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Home > Blog > Monthly Archives: February 2016

Monthly Archives: February 2016

FBI Raids Corporate Headquarters of United Development Funding – Investors Face Devastating Losses on Their Investments

As disclosed by The Wall Street Journal on February 18, 2016 (“FBI Raids Headquarters of United Development Funding”), agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, armed with search warrants, raided the headquarters of this sponsor of real estate investment trusts and other investment vehicles and seized documents and other materials in what appears to be an expanding criminal investigation of UDF.

UDF, which has reportedly raised about $1 billion from retail investors for its non-traded real estate investment trusts, has been the subject of a number of criticisms and negative allegations in the past few months which have focused on the company’s concentrated lending practices (reportedly about 99% of the United Development Funding IV program’s loans have been made in Texas and, of that amount, approximately 67% of the loans have been advanced to a single borrower – Centurion American Development and its affiliates) and the contention that new money being raised has been used to repay earlier investors in its programs.

As to be expected with this latest development, shares of UDF’s largest fund, United Development Funding IV, crashed when news of the FBI’s raid hit the tape – falling 54% before trading was halted. Since December of 2015, the shares have now lost more than 80% of their value.

If you are an individual or institutional investor who has any concerns about your investment in any United Development Funding program, please contact us for a no-cost and no-obligation evaluation of your specific facts and circumstances. You may have a viable claim for recovery of your investment losses by filing an individual securities arbitration claim with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Energy Related Bonds & Structured Notes – A Potential Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

As noted in a February 5, 2016 article in The Wall Street Journal (“The Oil Rout’s Surprise Victims”), the epic collapse in the price of oil, from more than $100 per barrel less than two years ago to below $30 last week, has “crushed investors in the futures market, energy partnerships, high-yield corporate bonds and the shares of oil and gas companies.”

But there is another sector of the energy market – short term bonds and structured notes issued by major investment firms whose returns are linked to the price of oil or other energy-related assets – that could also be decimated in the coming months unless there is a significant recovery in oil prices.

These securities, which have been sold to wealthy families and individual investors who want to limit the risk or amplify the return of more-conventional investments, often carry such alluring nicknames as “Phoenix,” “Plus,” “Enhanced Return” or “Accelerated Return.” They typically mature in two years or less and pay commissions of about 2% to the brokerages that sell them which has included units of Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and UBS.

Unfortunately, they use intricate combinations of options contracts to skew the payoffs from changes in energy prices: investors can make a lot of money if oil goes up a little, and they can lose much or all of their money if it goes down a lot. At current prices, most of these securities are underwater and there will have to be a significant increase in the price of oil (estimated at 50% to 100%) for them to return to their original value.

As noted by Craig McCann, principal at Securities Litigation and Consulting Group, a research firm in Fairfax, Virginia and one of the leading experts in the securities field, “this is not really an investment strategy so much as a wager on which way oil prices are going” and “some of the risks and costs of that wager are masked by the complexity of it.”

Furthermore, there isn’t any secondary trading in most of these securities, meaning that the issuing bank may often be the only buyer which, more often than not, does not benefit the investors who own them.

If you are an individual or institutional investor who has any concerns about your investment in any energy related bonds or structured notes, please contact us for a no-cost and no-obligation evaluation of your specific facts and circumstances. You may have a viable claim for recovery of your investment losses by filing an individual securities arbitration claim with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).


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