Articles Posted in FINRA Arbitration

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Hospital Investors Trust Inc. (known as “HIT”), previously known as American Realty Capital Hospitality Trust, announced on February 28, 2019 that it was suspending a share repurchase program under which the REIT had repurchased some shares from investors at $9.00 a share.  HIT framed the program as an accommodation for investors who needed liquidity and recommended that investors not sell their shares.

Money Maze
Back in October 2018, the company, a public, non-traded real estate investment (REIT) with a focus on hospitality properties in the United States, announced the buyback program of $9.00/share effective December 31, 2018. $9.00/share was an approximate 35% discount to the REIT’s most recent net asset value (NAV) per share of $13.87 and significantly less than the $25.00/share price at which most investors purchased shares.  When HIT’s board announced the buyback program in October, they recommended that only those investors that required immediate liquidity should sell their shares, as the $9.00/share price was a significant decrease in the current market value.

Non-traded REITs are risky investments for investors, but lucrative for financial advisors and brokerages. Many investors have reportedly been pressured into investing in non-traded REITs by their financial advisors or brokers, without ever receiving the proper explanation as to the risk and complexity of non-traded REITS.  Further, once invested, investors, are often forced to rely upon the REIT’s own estimate of its value, since non-traded REIT shares do not trade in a liquid public market like shares of stock.

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As we previously reported, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (known as “FINRA”), the FBI, and the State of Massachusetts are investigating GPB Capital Holdings LLC (“GPB”) in probes reportedly concerning the accuracy of GPB’s disclosures of financial information to their investors.  GPB, a New York asset management firm, focused on private placement investments, has reportedly been under investigation by Massachusetts since September 2018.

Building Demolished
According to public documents filed with the SEC, there are approximately 80 broker-dealers that may have sold, or were authorized to sell investments for GPB.  As registered broker-dealers, any firms who actually sold GPB securities were required to conduct adequate due diligence in investigating potential investments and also to ensure their clients understood the risks associated with any GPB potential investment.

The broker-dealers who appear in the SEC filings for GPB offerings are listed below.  It is important to note that none of these broker-dealers has been found to have engaged in any wrongdoing.

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Investors in Inland Residential Properties Trust Inc. (“Inland Residential”), a publicly registered non-traded real estate investment trust or REIT, have an opportunity to sell their shares- but at a price far below the REIT’s estimated per-share value of $16.06 a share, or its initial $25.00 a share offering price.   MacKenzie Capital Management recently announced an unsolicited tender offer to purchase up to 200,000 shares of Inland Residential, at a price of $11.39 a share. The tender offer expires on March 22, 2019.

Apartment Building
Inland Residential is in the process of being liquidated, which means the company is selling off its assets and distributing the sales proceeds to shareholders pro rata.  Inland Residential’s board estimates that the REIT’s shares have a net asset value or “NAV” of $16.06 as of February 1, 2019.  This $16.06 estimated NAV is net of a distribution of $4.53 a share that Inland Residential previously paid to shareholders after the sale of one of the REIT’s properties.

Inland Residential Properties Trust’s $1 billion offering was declared effective in February 2015.  The offering raised approximately $47 million, selling stock in Inland Residential for $25.00 a share.  The REIT invests in multifamily housing in large metropolitan areas.

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As previously reported, both the SEC and FINRA have reportedly commenced investigations into GPB Capital Holdings, LLC (“GPB”).  According to news reports GPB is now under investigation by the FBI as well.   Investment News reports that the FBI made an unannounced visit last week to the investment firm’s office in New York, along with officials from a New York regulator.  According to press reports, the focus of the SEC’s inquiry was the accuracy of financial disclosures made by GPB to investor in its funds.   The target of the reported FBI investigation has not been publicly reported.  These investigations by federal regulators come on the heels of Massachusetts securities regulators announcing in September 2018 their own investigation into GPB, as well as the sales practices of more than 60 independent broker-dealers who reportedly offered private placement investments in various GPB funds to their clientele.

