The FBI on Thursday raided the suburban Dallas offices of a publicly traded real estate investment trust, United Development Funding IV.
The firm, which also manages nontraded REITs, has seen its stock price fall 81% in the past two months after a hedge fund alleged it was operating for years like a Ponzi scheme.
“The FBI is lawfully present and conducting law enforcement activity” at the UDF offices, said FBI spokeswoman Allison Mahan.
A UDF spokeswoman, Stacey Dwyer, did not return a phone call on Thursday to comment.
The company is a mortgage REIT that lends money to develop properties.
The FBI's presence at UDF headquarters further decimated the company's share price, which fell almost 55% during trading on Thursday to $3.20 per share after it was reported locally that the FBI agents were carrying boxes out of the company's headquarters. In December, UDF shares were trading at $17.20.
UDF IV had total assets of $684 million, the vast majority of which, $513.2 million, were notes receivable, according to its quarterly report from November. Notes receivable for related parties was $69.6 million, according to the report.
UDF IV was knocked on its heels in December when an investor website published a report that alleged that the REIT, which was a nontraded REIT and then listed in 2014, operated for years like a Ponzi scheme.
The company's management fired back, claiming in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the REIT was the victim of a type of securities trading scheme known as a “short and distort,” in which an investor builds up a significant short position in a stock “with the intention of unlawfully manipulating” its shares. UDF also disclosed in December that it had been the subject of a fact-finding investigation by the SEC since April 2014.
Earlier this month, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass revealed that he was shorting UDF. “UDF is using new investor money to pay existing investors,” he wrote. “UDF Management is misleading investors and is preying on 'Mom and Pop' retail investors.”