Item 1. Business
References to “we,” “us,” “our,” "ARMOUR" or the “Company” are to ARMOUR Residential REIT, Inc. References to "ACM" are to ARMOUR Capital Management LP, a Delaware limited partnership, formerly known as ARMOUR Residential Management LLC. On December 19, 2014, ARMOUR Residential Management LLC, our external manager under the Management Agreement, changed its name to ARMOUR Capital Management LP and converted from a Delaware limited liability company to a Delaware limited partnership and continued as the manager under the same Management Agreement (the "Conversion"). Refer to the Glossary of Terms for definitions of capitalized terms and abbreviations used in this report.
U.S. dollar amounts are presented in thousands, except per share amounts or as otherwise noted.
We are an externally managed Maryland corporation incorporated in 2008, managed by ACM, an investment advisor registered with the SEC (see Note 9 and 14 to the consolidated financial statements). We invest in residential mortgage backed securities issued or guaranteed by a U.S. GSE, such as the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or guaranteed by Ginnie Mae (collectively, Agency Securities). We also may invest in other securities backed by residential mortgages for which the payment of principal and interest is not guaranteed by a GSE or government agency (collectively, Non-Agency Securities). While we remain committed to investing in Agency Securities for so long as an adequate supply and pricing exists, we have the flexibility to invest in Non-Agency Securities and respond to changes in GSE policy as needed. At
December 31, 2014
December 31, 2013
, Agency Securities accounted for
of our securities portfolio. It is expected that the percentage will continue to be
or close thereto. Our securities portfolio consists primarily of Agency Securities backed by fixed rate home loans. From time to time, a portion of our assets may be invested in Agency Securities backed by hybrid adjustable rate and adjustable rate home loans as well as unsecured notes and bonds issued by GSEs, U.S. Treasuries and money market instruments, subject to certain income tests we must satisfy for our qualification as a REIT.
We have elected to be taxed as a REIT under the Code. Our qualification as a REIT depends on our ability to meet, on a continuing basis, various complex requirements under the Code relating to, among other things, the sources of our gross income, the composition and values of our assets, our distribution levels and the concentration of ownership of our capital stock. We believe that we are organized in conformity with the requirements for qualification as a REIT under the Code and our manner of operations enables us to meet the requirements for taxation as a REIT for federal income tax purposes.
As a REIT, we will generally not be subject to federal income tax on the REIT taxable income that we currently distribute to our stockholders. If we fail to qualify as a REIT in any taxable year and do not qualify for certain statutory relief provisions, we will be subject to federal income tax at regular corporate rates. Even if we qualify as a REIT for federal income tax purposes, we may still be subject to some federal, state and local taxes on our income.
Our primary goal is to provide an attractive risk adjusted return on stockholders' equity by acquiring Agency Securities, financing our acquisitions in the capital markets, using targeted leverage ratios and employing risk management. We seek to achieve this goal through the thoughtful and opportunistic application of our asset acquisition, leverage and interest rate management strategies.
Since our formation, our assets have been invested in Agency Securities or money market instruments, primarily deposits at federally chartered banks.
We borrow against our Agency Securities using repurchase agreements. Our borrowings generally have maturities that may range from one month or less, up to one year, although occasionally we may enter into longer dated borrowing agreements to more closely match the rate adjustment period of our Agency Securities. Our total repurchase indebtedness was approximately
December 31, 2014
, and had a weighted average maturity of
. Depending on market conditions, we may enter into additional repurchase arrangements with similar maturities or a committed borrowing facility. Our borrowings are
generally between six and ten times the amount of our total stockholders’ equity, but we are not limited to that range. The level of our borrowings may vary periodically depending on market conditions. In addition, certain of our MRAs and master swap agreements contain a restriction that prohibits our leverage from exceeding twelve times our stockholders’ equity as well as termination events in the case of significant reductions in equity capital.
We use derivatives to reduce the impact of interest rate fluctuations on our cost of funding consistent with our REIT tax requirements. These techniques primarily consist of entering into interest rate swap contracts, swaptions and purchasing or selling Futures Contracts and may also include entering into interest rate cap or floor agreements, purchasing put and call options on securities or securities underlying Futures Contracts, or entering into forward rate agreements. Although we are not legally limited to our use of hedging, we intend to limit our use of derivative instruments to only those techniques described above and to enter into derivative transactions only with counterparties that we believe have a strong credit rating to help limit the risk of counterparty default or insolvency. These transactions are not entered into for speculative purposes.
