After being charged by the SEC with Regulation Best Interest violations relating to GWG, Western International Securities has now been censured and fined by FINRA for a different alternative investment product – non traded REITs.
REITs – Real Estate Investment Trusts – are investment companies that invest in a portfolio of various real estate properties. A non traded REIT is not traded on any exchange, and often is illiquid with no short term method of selling the investment.
FINRA charged Western with failing to implement and follow a reasonable supervisory system to ensure that REIT sales were suitable for the customers to whom they were recommended. Although Western had a REIT suitability form, they system did not require supervisors approving sales to review important suitability information from new account forms such as age, objectives, risk tolerance, income, etc.
The letter of Acceptance Waiver and Consent (AWC) further discussed the extreme misconduct of an unnamed Western advisor who sold REITs to a majority of his customers, including those with limited financial resources and investment experience. Several significant facts were disclosed in the AWC which should have, but didn’t, trigger supervisory action, included the fact that 19 of the 59 customers sold the REITs were 60 years old or older, many were recommended to switch from variable annuities to REITs, and in some years 90% of the broker’s commissions were from REIT sales.
Western agreed to a public censure, a $400,000 fine, and restitution payments of $471,401.57.
Non-traded REITs are often considered speculative high risk investments, and as such they would not be suitable for many customers who could not afford to take the associated risks, such as senior citizens, retirees, and those on a fixed income. If you have lost money in unsuitable REITs, or if you are unable to sell or exit a REIT that is unsuitable, please contact our securities fraud lawyers for a free consultation about your case. These unsuitable sales can support a FINRA arbitration claim based on securities fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence.