Inland American Real Estate Trust is among several unlisted real estate investment trusts (REITs) to face a wave of backlash from investors lately. Why? Because many independent broker/dealers and their financial advisers misrepresented the risks and characteristics of unlisted REITs like the Inland American Real Estate Trust. Only now are many retail investors coming to terms with the collateral damage that has taken place in their portfolios.
To be sure, sales of unlisted (also known as non-traded) REITs are booming. Unlisted REITs raised more than $10 billion in 2008.
Sold through broker/dealers, shares in unlisted REITs do not trade on national stock exchanges. Redemptions are limited and usually include a minimum holding period. If an investor does decide to get out of the trust entirely, he or she can usually only do so on a specified date.
There are several other caveats associated with unlisted REITs, not the least of which is an exorbitant fee of up to 15% to get in. And that’s in addition to ongoing management fees and other expenses. Even more important: Unlisted REITs often offer no independent source of performance data. They also fail to offer investors a guarantee that their dividend payments will continue throughout their planned investment period in the REIT.
Non-Traded REITs: Considerations for Hotel Investors by John B. Corgel and Scott Gibson provides an in-depth look at unlisted REITs and the unintended consequences that the products may create for individual investors who do not conduct their own due diligence.
Specifically, the study – which claims to be the first professional and academic report to analyze the structure of non-traded REITs – shows that investors who purchased hospitality REITs early in the investment cycle saw a diminished return as a result of subsequent sales. In other words, the early investors subsidize the commissions paid to the dealers who sell to late-term investors, the report says.
One of the criticisms cited in the report – and one which has been touted in general by critics of unlisted REITs – is the vague prospectus language regarding exit strategies.
The fixed share prices of non-traded REITs are another bone of contention with naysayers of the products. Often marketed to investors as a selling point, the fixed share price can actually become an unwanted feature. Says Non-Traded REITs: Considerations for Hotel Investors:
“ . . . this policy of maintaining fixed share prices in companies that continually offer shares at the same or similar fixed prices throughout the investment cycle will have adverse consequences to investors who buy into programs early in the cycle.”
To their detriment, investors throughout the country may have purchased shares in non-traded REITs like the Inland American Real Estate Trust based on misrepresentations by their brokerage firm. That advice has now proven to financially disastrous. Instead of access to their cash, investors are finding themselves left out in the cold – their money locked up for an undetermined period of time in these illiquid, high-commission products.
Maddox Hargett & Caruso continues to investigate the selling practices of brokerage firms such as UBS, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, LPL Linsco, Morgan Keegan & Company, as well as others that may have recommended unsuitable investments in non-traded REITs to their clients. If you have a story to tell about your investment losses in non-traded REITs, contact us.