The FBI raided the office of United Development Funding IV, a Texas-based real estate investment trust (REIT), according to people familiar with the matter.
The stock fell more than 54% and was last trading around $3.20 per share.
NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reports that agents were seen carrying boxes away from the premises.
UDF is the latest short target of Texas hedge fund manager J. Kyle Bass, the founder of Dallas-based Hayman Capital Management.
Earlier this month, Bass launched a website that accuses the company of operating a “Ponzi-like real estate scheme.”
United Development Funding IV responded in statement that same day saying Bass’ website contains “multiple false and misleading statements.”
The company also said it believes that Hayman Capital “intends to continue disseminating misleading information. We remain focused on protecting investor value through the preservation of our portfolios, and we will defend our funds aggressively against these unfounded accusations.”
The short report
Back in December, UDF’s stock plummeted after an anonymous short seller using the pseudonym “Investor For Truth” published a report on the investing website Harvest Exchange. At the time, the value-investing blog ValueWalk said it believed that the short seller was Bass. It was never publicly confirmed until this month.
Bass’ thesis is that the low-interest-rate environment for the past six years has been the main driver of growth in the nontraded REIT asset class. In 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission named nontraded REITs as one of the five most serious problems affecting retail investors.
Nontraded REITs are public because they reach the minimum threshold of shareholders to be considered public. They’re not liquid investments, according to Bass.
Bass believes that it’s the unsuspecting “mum and pop” retail investors, who are seeking yield in the low-interest-rate environment, who get pitched to invest in nontraded REITS by financial advisers. These financial advisers have incentives to sell nontraded REITS by getting paid commissions from the company, the report said.
United Development Funding is a mortgage REIT that lends money to develop properties and charges interest on the loans.
UDF I was a real-estate lender and real-estate developer in the years leading up to the financial crisis. UDF I began to default on its debt, however, and used United Mortgage Trust to provide liquidity for UDF I, according to the report. As that problem continued, UDF III came along and then UDF IV, the report said.
Bass said the company had raised over $1 billion for four different public entities.
The company partnered with the brokerage firm RCS Capital (RCAP) to raise money from retail investors for UDF IV. RCS Capital was paid commission fees for selling the REIT to retail investors.
Bass accused UDF IV of since using that money to provide liquidity for UDF I and UDF III. Right now, UDF V is being used to provide liquidity to UDF IV.
The company had said that it’s been cooperating with the SEC in a “fact-finding investigation” since April 2014.
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