Money Bags
GPB is a New York-based alternative asset management firm whose business model is predicated on “acquiring income-producing private companies” across a number of industries including automotive, waste management, and middle market lending.   An issuer of private placements, GPB has raised $1.8 billion from accredited investors in funds that in turn invest in auto dealerships and the waste management industry.  Stockbrokers and advisors from dozens of  brokerage and financial advisory firms sold the high risk, high-commission private placements, including GPB Automotive Portfolio, LP, and GPB Waste Management, LP.

Private placement investments are complex and fraught with risk.  To begin, private placements are often sold under a high fee and commission structure.  Reportedly, one brokerage executive has indicated that the sales loads for GPB private placements were 12%, including a 10% commission to the broker and his or her broker-dealer, as well as a 2% fee for offering and organization costs.  Such high fees and expenses act as an immediate drag on investment performance.

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Third-party investment firm  CMG Partners LLC is reportedly offering to pay $3.21 per share of  KBS Real Estate Investment Trust II (“KBS II”), a publicly registered non-traded real estate investment trust or REIT.  KBS II is urging its stockholders not to sell their shares in the tender offer.  In December 2018,  KBS II announced an estimated $4.95 per share net asset value (“NAV”) for the REIT’s common stock.  An NAV is an estimate of a stock’s value per share, based on the estimated value of a company’s property and assets less the estimated value of its liabilities, divided by the number of shares outstanding.
KBS II has reported paid shareholders $4.50 per share in special distributions from proceeds from its property sales.  KBS II shares were sold in the REIT’s public offering for $10.00 a share.  KBS II closed its public offering in December 2010 after selling $1.8 billion of shares to the public.  Secondary market transactions in KBS II shares have reportedly priced the shares at between $4.00 and $4.06 a share.

Non-traded REITs pose a great deal of risks that are often not readily apparent to retail investors, and may not be adequately explained by the financial advisors and stockbrokers who recommend these complex investments.  One significant risk associated with non-traded REITs concerns their high up-front commissions, typically between 7-10%.  In addition to high commissions, non-traded REITs like KBS II generally charge investors for certain due diligence and administrative fees, ranging anywhere from 1-3%.

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Customers of barred broker or “financial advisor” Gabriel “Gabe” Block of Red Bank, New Jersey may have arbitration claims if Block caused the customers losses by recommending over-concentration of the customers’ accounts in stocks, excessive use of margin loans and/or trading in microcap stocks.
Block (CRD No. 213543) is a former registered representative of First Standard  Financial Co. (“First Standard”) in Red Bank, New Jersey.  According to publicly-available information on FINRA Broker Check, Block is now suspended by FINRA as of January 2019, having failed to pay an arbitration award entered against him by his former employer.  Block has also twelve disclosures on his FINRA BrokerCheck report including three regulatory events and nine customer disputes.

According to publicly available documents, Block was the subject of a permanent bar by FINRA as of March 13, 2018.  In barring Block, FINRA discussed Block’s history of alleged misconduct and legal claims involving customers dating back to the 1990s.

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An options trading program marketed as a “Yield Enhancement” strategy to brokerage customers of UBS, reportedly including risk averse investors with substantial bond portfolios, has suffered a hard landing in November and December as the so-called “Iron Condor” index options spread-based scheme has reportedly delivered losses in excess of 20% of the capital committed.

Iron Condor Basics
UBS’s Yield Enhancement Strategy (“YES”) reportedly has over $5 billion under management and over 1,200 investors.  Investors in YES must agree to commit capital to the program, a so-called “mandate,” which may take the form of securities or cash.  The committed capital provides collateral for options spread trading in each investor’s account.  Although marketed to bond investors, the bonds held by each investor have nothing to do with the YES strategy other than serving as collateral for the options trades.  Some investors pledge other securities or cash as collateral for the YES program.

The YES strategy entails generating option premium income through the strategic sale and purchase of SPX (S&P 500) index option spreads.  This strategy, which is also sometimes referred to as an “Iron Condor” spread, involves writing two vertical options spreads – a bear call spread and a bull put spread.  Thus, this strategy entails four different options contracts, each with the same expiration date and differing exercise prices.  The “Iron Condor” strategy involves writing both a short put and a short call against the SPX, with these naked, or uncovered, options are designed to generate income for the investor via the receipt of premium.  Further, the “Iron Condor” strategy involves writing both a long put and long call against the SPX, with these trades, or options legs, designed to mitigate the risk associated with the uncovered options positions.

