real estate investment trust

New REIT Rule Adds a Much-Needed Layer of Investor Protection

SEC Approves FINRA-Recommended Rule Change to REIT Reporting

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally approved a rule change that would give investors far more clarity on the purchasing price of non-traded real estate investment trusts, or REITs. (If you don’t know what a REITs is, click here). This rule change, recommended by securities industry watchdog, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), has been a long time coming. But now that it’s here, investors should welcome it with open arms.

The REITs Rule Change Adds a Much-Needed Layer of Investor Protection

Until now, it has been common practice among broker-dealers to list non-traded REITs at a per-share price of $10, regardless of what the actual valuation of the shares may be. The new rule however will force broker-dealers to include a per-share estimated value of the shares of any unlisted direct participation program (DPP) or REIT, along with other relevant disclosures, instead of the generic $10 per-share placeholder.

Digging a little deeper, we find that FINRA has proposed two methodologies by which firms may calculate the new per-share estimates: net investment or appraised value. The way these methodologies work would make the average investor’s headspin. But that’s granular information that shouldn’t really concern retail investors interested in REITs anyway. Rather, the key takeaway here is that the rule change offers greater protection to investors who were not historically receiving accurate representations of the value of their investments in REITs.

Broker-Dealers Now Required to Disclose Nature and Risks of REITs

As previously mentioned, the new rule explicitly requires that more information about DPPs and REITs be disclosed to investors, including a provision for specific disclosures stating that DPPs and non-traded REITs are not listed on national securities exchanges, and are generally illiquid investments whose sale value may be less (often far less) than the value of the shares reported on customer statements.

It is worth remarking here that our firm has represented numerous clients whose financial advisors have irresponsibly steered them into REITs without adequately disclosing the nature, risks, and valuation problems associated with these somewhat notorious investments.

If you or anyone you know has been the victim of broker misconduct or investment fraud, or has been unsuitably recommended DPPs or REITs by your financial advisor, please contact our securities attorneys for a free consultation by calling us toll-free at 1-855-462-3330 or via email by clicking here.

LPL Gets Stung by FINRA for $950K over Alternative Investments

News arrived recently that LPL Financial has once again run afoul of the agency that regulates the US securities industry, FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority). This time, LPL was slapped with a whopping $950,000 fine for allegedly failing adequately to supervise sales of alternative investment products like non-traded REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts), oil and gas partnerships, business development companies (BDCs), hedge funds, and managed futures. 

Alternative Investments Have Concentration Limits

FINRA found that from January 1, 2008 to July 1, 2012, LPL Financial was deficient in its supervision and review of especially the concentration limits for investors set forth by the alternative investments themselves, as well as limits that LPL internally set for itself. In their offering documents, many alt investments like REITs will describe concentration and suitability recommendations/requirements for investors. Unfortunately, according to FINRA, LPL’s manual process, its automated system, and its supervisory staff all failed to properly take into consideration suitability standards when evaluating alternative investments.

In addition to the $950,000 penalty, FINRA has directed LPL to conduct a complete review of its policies and procedures, oversight, supervision, and training related to alt investments.

As FINRA pointed out it in its press release about the disciplinary action against LPL Financial, broker-dealers who sell alt investments to customers must evolve a supervisory system to ensure that these customers are not exposed to undue risk in their accounts. They must also meet the suitability requirements obtaining in each state, for each product, and for their own company.

Lack of supervision of this kind is a very common form of broker misconduct. If you or anyone you know has suffered losses due to unsupervised alternative investments such as REITs, you may be able to recover through the FINRA arbitration process. Please contact us immediately for a free consultation at 1-877-462-3330 or via email by clicking here and sending us a note.

Is This Investment REIT Or Wrong For You?

xtended periods of uncertainty in the stock market along with low interest rates can drive investors seeking higher returns into the arms of products that they may not fully understand or that may not be appropriate for their financial situation or risk tolerance. Take non-exchange traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), usually referred to as "non-traded REITs." A particularly egregious case we're currently handling reminded us that we needed to get the word out once again about the danger of buying into non-traded REITs if you don't fully grasp how they work. Of course, it's not the customer who would generally consider purchasing such sophisticated financial products; rather, brokers are pitched on such products by REIT representatives; and, seduced by promises of low-risk and high-return, the brokers in turn pitch their clients on them. 

(Very quickly, if you're not familiar with the concept of a "REIT:" a REIT is a trust or company that pools individual investments to purchase large portfolios of income-producing real estate. A very large percentage of the income from these properties is then disbursed annually to shareholders in the form of their distribution or return.)

Before you agree to the purchase of a non-traded REIT at your broker's suggestion (if it's not too late already), bear in mind three very important things:

  1. hares of non-traded REITs by definition do not trade on any national securities exchange
  2. arly redemptions of the shares you own in a non-traded REIT are strictly limited and in any case come with high fees that cut deep into your potential return
  3. Unlike in publicly traded companies, the distributions or returns ou get from non-traded REITs often come from borrowed funds or investor principal

1) The first item means that it can very difficult to determine the value of your investment in the REIT, especially if it starts to go bad. Since the REIT is not part of any actual market or exchange, its valuation is assigned internally and can often be inaccurate or manipulated by those running the fund. Moreover, until the shares are actually sold, the valuation of those shares is pure speculation. It's like a company going public for the first time: the value of its shares can fluctuate wildly in the initial offering and more often than not fails to correspond to projections, even by the experts.

2) Non-traded REITs are an illiquid investment. Be prepared to have your money locked up in a REIT for at least 8 years, possibly longer. In the meantime, if your financial situation changes, and you need to get out of the REIT, you face steep fees and losses. 

3) A unique feature of non-traded REITs is that he distributions or returns you get from them do not come out of earnings or profit, but rather from heavily subsidized debt or initial investor principal. When things go bad, and a non-traded REIT starts losing money, this can look a lot like a Ponzi scheme in that new investors are paid distributions from early investor principal. In some cases, a failing REIT will suspend distributions entirely, n which case not only will an investor be stuck in an illiquid product but it's an illiquid product that provides them with no return whatsoever. 

In investing, as in much else, knowledge is power. Know what you're getting into if you agree to purchase shares in a non-traded REIT. And if you don't know what you're getting into, ask your broker to explain everything to you--along with why he or she thinks this financial product is good for you. For more on non-traded REITS, consult FINRA's tip sheet here.

f you or anyone you know has been the victim of broker misconduct related to the purchase of non-traded REITs or any other financial product, please contact us for a free consultation.