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December 24, 2012

LPL Financial, LLC Under Fire for Sale of Non-Traded REITS

lpl.jpgThe Enforcement Section for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has filed an administrative lawsuit against LPL Financial, LLC for violation of securities laws in connection with the sale of non-traded REITs. [R-E-I-T is an acronym for "Real Estate Investment Trust."] The term "non-traded" refers to the fact that the REITs are not listed on a national stock exchange and investors have limited redemption rights. The Commonwealth is demanding that the firm make full restitution to Massachusetts investors who were improperly sold non-traded REITs. Following an investigation of 597 non-traded REIT transactions made by LPL, the Enforcement Section determined that 569 of those were made in violation of the prospectus requirements. For example, many of the non-traded REITs sold by LPL contained a requirement in their prospectuses limiting an individual investor's purchase to 10% of their liquid net worth. The Commonwealth's investigation focused on seven non-traded REITs sold by LPL:


  • Inland American, Cole 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


LPL Financial, LLC is the largest independent broker-dealer in the United States with 12,800 financial advisors. Although the administrative action taken by Massachusetts is primarily concerned with the sale of non-traded REITs to its own residents, LPL's financial advisors sold non-traded REITs to thousands of investors across the country. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts should be commended for their aggressive efforts to protect the rights of financial consumers. In the past, lawsuits such as the one filed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have encouraged investors nationwide to seek their own form of justice through individual securities arbitration claims.

See related blog post:

October 5, 2009

FINRA Dispute Resolution Expands Pilot Program for Securities Arbitration Panels

Here is a bit of good news for investors with securities arbitration claims against 14 of the largest brokerage firms, including Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Wells Fargo. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has agreed to extend its year-old pilot program established to give investors the option to request an arbitration panel composed entirely of arbitrators that are not affiliated with the securities industry. Currently, a 3-person arbitration panel must include one industry arbitrator and two public arbitrators. The pilot program was created in response to criticism over whether an industry arbitrator, such as a stockbroker or branch manager, can act impartially when a customer is complaining about securities fraud or account mismanagement by their broker. I've participated in arbitrations with both good and bad industry arbitrators. The trouble is, allowing an industry arbitrator to sit on a panel gives the appearance of bias and takes away from the legitimacy of the proceedings. That should be reason enough to dump the industry arbitrator. My California securities law firm is in favor of the pilot program and we have been actively encouraging clients to participate whenever possible.

The brokerage firms who have agreed to participate in the pilot program are:

Ameriprise Financial Services
Charles Schwab
Chase Investment Services
Citigroup Global Markets
Edward Jones
Fidelity Brokerage Services
LPL Financial
Merrill Lynch
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Oppenheimer
Raymond James
TD Ameritrade
UBS Financial Services
Wells Fargo Advisors / Wachovia Securities

Each of the above firms has committed to participate in a limited number of cases under the program on a first come, first served basis. The pilot program will end on October 5, 2010. Since the average arbitration hearing takes 14 ½ months to conclude, most cases in the pilot program have not gone to hearing yet. FINRA plans to compare the results of the pilot program cases with non-pilot cases. Of the 396 arbitration cases that have been decided this year, only 139 (45%) recovered anything at all. Hopefully, the arbitration award results for cases in the pilot program will be much better. If the pilot program results in more awards in favor of customers, will the brokerage industry lobby to keep the industry arbitrator? Let's hope not.