Articles Tagged with Behringer Harvard

shutterstock_120556300On August 27, 2014, FINRA filed a complaint against Steven L. Stahler, formerly a registered representative with multiple broker dealers including Lowell & Company, Inc., Ausdal Financial Partners, Inc., Berthel, Fisher & Company Financial Services, Inc., VSR Financial Services, Inc., among others. On November 1, 2013, Lowell & Company terminated Mr. Stahler according to his form U5.

FINRA alleges that Mr. Stahler made unsuitable recommendations to customers in violation of FINRA Rule 2310 and 2110 and FINRA Rule 2010.  Under FINRA Rule 2110 and 2310, all financial advisers and brokerage firms have a responsibility to deal fairly with their customers. All sales efforts are judged based upon the standards outlined in the FINRA Rules. Furthermore, all brokers must recommend the purchase, sale or exchange of securities that are reasonable given the customers investment objectives and risk tolerances.

According to the complaint, VSR Financial’s written supervisory procedures specify that no more than 40%-50% of a customer’s liquid net worth should be invested in alternative investments. VSR’s guidelines also required that new account forms used outline the customer’s percentage of the portfolio they would feel comfortable investing in high risk investments. FINRA alleges that from September 13, 2006 through October 24, 2006, Mr. Stahler recommended that a married couple, who had stated that no more than twenty percent of their portfolio be invested in aggressive/high risk investments, invested approximately $837,000 in twelve high risk investments at Mr. Stahler’s recommendation. These alternative investments included:

The Massachusetts Securities Division reached a settlement of $9.6 million with five independent broker dealers concerning allegations that the firms improperly sold non-traded real estate investments trusts (REITs) to hundreds of investors within the state.  The firm’s fined include Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., Commonwealth Financial Network, Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. Securities America, Inc., and Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.  The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin announced that a part of the settlement would be used to distribute $6.1 million to investors as restitution.

A REIT is a security that invests in real estate directly either through properties or mortgages. REITs can be publicly traded on a national exchange or privately held.  Private REITs are often referred to as non-traded REITs.  Non-traded REITs have become increasingly popular as increased volatility in the stock market has led many investors to look for investment products that offer more stable returns.  However, non-traded REITs may not be as safe and stable as advertised.  Because non-traded REITs do not trade publicly the REIT itself determines its own asset values and only publishes updated valuations sporadically.  Thus, a REITs volatility includes not only real estate market volatility but also management decisions and potentially leverage positions that investors may simply not be informed about.

Massachusetts alleged that the firms engaged in a “pattern of impropriety” selling these “popular but risky investments.”  Massachusetts alleged significant and widespread problems with the firms’ compliance policies, practices, and procedures in the sale of non-traded REITs.  In addition, Massachusetts alleged that the firms failed to only sell non-traded REITs to qualifying investors.  Massachusetts allegations concerning each firm are as follows:

Investors continue to suffer substantial losses from recommended investments in the Behringer Harvard REIT Funds.  The Behringer Harvard REIT Funds including the Behringer Harvard Mid-Term Value Enhancement I, Behringer Harvard Short-Term Opportunity Fund I, and the Behringer Harvard REIT I  and II (Behringer REITs) have sometimes been sold to investors as safe, stable, income producing real estate investment trusts.  While the Behringer REITs were initially sold to investors for $10 per share, currently some of these REITs trade as low as approximately $2.00 on the secondary market.  Worse still, some of the funds no longer pay a dividend or investors receive only a fraction of what their advisor initially told their clients they could expect the investment to yield.

The Behringer REITs are speculative securities, non-traded, and offered only through a Regulation D private placement.  Unlike traditional registered mutual funds or publicly traded REITs that have a published daily Net Asset Value (NAV) and trade on a national stock exchange, the Behringer REITs raised money through private placement offerings and are illiquid securities.  In recent years, increased volatility in stocks has led to an increasing number of advisor recommendations to invest in non-traded REITs as a way to invest in a stable income producing investment.  Some non-traded REITs have even claimed to offer stable returns while the real estate market has undergone extreme volatility.  Brokers are often motivated to sell non-traded REITs to clients due to the large commissions that can be earned in the selling the Behringer REITs.

Investors are now bringing claims against the brokerage firms that sold them the Behringer REITs alleging that their advisor failed to disclose important risks of the REITs.  Some common risks that customers have alleged were not disclosed include failing to explain that Behringer REITs may not be liquidated for up to 8 to 12 years or more, that the redemption policy can be eliminated at any time, and that investor returns may not come from funds generated through operations but can include a return of investor capital.