August 2011 Archives

August 30, 2011

Highland Floating Rate Funds' Poor Performance Leads to Investor Lawsuits

Our securities law firm is currently pursuing a securities arbitration case on behalf of California investors who suffered losses in the Highland Floating Rate Advantage Fund [Symbols: XSFRX (Class A); XLACX (Class C); XLAZX (Class Z).] These funds are also referred to as "leveraged" loans because the borrowers typically have a significant level of debt relative to equity. The Highland Floating Rate Advantage Fund's share price declined 8% in 2007 and more than 50% in 2008.

Unlike their peers, the Highland Floating Rate funds have continued to disappoint investors. Compared to the performance of other loan participation funds, the Highland Floating Rate Funds are in a class by themselves due to their five-year history of negative returns. In June 2011, the Highland Floating Rate Advantage Fund and the Highland Floating Rate Fund [Symbol: XLFAX] were merged into the Highland Floating Rate Opportunities Fund. Below are the 5-year return results for the Highland Floating Rate Opportunities Funds:

Highland Floating Rate Opportunities Fund 5 Year Return*

Class C Shares [HFRCX] -20.41%
Class B Shares [HFRBX] -19.80%
Class A Shares [HFRAX] -18.39%
Class Z Shares [HFRZX] -16.96%

*Source: lipperleaders.com

Highland's sales literature claims that its floating rate funds seek "capital preservation and the management of credit risk while utilizing leverage to increase yield potential." Investors were attracted to the Highland Floating Rate Funds because they supposedly offered a higher return without adding any significant risk. One of the main reasons the Highland Floating Rate funds performed so poorly is that they invested heavily in loans that were rated as below investment grade or "junk."

Securities Regulators Urge Investors to Use Caution when Investing in Floating Rate Funds

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently issued an "investor alert" to warn investors who may be attracted to the high return promised by floating rate funds. In promoting these investments, FINRA expressed concern about brokers who downplay the potential risks while emphasizing the higher returns.

According to FINRA, floating rate funds have become increasingly popular since 2008 - having grown from $15 billion to $60 billion as of April 2011. These bank-loan funds are highly coveted during periods where investors are concerned with spiked interest rates. Although the funds are low in interest-rate risk, they carry a much higher credit risk. They often extend their portfolios to lower quality borrowers who typically have a higher rate of default than investment-grade bonds. Floating rate funds and other risky high-yield investments should play a very minor role in any investment portfolio--if at all.

August 15, 2011

IMH Financial Corporation's CEO Shane Albers unloads stock at a premium of $8.02 per share

IMH Secured Loan Fund / IMH Financial Corporation Update

IMH just disclosed in the company's latest filing with the Securities Exchange Commision (SEC), that former CEO Shane Albers transferred 313,484 shares of stock to NW Capital as part of his separation agreement with IMH at a price of $8.02 per share. According to the SEC filing, NW Capital paid Albers $1.2 million over and above the estimated fair value for the IMH stock. By my calculation, this means the "fair value" given to Albers' IMH stock was approximately $4.25 per share. IMH investors who purchased ownership units for $10,000/each, paid the equivalent of $45.38 per share--thus, according to these latest figures, IMH has declined by more than 90%.

There are several lawsuits pending against IMH and the original principals of the company, including a class action lawsuit. In addition, numerous investors have filed lawsuits and securities arbitration claims against their stockbrokers or financial advisors who recommended IMH. In fact, our securities law firm is currently representing a group of investors who filed an arbitration claim against Scottsdale, Arizona, financial advisor Randolf Albers who recommended and sold IMH to his clients through Albers Financial Group and Sunset Financial Services, Inc. Randy Albers is the father of IMH's former CEO Shane Albers.

Click here for more blog postings about IMH Financial Corporation (formerly known as the IMH Secured Loan Fund, LLC)

August 10, 2011

Citigroup Fined $500,000 for Failure to Supervise and Detect Theft of Customer Funds at Palo Alto, California, Office

mssb.jpgCitigroup Global Markets, Inc has been fined $500,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for failing to supervise and detect securities fraud committed by former Smith Barney sales assistant Tamara Moon who worked in the firm's Palo Alto, California, branch office. (Smith Barney is a division of Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. and is now doing business as part of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC.) As reported in a previous blog posting, Tamara Moon was barred from the industry back in 2009 for bilking as much as $750,000 from elderly and vulnerable customers, including her own father, by taking advantage of Smith Barney's lax supervision. According to FINRA, the firm failed to detect or investigate numerous "red flags" that should have alerted them to Moon's fraud. Brad Bennett, FINRA's Executive Vice President and Chief of Enforcement noted that "Citigroup had reason to know what she was doing and could have stopped her."

Although the firm agreed to reimburse customers and pay a $500,000 fine, the firm consented to the entry of FINRA's findings without having to admit or deny the charges. The practice of paying a substantial fine without having to admit any findings of wrongdoing is a standard procedure in FINRA settlements.