Update: A federal appeals court denied Ray Lucia’s appeal to have his lifetime ban overturned in August 2016.
Mark Cuban, the outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner, is a regular on Shark Tank, a show where he’s regularly pitched by entrepreneurs seeking to expand their businesses.
Cuban and the other investors say “I’m in” or “I’m out” depending on whether they like the pitch or not.
Cuban is obviously a savvy investor, but he’s an explosive guy. He’s known in the sports world for his outbursts at NBA officials and referees that have cost him more than $1 million in fines.
Today, I learned that Cuban has filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Ray Lucia, a former San Diego investment adviser who was permanently banned from trading by federal securities regulators. This legal brief is the courtroom equivalent of an angry outburst at NBA official.
Cuban filed his brief this month in Lucia’s appellate lawsuit against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Lucia argued that his lifetime ban should be thrown out since his case was heard by an administrative law judge, instead of an appointed officer, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
His brief, filed Feb. 8, states, “As a first-hand witness to and victim of SEC overreach, Mr. Cuban has an interest in supporting petitioners’ appeal in this case, and in particular demonstrating that both statutory language and legislative history clearly show that Congress specifically intended that SEC hearings only be held before constitutional officers.”
Seems like weak stuff to me, but Mark Cuban is a vindictive fellow and he has an axe to grind.
The SEC accused Cuban of insider trading when he sold his stake in a Canadian Internet company to avoid a $750,000 loss. Cuban maintained his innocence, and was acquitted by a federal jury in Texas three years ago.
Cuban goes on to state, “When the laws are applied inconsistently or the process by which they are enforced is rigged to favor the government, capital formation is impeded because market participants do not have clear rules for understanding their investment risks.”
This is the point where I say “I’m out.” Ray Lucia wasn’t some bold entrepreneur chasing the next big thing. He was making millions fleecing retirees out of their nest eggs.
I started writing critically about Lucia in 2010 after his attorney threatened to sue me for $300,00 . I figured that if someone would bother with a bozo like me something must be seriously wrong. Turns out, I was right.
Back then, Lucia was at the height of his power. He had thousands of accounts and $300 million in assets under management. In the 12 months leading up to January 31, 2010, his family of companies reported $14.1 million in gross income, according to court records.
Lucia made money mainly by collecting commissions on those who fell for his “Buckets of Money” strategy. He pitched retirees at flashy seminars, often with the help of his buddy, actor Ben Stein.
Elderly clients were convinced to invest in non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) that locked away their money for years. That’s not a great position for an elderly person who needs liquidity, but when REITs are generating $8.7 milllion in gross commissions for Lucia’s companies in 2010, you might overlook such details.
Lucia assured his clients they could retire in comfort because he had backtested his “Buckets of Money” strategy and it was based on “science, not art.” The SEC called his bluff and today, Lucia says he is nearly bankrupt.
Someone, however, must be paying for Lucia’s legal team at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, one of the country’s top law firms. Is that you Mark?
Investment News reports on a study that finds that the non-tradeable REITs that Ray Lucia is so fond of have consistently underperformed the broad market of real estate investing for the past two decades.
Interestingly, the study notes that the industry is seeing more and more independent broker-dealers like the Lucias out there, raising money for these stinkers.
The reason why these non-tradeable REITs are such dogs will be familiar to readers of this blog: the high fees.
The fees on nontraded REITs, which can be as high as 12% to 15%, are particularly egregious, one industry executive said. “An investor gives $100,000 to a program, and he’s immediately at $85,000,” said Wes Tellie, director of operational risk due diligence and independent broker-dealer due diligence with Duff & Phelps Corp. “That’s a hell of a hurdle rate.”
The nontraded REIT industry had some $84 billion in assets under management at the end of 2011.
Remember, that just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it a reasonable investment. Valuations of non-tradeable REITs, the article concludes, are “at a point of comedy.”
I’m going to make some popcorn, sit back and enjoy watching the silver-tongued “guru” explain his way out of this one.
I’ve recently been contacted by a few disgruntled Ray Lucia investors who found their way to my website and asked for my help. Short of recommending they file complaints the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and FINRA, there was little I could do.
However, since I’m one of the few people writing about Lucia, I’ve become a sort of clearing house for these people. One investor who recently contacted me on behalf of her 75-year-old father wants to organize a meeting and speak to others in the same situation. This person was able to get dad out of one of the non-tradeable REITs that Ray Lucia (senior, not junior) stuck him in and is willing to share with others how to do it themselves.
So, if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll pass along the details.
For more visit: A Professional’s View of Ray Lucia’s Non-Trade REITs
In 2010, radio talk show host Ray “Buckets of Money” Lucia threatened to sue me for $300,000 for defamation over a blog post on this website. My post pointed out Lucia’s relationship to a securities firm that paid $2 million to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges.
Nothing ever came of the threats and, coincidentally, (or not?), Lucia shortly thereafter told the SEC that he would no longer register with them as investment adviser. Lucia still hosts his radio show and rounds up new clients at his free seminars with actor Ben Stein.
I was content to leave things alone until last week when I heard from a client of Lucia’s son, Ray Jr., who now runs the investment business started by his illustrious father.
This person, whom I’ll call Joe, is, runs a small home repair based business and is approaching retirement age. Joe attended one of Lucia Sr.’s “Buckets of Money” seminars 18 months ago and entrusted his money to Lucia Jr. He wishes he had read this blog beforehand.
Today, they are illiquid. About $80,000 of Joe’s money — 30 percent of his net worth — is locked away in real estate investment trusts (REITs) that aren’t traded on any exchange and therefore can’t be sold for years.
Joe’s wife is ill and may need to take early retirement, which leaves Joe wondering how he’s going to pay the bills.
For some retirees, REITs can be a good investment. REITs are required to repay at least 90 percent of taxable income to investors or the forfeit their tax exempt status. So, they are sort of function like bonds but with much better rates, something like 6 percent.
So what’s the catch? The REITs Joe is invested are non-traded REITs. This is an investment that can’t be sold for years — at least not without taking a big loss. FINRA, the financial industry self-regulatory body, last year issued an investor alert warning about the dangers of these non-traded REITs.
Both Ray Lucia Sr. and Jr. are big believers in these non-traded REITs. What they don’t tell you is that it’s a great deal for the folks at RJL Wealth Management. Brokers love non-traded REITs for the whopping commission a sale generates, which can range between 10 percent and 15 percent (!). If you really feel that you need a REIT in your portfolio, then buy a publicly traded one on Charles Schwab or some other online broker where the commissions run $8.95.
Joe never found out what the commissions were on his non-traded REITs including Behringer Harvard Multifamily I, which for years has combined high fees with poor performance. (For more, see reitwrecks.com’s Non-Traded REIT Forum.)
But that’s not all! For getting Joe in this predicament, RJL Wealth Management, Lucia Jr.’s company, collects a 1.9 percent fee — more salt on the wound. Buyer beware.