LPL Financial's nontraded REIT woes aren't over yet.
New Hampshire state securities regulators want LPL to pay $3.6 million in a fine, investigative costs and restitution to investors for the sale of hundreds of "unsuitable or unlawful nontraded REITs" going back to 2007.
LPL has already agreed to pay a $950,000 FINRA fine (in March 2014), and $2 million restitution plus a $500,000 fine to the state of Massachusetts in 2013 over similar claims. More broadly, the jumbo independent broker-dealer blamed regulatory costs for pulling down its net income 2% to $178 million last year.
New Hampshire says its investigation began with a single elderly LPL client with significant losses in a nontraded REIT, and branched out from there.
Eventually, the state says it found that, "LPL sold hundreds of nontraded REITs to New Hampshire LPL clients based on clearly erroneous client financial information and often in direct violation of LPLs own policies regarding the permitted concentration of alternative investments, including REITs, permitted in client accounts," according to a press release from the state's bureau of securities regulation. "Additionally, the Bureau determined that LPLs suitability data collection practices were unreliable resulting in numerous instances of inaccurate sales information and contributing to the unsuitable sale of nontraded REITs to New Hampshire investors."
LPL has requested a hearing before the bureau, according to company spokesman Brett Weinberg, and released the following statement:
"LPL Financial is aware of the action taken by the New Hampshire Securities Bureau and regrets that we were unable to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. LPL has dedicated substantial resources to addressing these legacy issues and enhancing our practices around the sale and supervision of alternative investments. We take the protection of investors' interests seriously, and remain committed to ensuring investors in the state of New Hampshire and elsewhere are treated fairly. We have no further comment at this time."
New Hampshire is asking LPL to demonstrate why the state should not rescind the company's license to sell securities in the state.
But such a threat may be mere tough talk. Jeff Spill, the bureau's deputy director, says he is not aware of New Hampshire having rescinded such a license for any other large broker-dealer. He characterized the threat as one of the "potential outcomes" that the state includes in its boilerplate language, but declined to say whether it was an action the state intended to pursue.
Weinberg says no other state has revoked LPL's license.
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