investments as offering capital preservation and better returns—claims that FINRA said are “inaccurate and misleading” and conflict with information that the firm offered in prospectuses for the nontraded REITs and DPPs.

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Texas-Based Brokerage Firm Accused of Inadequate Supervision Involving VA Exchanges
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering IMS Securities Inc. to pay a $100K fine. The Texas-based brokerage firm is accused of failures related to its monitoring of variable annuity exchanges. By settling, however, it is not denying or admitting to the allegations. 
 
According to the self-regulatory authority, the firm exhibited inadequate supervisory procedures for “problematic rates of exchange” in transactions involving variable annuities. FINRA claims that from 7/ 15/13 through 7/8/14, IMS Securities depended on its CFO to review annuity exchanges but did not provide tools or guidance to help look for “problematic rates of exchange.”  The broker-dealer is accused of not probing possibly “problematic patterns” of VA exchanges and not enforcing written supervisory procedures related to consolidated reports. 

According to InvestmentNews, a number of independent broker-dealers could find themselves in legal hot waters, should investors decide to pursue them through arbitration for selling UDF real estate investment trusts. United Development Funding is under investigation over allegations that the UDF IV was run for years like a Ponzi scam. UDF IV was initially a nontraded real estate investment trust that later became listed as a publicly traded REIT.

The article goes on to name four firms that sold the UDF REITs or private deals to investors: Financial Services Inc., Berthel Fisher & Co., VSR Financial Services Inc., and Centaurus Financial Inc. Other firms also have sold UDF REITs to investors.

The allegations against UDF first surfaced in December in an anonymous post published on Harvest Exchange, an investor website. Among the accusations: that the UDF umbrella demonstrated traits “emblematic” of a Ponzi scam; new capital was used pay existing investors; and newer UDF companies were giving liquidity to earlier UDF companies to pay earlier investors. Noting that a hedge fund had created a short position in UDF IV shares, the company accused the fund of trying to illegally profit by depressing and manipulating UDV IV’s share price.

Recently, J. Kyle Bass of Hayman Capital also published a website about the allegations. On the site, Bass acknowledged that Hayman maintains a short position in UDV IV common stock.
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has raided the Dallas offices of United Development Funding. The publicly traded real estate investment trust recently came under fire amid allegations that it has been run like a Ponzi scam for years.

Since the accusations against UDF IV were published on the Harvest Fund website, the REIT’s stock has dropped 81% in the last two months. News that the FBI went to the UDF headquarters caused the company’s share price to plunge nearly 55% during the raid on Thursday to close at $3.20/share.

UDF IV has denied the allegations that it is a Ponzi scam. Following news of the accusations, It filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that it was the victim of a “short and distort” securities trading scam involving an investor that was building up a short position in a stock. The aim , said UDV, was to illegally manipulate shares. In December, UDF revealed that it has been under investigation in a fact-finding probe by the SEC since 2014.

This month, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass said that he is the one who has been shorting UDF. He accused the nontraded REIT of using new investor funds to pay existing investors and exploiting “Mom and Pop” retail investors. Bass’s Hayman Capital Management LP has been betting against UDF IV shares. He was the one who made the Ponzi scam claims against UDF at the end of last year.
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J. Kyle Bass, the hedge fund manager who runs the Dallas-based Hayman Capital, has set up a website accusing Texas-based REIT United Development Funding IV of running a Ponzi-like real estate scam. On the site, Bass published a letter to readers, claiming that his firm had conducted research and found that the nontraded real estate investment trust displayed characteristics in line with a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

Bass contends that UDF used money from a public affiliate to rescue its first fund. According to Business Insider, Bass also claims that UDF management has been distorting its poor track record and the financial state of its affiliates going as far back as the financial crisis. He alleges that UDF has been taking advantage of retail investors and using UDF- controlled entities and real estate backed loans to conceal the fact that new investors money is b used to pay existing investors.
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Investors have filed a class action securities case claiming that the Texas nontraded real estate investment trust United Development Funding IV (NASDAQ:UDF) and certain of its officers violated federal securities laws. The complaint come a month after the Harvest Exchange website published a report accusing the Company of running a Ponzi-like scam. The UDF umbrella is accused of raising capital to bail out its earlier vintage entities.