To the extent that changes in the swap and futures rates correlate with changes in mortgage rates, changes in the fair values of our derivatives will tend to offset changes in the fair values of our Agency Securities. The actual extent of such offset will depend on the relative size of our portfolios of derivatives and Agency Securities and the actual correlation of rate changes. However, changes in the fair value of our derivatives are reported in net income, while changes in the fair values of our Agency Securities are reported directly in our total stockholders’ equity. Therefore, earnings reported in accordance with GAAP will fluctuate even in situations where our derivatives are operating as intended. As a result of this mark-to-market accounting treatment, our reported results of operations are likely to fluctuate far more than if we used cash flow hedge accounting. Comparisons with companies that use cash flow hedge accounting for all or part of their derivative activities may not be meaningful.
We are externally managed by ACM, pursuant to the Management Agreement (see Note 9 and Note 14 to the consolidated financial statements). All of our executive officers are also employees of ACM. ACM manages our day-to-day operations, subject to the direction and oversight of the Board. The Management Agreement runs through June 18, 2022 and is thereafter automatically renewed for an additional five-year term unless terminated under certain circumstances. Either party must provide 180 days prior written notice of any such termination. ACM is entitled to receive a termination fee from us under certain circumstances.
Pursuant to the Management Agreement, ACM is entitled to receive a management fee payable monthly in arrears. Currently, the monthly management fee is 1/12th of the sum of (a) 1.5% of gross equity raised up to $1.0 billion plus (b) 0.75% of gross equity raised in excess of $1.0 billion.The cost of repurchased stock and any dividend representing a return of capital for tax purposes will reduce the amount of gross equity raised used to calculate the monthly management fee. At
December 31, 2014
, the effective management fee was
based on gross equity raised of
. ACM is entitled to receive a monthly management fee regardless of the performance of our securities portfolio. Accordingly, the payment of our monthly management fee may not decline in the event of a decline in our earnings or realized losses and may cause us to incur losses. Our total management fee expense for the
December 31, 2014
December 31, 2013
December 31, 2012
We are required to take actions as may be reasonably required to enable ACM to carry out its duties and obligations. We are also responsible for any costs and expenses that ACM incurred solely on our behalf other than the various overhead expenses specified in the terms of the Management Agreement. For the years ended
December 31, 2014
December 31, 2013
December 31, 2012
we reimbursed ACM
, respectively for other expenses incurred on our behalf. In consideration of our 2012 results, in 2013, we also elected to make a restricted stock award to our executive officers and other ACM employees through ACM. The award vests through 2017 and resulted in our recognizing stock based compensation expense of
for the years ended
December 31, 2014
December 31, 2013
. There was no stock based compensation recognized for the year ended
December 31, 2012
Pursuant to a Sub-Management Agreement between ARMOUR, ACM and SBBC, ACM is responsible for the monthly payment of a sub-management fee to SBBC in an amount equal to
of the monthly management fee earned by ACM, net of expenses. In October 2014, SBBC elected to continue to act as sub-managers for ACM. As part of the ARMOUR’s commencement of operations as a public company in 2009, SBBC had the option to relinquish its sub-management agreement in exchange for a lump sum cash payment from us in November 2014. The option formula would have resulted in ARMOUR paying SBBC
in cash and receiving the ongoing sub-management fee. SBBC allowed the option to expire unexercised. In connection with the conversion, SBBC became substantially wholly owned by ACM, effective January 1, 2015.
If, when applicable, ACM and the Board determine that additional funding is required, we may raise such funds through equity offerings (including preferred equity), unsecured debt securities, convertible securities (including warrants, preferred equity and debt) or the retention of cash flow (subject to provisions in the Code concerning taxability of undistributed REIT taxable income) or a combination of these methods.
In the event that ACM and the Board determine that we should raise additional equity capital, we have the authority, without stockholder approval, to issue additional stock in any manner and on such terms and for such consideration as we deem appropriate, at any time.
On March 5, 2014, our Board increased the authorization under the Repurchase Program to
shares of our common stock outstanding. Under the Repurchase Program, shares may be purchased in the open market, including block trades, through privately negotiated transactions, or pursuant to a trading plan separately adopted in the future. The timing, manner, price and amount of any repurchases will be at our discretion, subject to the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and related rules. We are not required to repurchase any shares under the Repurchase Program and it may be modified, suspended or terminated at any time for any reason. We do not intend to purchase shares from our Board or other affiliates. Under Maryland law, such repurchased shares are treated as authorized but unissued. During the
December 31, 2014
, we repurchased
shares of our common stock under the Repurchase Program for an aggregate cost of
December 31, 2014
, there were
remaining shares authorized for repurchase under our Repurchase Program.
