Investor’s Warning: Ed Okun, FEA, Bonding & Insurance Still Major Barrier To Entry

Reuters.com published this deansguide article on 11-8-08

When deansguide readers have important comments that effect and provoke the thought process on a particular issue–we listen. When the comment comes from a very reliable source, a trusted confidant, and someone very close to a “situation”–we listen. And when that person is Elizabeth Callanan, one of the ‘experts’ following the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group debacle–we stand back and give her the floor.

Standards of Due Diligence

Elizabeth Callanan’s comment (11-9-08) and indictment of the 1031 industry’s lack of due diligence standards, the FEA’s less than honest assessment of their own insurance policies, and investor’s lack of investigation (electing to avoid massive taxes by choosing a 1031 exchange) is a cautionary warning-before you even think about this industry you must read this information.

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“I’m very interested in learning how prospective 1031 exchangers can “look at the longevity of ownership, management, and employees as well as bonding and insurance and experience.” In the case at least of the 1031’s quietly acquired by Ed Okun, who then proceeded to plunder the exchange funds held by each of them to acquire other 1031’s and finance his lavish lifestyle, nearly all of them had been in business for decades. The fact that the owners, in some cases known personally to exchangers over a long history of 1031 transactions, did not publicize or share with their client base the fact that they’d sold out to Okun and, in fact, remained on board in their former roles and capacities, along with their staffs, appears to have been part of a deliberate strategy (perhaps even a condition of the sale?) to hide from exchangers that any transfer of ownership had occurred. Where/how would a potential exchanger learn that ownership had changed? To what agency (federal, state, local) must a 1031 report its ownership. What requirements are there that demand that such information be published. What regulations or reporting exist governing the behavior and conduct of 1031’s at any level?

As to insurance, what should a prospective 1031 client look for in an insurance policy provided by a 1031? The fidelity bonds provided to customers of those acquired by Okun gave false assurances of coverage in the millions, but in fact, like the fidelity bond offered by the Federation of Exchange Accomodators (according to their website), “Q: How does the policy limit under the FEA Fidelity Bond apply to claims?
A: The policy limit applies on a “per occurrence” basis, meaning each separate loss event or series of related loss events has the full benefit of the policy limit. Losses are usually considered related, i.e. a single occurrence, if they arise out of the same set of circumstances. The limit does not apply per customer, per transaction or per account.” While exchangers to whom these Fidelity Bonds are routinely presented as some kind of assurance regarding the security of the funds held by the 1031 would reasonably interpret their transaction as the “per occurrence” covered by the bond value, FEA’s FAQ’s attempt to limit that coverage to each incident and insurers in the case of Okun are already attempting to construe him and his ongoing series of embezzlements from multiple 1031’s he acquired over time as a single occurrence. Since collectively he embezzled $150 plus million, these bonds are wholly inadequate in terms of providing any kind of security to exchangers. So, what should exchangers be demanding to see from prospective 1031’s they’re considering in order to assure themselves the 1031 is in fact a “safe harbor” and their funds will in fact not be absconded with? What regulations is the FEA promoting at any governmental level that would ensure the security of exchanger funds, the integrity of 1031’s, their owners and staff, and what penalties (criminal, financial, etc.) are they proposing in the event there is criminal activity?” –Elizabeth Callanan