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Galvin charges Boston-based LPL

Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin charged LPL Financial of Boston on Wednesday with failure to supervise agents who sold investments in nontraded real estate investment trusts, and with “dishonest and unethical” business practices.

An LPL spokeswoman said Galvin’s claims are “substantially overstated.”

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A probe by the Securities Division, which Galvin oversees, found 597 transactions by Massachusetts residents in seven REITs with more than $28 million invested.

LPL, a network of brokers, received at least $1.8 million in commissions on those sales from 2006 through 2009, the state alleged.

According to the division’s complaint, most of the 597 transactions violated state laws or LPL’s own compliance practices. The division is seeking a cease-and-desist order against LPL, a censure, and full restitution to those investors who were sold the instruments in violation of Massachusetts regulations and the requirements of the REIT prospectus.

“Nontraded REITs present risks to investors,” Galvin said in a statement. “Massachusetts recognizes those risks and requires limits on an investors’ exposure to the high fees, potential illiquidity, and risky nature of nontraded REIT products.”

REITs own and manage income-producing property or are involved in real estate financing. Nontraded REITs are more difficult to get one’s money out of and tend to carry high fees and commissions, Galvin said.

In an e-mail, LPL Financial spokeswoman Betsy Weinberger wrote: “We believe the claims included in the complaint are substantially overstated. LPL Financial takes protection of investors’ interests seriously. We have always endeavored to promote a strong culture of compliance and continue to do so.”

Beth Healy can be reached at
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