The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Securities Division has recently charged LPL with "dishonest and unethical business practices." The Massachusetts complaint focused on seven Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) products:
- Inland American
- Cole Credit Property Trust II, Inc.
- Cole Credit Property Trust III, Inc.
- Cole Credit Property 1031 Exchange
- Wells Real Estate Investment Trust II, Inc.
- W.P. Carey Corporate Property Associates 17
- Dividend Capital Total Realty
The individual brokers and advisors who sold non traded REITs are not targets of this investigation. According to securities attorney Robert Pearce, "the brokers weren't targeted because the regulators believed the problem stems from LPL's faulty training and mass marketing of these illiquid investments to LPL Financial sales representatives who then blindly sold them to their unsuspecting and trusting clients. The result was excessive quantities of these unsuitable investments in too many LPL Financial client accounts without regard to their financial needs and condition."
For most investors, liquidity, income and risk tolerance are a concern, but if you are elderly and retired they are paramount! If you have limited resources and no ability to generate income from other sources to meet your liquidity and income needs then a non-traded REIT is an unsuitable investment. Likewise, if you cannot afford a total risk of loss, then speculative non-traded REITs are unsuitable investments. The suitability problem is compounded when any investor's portfolio is concentrated in non-traded REIT investments. A rule of thumb is that no more than 10% of anyone's investment portfolio should be concentrated in real estate investments, including REIT investments, and that percentage should be far less as a person reaches retirement and advances in age, perhaps zero!
Every brokerage firm has the responsibility of "knowing the customer" and making a customer specific "suitability" determination for every investment recommendation. The "Suitability Rule," Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rule 2111, requires that a firm or associated person "have a reasonable basis to believe that a recommended transaction or investment strategy involving a security or securities is suitable for the customer, based on the information obtained through the reasonable diligence of the member or associated person to ascertain the customer's investment profile." This is a new rule, but it contains the core features of the previous National Association of Securities Dealers ("NASD") and New York Stock Exchange ("NYSE") suitability rules and codifies well-settled interpretations of those rules. Brokerage firms and their associated persons have always had the responsibility to make suitable recommendations in light of an individual's stated investment objectives and financial condition, tax status, and other relevant factors. According to FINRA, some non-traded Real Estate Investment Trust investments ("REITs") aren't suitable for anyone based on the offering terms, misrepresentations and unreasonable projections by the promoters (see FINRA News Release "FINRA Issues Investor Alert on Public Non-Traded REITs").
The primary cause of the increased number of telephone calls to our office over the last five years is many elderly and retired investors have been steered into non-traded REIT investments as the yields on other income producing investments have steadily declined. According to many investors, the REITS were recommended as safe, secure, and steady income producing investments which sounded to be exactly what many seniors wanted and needed. But these products offer little liquidity for investors who at this stage of their life are likely to need to dip into their investment savings to support their lifestyle or for medical and other emergencies. There is no public market for REITs, and early redemption of shares in REITs is often very limited. In addition, the fees associated with the sales of these products can be high and erode the total return, if they can be sold at all. Further, many of these investments do not truly generate income but make distributions with borrowed money, with newly raised capital, or by a return of principal rather than a return on investment, which can stop at any time. Although non-traded REITs may offer some diversification benefits as part of a balanced portfolio, they all have underlying risk characteristics that make them unsuitable for certain investors, particularly the elderly retired investor with limited financial resources.
Have you suffered losses resulting from an investment in any REIT purchased from LPL Financial? If so, call Robert Pearce at the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. for a free consultation. Mr. Pearce is actively investigating and accepting clients with valid claims against LPL Financial who fraudulently offered and sold the REITs to investors.
The most important of investors' rights is the right to be informed! This Investors' Rights blog post is by the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., located in Boca Raton, Florida. For over 30 years, Attorney Pearce has tried, arbitrated, and mediated hundreds of disputes involving complex securities, commodities and investment law issues. The lawyers at our law firm are devoted to protecting investors' rights throughout the United States and internationally! Please visit our website, www.secatty.com, post a comment, call (800) 732-2889, or email Mr. Pearce at email@example.com for answers to any of your questions about this blog post and/or any related matter.