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BuildingInvestors in Strategic Realty Trust, Inc. (“SRT” or the “Company” — formerly known as TNP Strategic Retail Trust, Inc.), a REIT based in San Mateo, California, may face principal losses if they attempt to sell their shares in the illiquid and fragmented secondary market.  SRT invests in and manages a portfolio of income-producing properties, including various shopping centers, primarily in Western U.S. locations.  Structured as a Maryland corporation that qualifies as a REIT, SRT was formed in September 2008.  By August 2009, the Company had initiated its public offering at $10 per share for up to $1 billion in investor equity.

Retail investors commonly are solicited by financial advisors or stockbrokers to invest in non-traded REITs like SRT, which typically are sold by independent broker-dealer firms.  Unfortunately, customers who purchased shares through SRT’s IPO upon the recommendation of a broker may, in certain instances, have been solicited via misleading sales presentations that failed to adequately disclose the complex nature of the investment, its negative features, and its risks.  Risks associated with non-traded REITs include high up-front commissions (as high as 7-10%), high due diligence and administrative expenses, risk of loss of principal, and illiquidity.

Investors in non-traded REITs including SRT may come to find out too late that their shares are illiquid, and their options to exit the investment are limited.  Briefly, investors seeking liquidity may: (i) seek to redeem their shares directly with the sponsor (SRT suspended its redemption program altogether from January 15, 2013 – April 1, 2015), (ii) be presented with limited, market-driven opportunities to tender their shares to a third party investment firm (typically at a disadvantageous price), or (iii) sell their shares on a limited and fragmented secondary market specializing in creating a trading platform for illiquid securities.

Published on: on publicly available information, including recent SEC filings, shares of Summit Healthcare REIT, Inc. (“Summit” or the “Company”) may have a value of less than $2.00 a shares – far below the initial offering price of $8.00 share and also less than the $2.80 NAV provided by Summit.

Headquartered in Lake Forest, CA, Summit is structured as a Maryland corporation that qualifies as a real estate investment trust (“REIT”) for tax purposes.  Formed in 2004, Summit was formerly known as Cornerstone Core Properties REIT, Inc.  Following a strategic repositioning of the Company’s property portfolio to focus on healthcare real estate and related assets, the name change was formally adopted in October 2013.

On June 21, 2018, a third party known as MacKenzie Realty Capital, Inc. reportedly closed on a tender offer, purchasing some 41,566 shares of Summit at a price of $1.56 per share.  As of December 31, 2017, Summit reported a net asset value (NAV) of $2.80 per share.

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investing in real estate through a limited partnershipRecent pricing on shares of Cole Credit Property Trust V, Inc. (“CCPT V” or, the “Company”) – at reported prices of $17.25-$17.75 – suggests that investors who chose to sell their shares on a limited secondary market may have sustained considerable losses of up to 30% (excluding any distributions received to date).  Formed in December 2012, CCPT V is structured as a Maryland corporation.  As a publicly registered, non-traded real estate investment trust (“REIT”), CCPT V is focused on the business of acquiring and operating “a diversified portfolio of retail and other income-producing commercial properties.”  As of October 31, 2018, the Company’s real estate portfolio consisted of 141 properties across 33 states, with portfolio tenants spanning some 26 industry sectors.

The shares of CCPT V, a publicly registered, non-traded REIT, were offered to retail investors in connection with CCPT V’s initial offering, which was priced at $25 per share.  The Company launched its initial offer in March 2014, and as of the second quarter of 2018, had raised $434 million in investor equity through the issuance of common stock.

Some retail investors may have been steered into an investment in CCPT V by a financial advisor, without first being fully informed of the risks associated with investing in non-traded REITs.  For example, one initial risk that is often overlooked concerns a non-traded REIT’s characteristic structure as a blind pool.  In the case of CCPT V, its blind pool offering means that not only were shares issued to public investors for a REIT lacking any previous operating history, but moreover, CCPT V did not immediately identify any of the properties that it intended to purchase.