As recently reported, both the SEC and FINRA have commenced their own investigations into GPB Capital Holdings, LLC (“GPB”). 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. 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.
GPB has raised approximately $1.8 billion in investor funds across its various private placement offerings, 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.
Further, private placement investments carry a high degree of risk due to their nature as unregistered securities offerings. Unlike stocks that are publicly registered, and therefore, must meet stringent registration and reporting requirement as set forth by the SEC, private placements do not have the same regulatory oversight. Accordingly, private placements are typically sold through what is known as a “Reg D” offering. Unfortunately, investing through a Reg D offering is risky because investors are usually provided with very little in the way of information. For example, private placement investors may be presented with unaudited financials or overly optimistic growth forecasts, or in some instances, with a due diligence report that was prepared by a third-party firm hired by the sponsor of the investment itself.