Real Estate Investment Trust Requirements
We have elected to be taxed as a REIT under the Code. As a REIT, we will generally not be subject to federal income tax on the REIT taxable income that we currently distribute to our stockholders. We also must satisfy other ongoing REIT requirements under the Code, including meeting certain asset, income and stock ownership tests. If we fail to qualify as a REIT in any taxable year and do not qualify for certain statutory relief provisions, we will be subject to federal income tax at regular corporate rates. Even if we qualify as a REIT for federal income tax purposes, we may still be subject to some federal, state and local taxes on our income.
In order to maintain our qualification as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we are required to timely distribute, with respect to each year at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the deduction for dividends paid and excluding any net capital gain. To satisfy these requirements, we presently intend to continue to make regular cash distributions of all or substantially all of our taxable income to holders of our stock out of assets legally available for such purposes. We are not restricted from using the proceeds of equity or debt offerings to pay dividends, but we do not intend to do so. The timing and amount of any dividends we pay to holders of our stock will be at the discretion of our Board and will depend upon various factors, including our earnings and financial condition, maintenance of REIT status, applicable provisions of MGCL and such other factors as our Board deems relevant. Dividends in excess of REIT taxable income for the year (including taxable income carried forward from the previous year) will generally not be taxable to common stockholders.
Investment Company Act of 1940 Exclusion
We conduct our business so as not to become regulated as an investment company under the 1940 Act. We rely on the exclusion provided by Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the 1940 Act as interpreted by the staff of the SEC. To qualify for this exclusion we must invest at least 55% of our assets in "mortgages and other liens on and interest in real estate" or "qualifying real estate interests" and at least 80% of our assets in qualifying real estate interests and "real estate related assets." In satisfying this 55% requirement we treat Agency Securities issued with respect to an underlying pool of mortgage loans in which we hold all of the certificates issued by the pool ("whole pool" securities) as qualifying real estate interests. We currently treat Agency Securities in which we hold less than all of the certificates issued by the pool ("partial pool" securities) as real estate related assets and not qualifying real estate interests.
There can be no assurance that the laws and regulations governing the 1940 Act status of REITs, including guidance and interpretations from the SEC staff regarding the Section 3(c)(5)(C) exclusion, will not change in a manner that adversely affects our operations or business. For example, such changes might require us to employ less leverage in financing certain of our mortgage related investments and we may be precluded from acquiring certain types of higher yielding securities. The net effect of these factors would be to lower our net interest income. If we fail to qualify for an exclusion from registration as an investment company
or an exclusion from the definition of an investment company, our ability to use leverage would be substantially reduced. Our business will be materially and adversely affected if we fail to qualify for an exclusion from regulation under the 1940 Act.
Compliance with NYSE Corporate Governance Standards
We comply with the corporate governance standards of the NYSE. Our Audit Committee, Compensation Committee and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee are comprised entirely of independent directors and a majority of our directors are “independent” in accordance with the rules of the NYSE.
Our success depends, in large part, on our ability to acquire assets with favorable margins over our borrowing costs. In acquiring Agency Securities, we compete with mortgage REITs, mortgage finance and specialty finance companies, savings and loan associations, banks, mortgage bankers, insurance companies, mutual funds, institutional investors, investment banking firms, other lenders, governmental bodies and other entities. Many of these organizations have greater financial resources and access to lower costs of capital than we do. Some of these entities may not be subject to the same regulatory constraints that we are (i.e., REIT compliance or maintaining an exclusion under the 1940 Act). In addition, there are numerous mortgage REITs with similar asset acquisition objectives, including Agency Securities and others may be organized in the future. The effect of the existence of additional REITs may be to increase competition for the available supply of mortgage assets suitable for purchase.An increase in competition for financing could adversely affect the availability and cost of our financing.
We are managed by ACM pursuant to the Management Agreement between us and ACM. We do not have any employees. As of December 31, 2014, ACM had
Our principal offices are located at:
ARMOUR Residential REIT, Inc.
3001 Ocean Drive, Suite 201
Vero Beach, FL 32963
Our phone number is (772) 617-4340.
