Articles Tagged with real estate investment trust

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 Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently sanctioned Ameriprise Financial Services (Ameriprise) broker Michael Hainsworth (Hainsworth) concerning allegations that the broker made certain misrepresentations and unbalanced statements in the sale of non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) by sending emails to potential investors that failed to provide a sound basis for evaluating the facts.

shutterstock_103681238Hainsworth has been a broker in the securities industry since 1994. From 2007 through June 2009 Hainsworth was associated with Prime Capital Services, Inc. Thereafter, he was associated with brokerage firm Securities America, Inc. from July 2009 through September 2011. Finally, he was associated with Ameriprise from May 2009, through April 2012. Thereafter, Ameriprise filed a Form U5 Uniform Termination Notice stating that Hainsworth had been terminated from Ameriprise.

FINRA alleged that between May and October 2010, Hainsworth sent emails regarding a REIT to four potential investors. FINRA found that the emails were misleading and failed to provide a sound basis for evaluating the facts of the investment. In one email, Hainsworth stated that “My recommendation is to take $50,000 out of the market in your Trust account and $50,000 out of your IRA and allocate it to the…REIT…This pays 6.25 and matures Dec 3lst, 2015.”

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned broker Matthew Westfall (Westfall) concerning allegations that from June 2011, through December 2012, while associated with the National Planning Corporation (National Planning), Westfall engaged in business activities outside the scope of his employment with the Firm.  FINRA found that Westfall solicited 18 customers to purchase lraqi Dinar currency as an investment without firm approval to engage in this outside business activity. In addition, FINRA found that National Planning had internal guidelines that limited the amount customers were permitted to invest in illiquid investments, such as non-traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).  According to FINRA, Westfall submitted falsified documents that exaggerated the net worth for customers permitting investments in amounts that National Planning would have otherwise prohibited.

Westfall entered the securities industry in 1983. From 2003 until August 2010, Westfall was associated with Securities America, Inc.  From September 2010 to December 2012, Westfall was associated with National Planning.  Thereafter, in May 2013, Westfall became associated with Primex

FINRA found that Westfall engaged in an undisclosed outside business activity of selling Dinars to 18 National Planning customers.  FINRA alleged that the 18 firm customers purchased $87,954 in Dinars through Wcstfall through a personal account that he had with an online company that sold Dinars.  For these sales, Westfall received approximately $8,344 in compensation.

Broker Jeffrey M. Isaacs (Issacs) of Investors Capital Corporation (ICC) was recently suspended and sanctioned by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) over allegations that Isaacs made negligent material misrepresentations of fact in connection with the unsuitable sale of two private placements to ICC customers.  In addition, after the customers complained to Isaacs, he settled their claims without notifying ICC.

From January 12, 2005, through December 12, 2011, Issacs was associated with Investors Capital Corporation.  On December 12, 2011, ICC filed a Form U5 stating that Isaacs “submitted a voluntary request to terminate association with the firm while under investigation for failing to follow firm policies.”  Thereafter, Isaacs was registered with TFS Securities, Inc. (TFS) from November 21, 2011 through December 15, 2011.  On December 15, 2011, TFS filed a Form U5 stating that Isaacs’ termination was voluntary.  Issacs’ BrokerCheck discloses that he is also employed by JB Financial Resources.

FINRA alleged that Isaacs negligently misrepresented two customers that an investment in the Insight Real Estate LLC 2007 Secured Debenture Offering (Insight) was a safe, low-risk investment, misstated its payment terms, and omitted material facts relating to the speculative nature of the investment.  The customers invested $100,000 in Insight in reliance on Issacs’ representations.  Thereafter, FINRA alleged that Isaacs negligently misrepresented to the customers that an investment in CIP Leverage Fund Advisors, LLC (CIP) was for moderately conservative investors and would pay interest to the investors on a monthly basis.  In fact, the CIP was a speculative investment that paid interest only on an accrued basis with the final payment of principal. The customers also invested $100,000 in CIP in reliance on Issacs representations.

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.

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