On December 10, 2015, the day that the report went out, UDF’s shares dropped significantly. The Company then put out a press release disclosing that its UDF IV and UDF III have been cooperating for nearly two years with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been conducting a non-public probe since early 2014. Following that announcement, Company shares fell even further, negatively impacting investors.

The Texas securities case accuses the defendants of, from June 4 – December 10, 2015, failing to disclose that:

· New UDF companies gave older UDF companies substantial liquidity, letting them pay earlier investors.
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New Hampshire’s Bureau of Securities Regulation says that LPL Financial has consented to pay $750,000 to resolve charges involving the sale of nontraded real estate investment trusts to an elderly investor. The state says that transactions were not only unlawful but also they were suitable for the 81-year-old customer.

The state says that the sale of the nontraded REITs were unsupervised, causing the investor to sustain substantial losses in 2008. Aside from the $750K, which includes $250K to the bureau, $250K in administrative fees, and $250K to the investor education fund, LPL will offer remediation to any client in New Hampshire that bought a nontraded REIT through the firm since 2007 if the sale did not meet the firm’s product-specific limitations or guidelines.

Nontraded REITS
Nontraded REITs can be high-risk investments. They are liquid and may come with substantial front-end fees of up to 15%. Distributions are not guaranteed and are determined by the alternative investments’ board of directors. REITs are not traded on exchanges and there is a limited secondary market for them, which can make them difficult for investors to sell.
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LPL Financial (LPLA) has agreed to pay 3.2 million fine to settle penalties related to its sale of nontraded real estate investment trusts and leveraged exchange-traded funds. The settlements were reached with the Non-Traded REIT Task Force of the North American Securities Administrators Association and regulators in Massachusetts and Delaware. The firm sold the REITs at issue for six years beginning in 2008.

Under the agreement, LPL will pay $1.425 million in civil penalties for its purported failures to put into place a supervisory system that was adequate enough to handle its nontraded REIT sales and enforce written procedures related illiquid trust sales. The money will be divvied up between the District of Columbia, 48 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. By settling with NASAA, LPL is not denying or admitting wrongdoing.

Also, the Delaware Attorney General and the Massachusetts Attorney General have arrived at their own settlements with LPL’s Boston arm. The firm consented to pay $1.8 million for putting about 200 clients from Massachusetts in high-risk leveraged ETFs. The broker-dealer and Massachusetts had come to an earlier settlement about nontraded REIT sales two years ago.
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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. panel says that AIG Advisor Group (AIG) subsidiary Royal Alliance Associates Inc. must pay $1.4 million to three retirees who claim that the brokerage firm was negligent when supervising the sales of variable annuities and nontraded real estate investment trusts. The investors, who were former AT & T Inc. employees, claim that ex-broker Kathleen Tarr recommended that they take a lump-sum buyout from the communications company instead of a lifetime annuity. The money was then put into nontraded REIT company Inland Real Estate, as well as different variable annuities.

Tarr’s BrokerCheck record shows that she has been named in about forty customer disputes and complaints. She was let go from Royal Alliance in 2010.

The claimants, who are low-wealth, low income seniors, believe that they should not have been encouraged to take a lump sum and place their funds into non-traded REITs and variable annuities involving an IRA. Even though they did not sustain out-of-pocket losses from the investment recommendations, the retirees purportedly lost out on earnings they would have made if only they had invested their money more reasonably or opted for the lifetime annuity. With the latter, an investor would have given over a lump sum figure in return for a guaranteed payout for the duration of his/her life.
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James “Jeb” Bashaw, the former star financial adviser at LPL Financial (LPLA) from Texas is now registered with International Assets Advisory, a small brokerage firm. LPL Financial fired Bashaw last month over allegations involving selling away. Then, for a while this month, he was with Wunderlich Securities Inc.

Selling away typically involves engaging in private securities transactions sans the required written disclosure or brokerage firm approval. It can also include borrowing from a client, as well as engaging in a transaction that is a potential conflict interest, again without the required disclosure in writing or firm approval.

Responding to the selling away allegations, Bashaw noted that he was “home supervised” and underwent more than a dozen perfect audits while affiliated with LPL. After his firing, Wunderlich took steps to hire Bashaw but there was a delay in transferring his license to the firm. In the end, the broker-dealer and Bashaw reportedly decided not to pursue a working relationship.

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