Our website is
. Our investor relations website can be found under the “Investor Relations” tab at
. We make available on our website under “SEC filings,” free of charge, our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file or furnish such materials to the SEC. We also make available on our website, our corporate governance documents, including our code of business conduct and ethics. Any amendments or waivers thereto will be provided on our website within four business days following the date of the amendment or waiver. Information provided on our website is not part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and not incorporated herein.
We are required to file Annual Reports on Form 10-K and Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q with the SEC on a regular basis and are required to disclose certain material events in a Current Report on Form 8-K. The public may read and copy any materials we file with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20549. The public may obtain information on the operation of the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330. The SEC also maintains an Internet website that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. The SEC’s Internet website is located at
Item 1A. Risk Factors
An investment in our securities involves a high degree of risk. You should consider carefully the material risks described below together with the other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, before making a decision to invest in our securities. If any of the following events occur, our business, financial condition and operating results may be materially adversely affected. In that event, the trading price of our securities could decline and you could lose all or part of your investment. This Annual Report on Form 10-K also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements as a result of specific factors, including the risks described below.
Risks Related to Our Business
Our lenders may insist on financing terms that result in reducing availability and/or increasing the cost of our financing or may terminate our financing
In order to achieve a competitive return to our investors, we use financial leverage to hold a portfolio of Agency Securities that is several times larger than our total stockholders’ equity. Our borrowings are essentially all in the form of repurchase agreements where we nominally sell Agency Securities to counterparties with an agreement to repurchase them at a later date. The sale and purchase prices are set several percentage points below the current fair value of the Agency Securities. This “haircut” percentage provides the counterparty with excess collateral to secure their loan and provides us with an incentive to complete the repurchase transaction on schedule.
There is a risk that our counterparties might be unwilling to continue to extend repurchase financing to us. Changes in regulation, market conditions or the financial position or business strategy of our counterparties could cause them to reduce or terminate our repurchase financing facilities. There is also a risk that counterparties insist on higher haircut percentages, interest rates or other terms that have the practical effect of reducing availability and/or increasing the cost of our financing. If we are unable to maintain adequate levels of funding, we would be required to reduce the size of our Agency Securities portfolio and our net interest income would decline.
We attempt to mitigate our funding risk by maintaining repurchase funding relationships with a variety of counterparties that are diversified as to size, character and primary regulatory jurisdiction. We also monitor our borrowing levels with each counterparty, attempt to establish appropriate additional business relationships beyond our borrowing and regularly communicate with their credit and business officers responsible for our relationship. From time to time, we explore new funding structures and opportunities, but there can be no assurance that any such additional funding will become available on attractive terms.
Our ability to buy or sell our securities and derivatives may be severely limited or not profitable and we may be required to post additional collateral in connection with our financing and derivatives
Our Agency Securities and our hedging derivatives are traded in the over-the-counter market. Therefore, we must buy and sell our securities and derivatives in privately negotiated transactions with banks, brokers, dealers, or principal counter parties such as originators, the GSEs and other investors. Without the benefit of a securities exchange, there may be times when the supply of or demand for the Agency Securities and derivatives we wish to buy or sell is severely limited. The bid-ask spread between the prices at which we can purchase and sell Agency Securities and derivatives may also become temporarily wide relative to historical levels. This could exacerbate our losses or limit our opportunities to profit during times of market stress or dislocation. We attempt to mitigate this risk by concentrating our investments in Agency Securities that have more widespread trading interest resulting in deeper and more liquid trading.
All of our repurchase financing and our hedging derivatives have daily collateral maintenance requirements and a substantial portion of our Agency Securities are pledged as collateral. These collateral requirements are monitored by our counterparties and we may be required to post additional collateral when the value of our posted collateral declines and/or the fair value of our net liability under a derivative increases. We attempt to mitigate this risk by moderating the amount of our financial leverage, monitoring collateral maintenance requirements and timely calling for collateral (or a return of collateral) from our counterparties on financing positions and derivatives, and maintaining reserve liquidity in the form of cash or unpledged Agency Securities that are widely acceptable as collateral. By concentrating our investments in more liquid Agency Securities, we also seek to be able to quickly sell positions and reduce our financial leverage if necessary.
Changes in interest rates may impact our level of net interest income and stockholders' equity and we may not be able to successfully mitigate such interest rate risks
We invest predominately in Agency Securities backed by loans with fixed interest rates, and to a lesser extent from time to time, in Agency Securities backed by loans with interest rates that adjust no more frequently than annually. The interest rates on our repurchase financing generally adjust quarterly or more frequently. This mismatch in the interest rate terms between our assets and our liabilities is the primary source of our ability to generate positive net income because long-term interest rates tend to be higher than short-term rates.
