Articles Tagged with equipment leasing

shutterstock_184149845The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that ICON Capital LLC, an entity that manages equipment leasing funds, agreed to settle charges that it caused four of its funds to report materially inaccurate financial results in their SEC filings and pay a $750,000 penalty.

Our firm has represented many clients in equipment leasing products like LEAF and ICON.  All of these investments come with high costs that do not compensate investors for the extreme risk being taken.  Equipment leasing funds historically underperform even safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds.  Investors are destined to lose money in equipment leasing programs like LEAF Equipment Leasing Income Funds I-IV and ICON Leasing Funds Eleven and Twelve.  The high costs and fees associated with these investments make significant returns virtual impossibility.  Further, investor often fail to understand that they have lost money under many years after agreeing to the investment.  In sum, for all of their costs and risks, investors in these programs are in no way additionally compensated for the loss of liquidity, risks, or cost.

On top of these high risks, the SEC has now found that the funds’ opaque nature has allowed the funds to hide more investor losses.  According to the SEC’s order instituting a settled administrative proceeding, the four funds’ financial results were misstated due to accounting errors relating to the impairment of assets and that ICON failed to comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) on multiple occasions.

shutterstock_176534375The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Timothy Hobbs (Hobbs). According to BrokerCheck records Hobbs is subject to three customer complaints. The customer complaints against Hobbs allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments and breach of fiduciary duty among other claims.   One of the most recent claims appear to largely relate to allegations regarding the inappropriate sale of direct participation products such as limited partnerships, equipment leasing, oil & gas investments, and non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs) and also variable annuities.

Our firm has represented many clients in these types of products. All of these investments come with high costs and historically have underperformed even safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds. For example, products like variable annuities are only appropriate for a narrow band of investors under certain conditions due to the high costs, illiquidity, and huge redemption charges of the products. However, due to the high commissions brokers earn on these products they sell them to investors who cannot profit from them. Further, investor often fail to understand that they have lost money until many years after agreeing to the investment. In sum, for all of their costs and risks, investors in these programs are in no way additionally compensated for the loss of liquidity, risks, or cost.

Brokers have a responsibility treat investors fairly which includes obligations such as making only suitable investments for the client. In order to make a suitable recommendation the broker must meet certain requirements. First, there must be reasonable basis for the recommendation the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation and due diligence into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors. Second, the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives such as the client’s retirement status, long or short term goals, age, disability, income needs, or any other relevant factor.

shutterstock_189496604The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a complaint filed by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against brokerage firm VFG Securities, Inc. (VFG) and its CEO Jason Vanclef (Vanclef) (FINRA No. 2013038283001).  The complaint alleges that approximately 95 percent of VFG’s revenue was obtained from the sale of non-traded direct participation products (DPPs) and non-traded REITs and other alternative investments such as equipment leasing programs and oil & gas private placements between approximately November 2010 and June 2012.  Even though alternative investments are highly speculative and illiquid investments that have little to no place in the average investor’s portfolio, FINRA alleged that VFG failed to reasonably supervise the sale of illiquid alternative investments, including non-traded DPPs and non-traded REITs, to ensure that customers did not become overly concentrated in these products.

According to FINRA, VFG’s alternative investment strategy comes from a book distributed by the firm to customers and authored by Vanclef entitled Wealth Code: How the Rich Stay Rich in Good Times and Bad (The Wealth Code).  FINRA found that Vanclef used The Wealth Code as sales literature to promote investments in non-traded DPPs and non-traded REITs, and to lure potential investors to VFG.  FINRA claims that Vanclef repeatedly claimed in The Wealth Code that non-traded DPPs and non-traded REITs offer both high return and capital preservation among other claims.  However, FINRA has found that the these claims are false, inaccurate, misleading, and contradicted information provided in the prospectuses of the products that Vanclef and VFG sold.

FINRA stated that non-traded DPPs and non-traded REITs are speculative investments that contain a high degree of risk, including the risk that an investor may lose a substantial portion or all of his or her initial investment.  Yet, Vanclef claimed in The Wealth Code that by investing in “real” or “tangible” assets and other instruments that he recommended, investors could “reasonably achieve 8-12% results,” on their investments and “get consistent returns” that provided “piece [sic] of mind.”

shutterstock_143094109The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Daniel McPherson (McPherson). According to BrokerCheck records McPherson is subject to two customer complaints. The customer complaints against McPherson allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments, misrepresentations, and breach of fiduciary duty among other claims.   The claims appear to relate to allegations regard direct participation products and limited partnerships such as equipment leasing and non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs). Other products complained of include oil and gas private placements and tenant-in–common (TIC) investments.

Our firm has written numerous times about investor losses in these types of programs and private placement securities. All of these investments come with costs that make profiting from the investment extremely unlikely. For example, investors are destined to lose money in equipment leasing programs like LEAF Equipment Leasing Income Funds I-IV and ICON Leasing Funds Eleven and Twelve. The high costs and fees associated with these investments make significant returns virtual impossibility. Yet for all of their costs investors are in no way compensated for the additional risks of these products.

