Many investors have purchased CIP Leveraged Fund Advisors, LLC ("CLFA") through an independent broker-dealer, Ameritas Investment Corp. ("Ameritas"). CLFA was supposed to be a manager of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), but failed miserably. Ameritas is one of the larger independent broker-dealers in the United States who offered and sold CLFA to its best clients. Ameritas is headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska and reportedly has over 1700 registered representatives across the United States operating in one or two person offices.
Ameritas, like all broker-dealers engaging in a Regulation D securities offering such as CLFA, was responsible under the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") rules to conduct "due diligence," that is, conduct a reasonable investigation of the CLFA securities offering and the issuer's representations about itself, the offering, its management, and business prospects, including any targeted returns on the investment to investors and determining the "suitability" of this investment for any and all of its clients.
Independent Due Diligence of CLFA by Ameritas was Mandatory
Ameritas and other broker-dealers could not simply rely upon an issuer of securities like CLFA, the issuer's attorneys or the lead broker-dealer Pacific Cornerstone Capital, Inc. ("PCCI") to conduct the investigation for it particularly where that lead broker-dealer has a relationship with the issuer, which is an inherent "conflict of interest."
Under FINRA Rules, all broker-dealers are responsible for discovering and investigating any information that could be considered a "red flag" and alerting a prudent person to conduct further inquiry. All broker-dealers have a responsibility to conduct a reasonable investigation and are obligated to follow up on any "red flags" that it encounters during its inquiry as well as to investigate any substantial adverse information about the issuer and its management. When presented with "red flags," the broker-dealer must do more than simply rely upon representations by issuer's management, the disclosure and an offering document or even a due diligence report of issuer's counsel or some third party expert.
It is reported that your CLFA investment is now worthless. PCCI and it's principal, Terry Roussel, were fined and/or suspended by FINRA for making misleading statements to investors in connection with the CLFA offering.
Thus far, two other broker-dealers have been investigated and sanctioned by FINRA for violations relating to their own failure to conduct due diligence on CLFA prior to recommending it to their best clients, namely, Investors Capital Corp. and Workman Securities Corporation. FINRA has reported that one or more of these broker-dealers failed to conduct any reasonable due diligence investigation on CLFA prior to selling CLFA securities. Further, they did not seek independent third party due diligence reports, meet with or ask questions of management about certain disclosures in the PPM relating to projections and targets or even review unaudited CLFA financial statements, which violated the rules. It has also been reported that they reviewed third party reports that did not include an analysis of how investors in CLFA would recover their principal investment and whether the projected 18.75% yield was realistic.
All of this begs the question: Did Ameritas perform an independent due diligence analysis before it recommended the investment to its best clients? What analysis, if any, did Ameritas perform of how investors would recover their principal investment and whether the projected 18.75% yield was realistic? FINRA investigations are confidential and although FINRA has not reportedly taken any action against Ameritas to date, the failure of any broker-dealer to conduct those types of inquiries could constitute a violation of FINRA rules and entitle you to recovery of your investment losses from that brokerage firm.
Ameritas was Obligated to Perform a Suitability Analysis
Ameritas was also required to have reasonable grounds to believe that a recommendation to purchase a security is suitable for the customer. This analysis has two principal components. First, the "reasonable basis" suitability analysis requires the broker-dealer to have a reasonable basis to believe, based on a reasonable investigation, that the recommendation is suitable for at least some investors. If there is no reasonable basis for any of the targeted returns, then the securities offered are not suitable for any investor. Second, the "customer specific suitability" analysis requires the broker-dealer to determine whether the security is suitable for the customer to whom it would be recommended. This second suitability analysis is dependent upon the investor's stated investment objectives, risk tolerance and financial condition. Any recommendation by a broker that does not satisfactorily comply with either component can be a violation of FINRA rules.
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 CLFA was an unsuitable investment. Likewise, if you cannot afford a total risk of loss, then the speculative CLFA investment was unsuitable. The suitability problem is compounded when any investors' portfolio is concentrated in CLFA. A rule of thumb is that no more than 10% of anyone's investment portfolio should be concentrated in any illiquid real estate investments, and that percentage should be far less as a person reaches retirement and advances in age, perhaps zero!
Know Your Rights and Get Your Questions Answered!
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 CLFA and this blog post and/or any related matter.