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Articles Tagged with private placement memorandum

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has recently sponsored a new securities industry rule that makes the information included on customer account statements more transparent.  Transparent commissions will likely lower the total up-front commissions a broker can collect on certain popular securities as investors realize the steep fees they are paying.

Nontraded real estate investment trusts (REITs) are among the most popular investment products sold by registered representatives and their broker-dealers.  Typically sold for less than $10 per share, the commission to a rep and the firm in this $1.4 billion “alternative investment” sector of the retail investment market is 7%, though the amount that goes toward the total upfront commission is split amongst several different players involved in selling the REIT.  A problem for investors is that their account statements do not clearly show the breakdown of those commissions or the estimated per-share valuation of their investment — something that the current rules do not require be revealed to them until 18 months after the REIT sponsors stop raising funds.

Under FINRA’s proposed new rule, the time frame in which broker-dealers will have to show investors a true valuation of such purchases will be drastically sped up.  By accelerating that timetable, investors will be provided quicker and much greater transparency in seeing the commissions being charged to them; and industry experts anticipate that broker-dealers are likely to lower the fees they assess to investors on such alternative investments.  Both nontraded REITs and illiquid private placements known as “direct participation programs” (DPPs), which would also fall directly under this new rule, have frequently been criticized for high commissions.

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According to recent SEC filings, the Endowment Master Fund LP, has offered investors an exit strategy from the hedge fund offering a new fund through a Private Placement Memorandum (PPM) which will be used to liquidate the Fund.  The Endowment Master Fund, LP was marketed heavily by Wall Street firms, including Merrill Lynch.  The PPM describes the Offer as a like-kind exchange of investors’ pro-rata interest of the portfolio holdings into a new PMF Fund, LP.   According to the SEC filings, dated February 20, 2014, “the PMF Fund, LP and the Endowment Master Fund, LP will be managed differently, with the PMF Fund, LP managed for purposes of orderly liquidation.”

For investors, the Offer provides little certainty because investors must choose whether to liquidate now without knowing the true value of the Fund which will be determined at a later date.  `The Offer for the like-kind exchange expires March 19, 2014 which requires more than a leap of faith for investors in a hedge fund that has languished far behind the market returns.  Investors must make an investment decision without knowledge of the value exchanged and how much will be realized during the liquidation period.  According to the New York Times article, After Weak Returns, the Endowment Fund Limits Withdrawals, the hedge fund, “began to struggle in 2011, suffering losses of about 4.1 percent, after fees, compared with a gain of 2.5 percent by the S&P 500.”

 On February 24, 2014, a Thomson Reuters article underscores the effects of the substantial hedge fund costs on the Funds dismal performance, “Even for investors who stay with the fund, there will be high costs.  They will not be permitted to ask for any money back this year.  They will also be charged a 1 percent management fee and a 1 percent servicing fee.  On top of that there will be the fund’s underlying managers’ 1.3 percent management fee and a 16 percent of profits as an incentive fee.”  The article points to the hedge fund underperformance in 2013, “with the fund earning only 2.08 percent last year, dramatically trailing the Standard & Poor’s 32 percent gain.”  For Merrill Lynch customer’s, “If investors accessed the Endowment Fund through Merrill Lynch they will have paid as much as a 2.5 percent upfront charge.”

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