Brokers have a responsibility treat investors fairly which includes obligations such as making only suitable investments for the client. In order to make a suitable recommendation the broker must meet certain requirements. First, there must be reasonable basis for the recommendation the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation and due diligence into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors. Second, the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives such as the client’s retirement status, long or short term goals, age, disability, income needs, or any other relevant factor.

shutterstock_45316696The investment lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating customer complaints against broker Robert Bragg (Bragg). There are at least 4 customer complaints against Bragg. The customer complaints against Bragg allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, misrepresentations, negligence, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty among other claims. The claims appear to relate to allegations regard direct participation products and limited partnerships such as equipment leasing and non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs). Our firm has written numerous times about investor losses in these types of programs such as equipment leasing programs like LEAF Equipment Leasing Income Funds I-IV and ICON Leasing Funds Eleven and Twelve. Investors are destined to lose money in these investments because the costs and fees associated with these investments make significant returns virtual impossibility. Yet for all of their costs investors are in no way compensated for the additional risks of these products.

The most recent complaint was filed in February 2015 and alleged unsuitable investments for investments made between 2005 though August 2013 causing $460,488 in damages. Another complaint filed in November 2014 alleged breach of fiduciary duty among other claims for investments made in October 2007 though September 2010 causing $322,432.

Bragg entered the securities industry in March 2004. Since March 2004, Bragg has been registered with VSR Financial Services, Inc. out of the firm’s Colorado Springs, Colorado office location.

shutterstock_153463763According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Robert Horning (Horning) has been the subject of at least 8 customer complaints. Customers have filed complaints against Horning alleging a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, misrepresentations, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and false statements in connection with recommendations to invest in private placements such as tenants-in-common (TICs) interests, direct participation programs and limited partnerships which include investments like oil & gas, non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs), and equipment leasing programs.

Horning entered the securities industry in 1993. From November 2004, until July 2009, Horning was a registered representative with Direct Capital Securities, Inc. Thereafter, since July 2009, Horning has been associated with Centaurus Financial, Inc. (Centaurus) out of the firm’s Los Angeles, California office location.

TIC investments have come under fire by many investors. Indeed, due to the failure of the TIC investment strategy as a whole across the securities industry, TIC investments have virtually disappeared as offered investments.   According to InvestmentNews “At the height of the TIC market in 2006, 71 sponsors raised $3.65 billion in equity from TICs and DSTs…TICs now are all but extinct because of the fallout from the credit crisis.” In fact, TICs recommendations have been a major contributor to bankrupting brokerage firms. For example, 43 of the 92 broker-dealers that sold TICs sponsored by DBSI Inc., a company whose executives were later charged with running a Ponzi scheme, a staggering 47% of firms that sold DBSI are no longer in business.

shutterstock_114128113Our firm has written numerous times about investor losses in programs such as various equipment leasing programs like LEAF Equipment Leasing Income Funds I-IV and ICON Leasing Funds Eleven and Twelve. These direct participation programs, like their non-traded REIT and oil and gas cousins, all suffer from the same crippling flaw that dooms these investments to a high likelihood of failure from the get go. The costs and fees associated with all of these investments cause the security to be so costly that only unprecedented market boom conditions can lead to profitability. Market stagnation or decline makes any significant return a virtual impossibility.

Yet, investors are in no way compensated for these additional risks. These investments tout high yield like returns for risks far in excess of traditional high yield investments. In fact, the only reason brokers sell these products is because of the high sales commissions coupled with the lack of price transparency that allows these products to be displayed at inflated values for years on investor account statements.

In an equipment leasing program a sponsor sells limited partnership units then takes out substantial offering costs and fees and invests the remainder in a pool of equipment leases that are leveraged up with additional borrowing. Brokers market these products as a predictable income stream but in fact, and what nearly all brokers fail to mention, is that a substantial portion of investor distributions are actually a return of their original investment and not actually income generated from operations.

shutterstock_92699377This article continues to opine on an InvestmentNews article, describing the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) revisiting the accredited investor standard that determines who is eligible to invest in private placements. It is the opinion of this securities attorney who has represented hundreds of cases involving investors in private placement offerings that some of the IAC’s proposals are severely flawed and will only enrich the industry at investor’s expense.  While proposals to increase standards through sophistication tests and limiting the amount of private placement investments to a certain percentage of net worth are constructive, it is clear that some will attempt to use the review to water down the current requirements.  Below are some of the reasons why proposals to abandon the income and net worth approach and instead use a definition that takes into account an individual’s education, professional credentials, and investment experience will be a disaster for investors.

First, many private placements such as equipment leasing and non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs) already skirt these rules and offer non-traded investments to those with income of $70,000 and net worth of $250,000. If you want to see what the world would be like without the $1,000,000 constraint on private placements, it’s already here and it’s not pretty.

Non-Traded REITs are a $20 billion a year industry that basically ballooned overnight. These non-traded investments act like private placements and charge anywhere from 7-15% of investor capital in the form of commissions and selling fees.  In addition, there is little evidence to support that these investments will largely be profitable for investors.  In fact, because non-traded REITs offer products with very limited income and net worth thresholds brokers have loaded up clients accounts to such an extent that the NASAA has proposed universal concentration limits to curb these abusive practices.  But as bad as many of these products are, many other private placements that would be allowed to be sold to investors under some of the IAC proposals are far worse.