Articles Posted in Apple REITs

David Lerner Associates to Pay NJ Over Nontraded REIT Sales

David Lerner Associates has agreed to pay a $700K penalty to resolve allegations accusing it of illegally selling nontraded real estate investment trusts in the state of New Jersey. In the consent order from the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, the firm also agreed to pay $50K to a fund for investor education, as well as $100K for costs.

At issue are the nontraded REITs Apple 9, Apple 8, and Apple 7. In early 2014, the three REITs merged together and became Apple Hospitality REIT Inc (APLE). Investors complained to the state regulator about the sale of the three REITs, which raised money to purchase hotels. After the NJ regulator contacted the firm about possible failures in its compliance system related to the sale of the non-traded real estate investment trusts, David Lerner Associates said it would assess its sale of the REITs there.

The dismissal of an Apple REIT class action lawsuit against David Lerner Associates Inc. in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York should have little effect on the Apple REIT arbitration cases that are being resolved through Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration. In fact, most investors are likely to recoup their losses via this avenue.

Per Bloomberg, Investors are contending that they were defrauded in the underwriting and sale of more than $6.8 billion Apple Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which were marketed as suitable for conservative investors. Meantime, Lerner Associates earned over $600 million in commissions and fees as five Apple REITs made above $6 billion.

Last year alone, FINRA told David Lerner to pay $12 million in Apple REIT Ten restitution to investors. The financial firm allegedly targeted elderly investors, misleading them while failing to properly disclose the risks involved in the securities.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering David Lerner Associates, Inc. to pay $14M for allegedly engaging in unfair sales practices involving its Apple REIT Ten and charging clients excessive markups. $12 million of this will be restitution to the investors that bought shares in the $2 billion non-traded real estate investment trust, as well as to clients that were overcharged. $2.3 million is FINRA’s fine against the brokerage firm for charging unfair prices on collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs) and municipal bonds.

According to the SRO, David Lerner Associates solicited thousands of clients to get them to buy shares in the Apple REIT TEN, of which it is the sole distributor. Elderly and unsophisticated investors were among its sales targets, even as it failed to do enough due diligence to make sure these investments were appropriate for these clients. Instead, the financial allegedly used marketing collateral that was misleading and showed customers performance results for closed Apple REITs without revealing that their incomes were not enough to support distributions to unit owners.

As part of the settlement, the financial firm has agreed to modify its advertising procedures. For example, for three years it will video record sales seminars involving 50 or more participants. It will also prefile its sales literature and ads with FINRA at least 10 days before they are made available for use. Additionally, per FINRA mandate, the brokerage firm will bring in independent consultants to look at proposed modifications to its supervisory system, as well as the training involving the pricing of municipal bonds and CMOs and the sale of non-traded REITs.

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