July 16, 2019 / 7:54 PM / 9 months ago

SEC reaches $60 million settlements involving ex-American Realty executives

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two former executives at American Realty Capital Properties Inc, including the onetime billionaire who built it, have reached more than $60 million in settlements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of charges they wrongfully extracted millions of dollars from the real estate investment trust.

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logo adorns an office door at the SEC headquarters in Washington, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The SEC said on Tuesday that AR Capital LLC, its majority owner Nicholas Schorsch, and its former chief financial officer Brian Block agreed to be collectively liable for more than $39 million of disgorgement and interest.

It also fined AR Capital $14 million, Schorsch $7 million and Block $750,000.

American Realty is now called Vereit Inc and under new management, following a 2014 accounting scandal.

The SEC said the defendants improperly inflated incentive fee calculations on two mergers, enabling them to obtain an extra 2.92 million American Realty operating partnership units as part of their pay.

It also said the defendants approved misleading asset purchase and sale agreements that enabled AR Capital to collect $7.27 million of “unsupported charges” related to the mergers.

The SEC accused Schorsch, who was American Realty’s chief executive, of negligence, and Block of fraud over conduct from late 2012 to January 2014.

None of the defendants admitted or denied wrongdoing.

“Mr. Schorsch is very pleased to have resolved this matter,” said Lorin Reisner, his lawyer.

A spokesman for AR Capital said the New York-based company was pleased to settle, and will continue to focus on “creating value for the shareholders of the REITs that we manage.”

Block’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“REIT managers and their professionals have an obligation to tell the truth when making disclosures to shareholders about their compensation,” Marc Berger, director of the SEC’s New York office, said in a statement.

“AR Capital and its partners Schorsch and Block failed to do so and benefitted themselves greatly at the expense of shareholders,” he added.

Block has been appealing his 2017 jury conviction and 18-month prison sentence for inflating American Realty’s financial statements.

Schorsch, who was not criminally charged, was a pioneer in so-called nontraded REITs, which are considered less liquid than traditional REITs but can throw off higher dividends.

Forbes magazine said in December 2014 it no longer considered Schorsch a billionaire after American Realty’s accounting problems surfaced, and the value of AR Capital fell.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown and Grant McCool

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