Short-term and long-term interest rates do not always move together. Changes in short-term rates will most significantly impact our level of net interest income, with rising rates likely to reduce our net interest income. Changes in long-term rates will initially impact the fair value of our Agency Securities, with rising interest rates reducing their fair value. Changes in the fair values of our Agency Securities are generally not reflected in our net income or our earnings per share, but rather are reflected directly in our stockholders’ equity. Over longer periods of time, rising long-term interest rates will provide us the opportunity to reinvest principal receipts and otherwise acquire additional Agency Securities with higher yields.
We attempt to mitigate interest rate risk by moderating the amount of our financial leverage, diversifying our portfolio of Agency Securities across both maturities and interest rate coupons, and economic hedging with derivatives. For example, we enter into interest rate swaps that require us to pay fixed rates and receive variable rates. These swaps are designed to offset the fluctuations in the interest costs of our repurchase financing due to movements in short-term interest rates. We record our derivatives at fair value and periodic changes in fair value are reflected in our net income and earnings per share. To the extent that fair value changes on derivatives offset fair value changes in our Agency Securities, the fluctuation in our stockholders’ equity will be lower. However, our income statement volatility will not be reduced, because the fair value changes in our Agency Securities are reflected directly in stockholders’ equity. Rising interest rates may tend to result in an overall increase in our reported net income even while our total stockholders’ equity declines.
Factors beyond our control may increase the prepayment speeds on our Agency Securities, thereby reducing our interest income
At December 31, 2014, approximately
of our Agency Securities were backed by loans where the underlying borrowers may prepay their loans without premium or penalty. Also, when borrowers default on their loans, the GSE that issued or guaranteed our Agency Securities (including Agency Securities backed by multi-family loans) pay off the remaining loan balance. Those prepayments are passed through to us, reducing the balance of the Agency Security. We generally purchase Agency Securities at premium prices, and the premium amortization associated with prepayments reduces our interest income.
We experience prepayments on our Agency Security every month and the speed of prepayments can vary widely from month to month and across individual Agency securities. Factors driving prepayment speeds include the rate of new and existing home sales, the level of borrower refinancing activities and the frequency of borrower defaults. Such factors are themselves influenced by government monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies and general economic conditions such as the level of and trends in interest rates, GDP, employment and consumer confidence. Prepayment expectations are an integral part of pricing Agency Securities in the marketplace. Volatility in actual prepayment speeds will create volatility in the amount of premium amortization we recognize. Higher speeds will reduce our interest income and lower speeds will increase our interest income.
We consider our expectations of future prepayments when evaluating the prices at which we purchase and sell Agency Securities. We attempt to mitigate the risk of unexpected prepayments by identifying characteristics of the underlying loans, such as the loan size, coupon rate, loan age and maturity, geographic location, borrower credit scores and originator/servicer that might predict relatively faster or slower prepayment speed tendencies for a particular Agency Security. Agency Securities with characteristics expected to be favorable often command marginally higher prices, or “pay ups.” We seek to purchase Agency Securities with favorable prepayment characteristics when the required pay ups are relatively lower and may sell our Agency Securities when their pay ups are relatively higher.
Volatility in the relationships between the market prices and yields for our securities and certain benchmark prices and interest rates can adversely affect our net income, earnings per share and stockholders' equity
The market prices and yields for Agency Securities and interest rate derivatives like those we hold are generally correlated over time to each other and to certain benchmark prices and interest rates, such as those for U.S. Treasury Securities. Those correlations are never perfect, and can vary widely on occasion, particularly in times of market stress. This variation in the “spread” relationship among the market yields, and therefore prices, of different instruments can result in our hedging positions being not as effective than normally would be expected, exposing us to the risk of unexpected volatility in our net income, earnings per share, and total stockholders’ equity.
Spread risk is difficult and expensive to hedge effectively. Avoiding holding Agency Securities with interest rate spread risk would severely limit our opportunity to generate net interest income because low spread risk investments, such as U.S. Treasury Securities, usually have substantially lower yields. Our efforts to mitigate spread risk are limited to attempting to identify characteristics that might cause particular Agency Securities to have relatively higher or lower spread risk under potential future market conditions. Such characteristics include characteristics of the underlying loans and current market premium levels. All other things being equal, we attempt to overweight our securities portfolio with Agency Securities that have marginally lower spread risk. However, other investment considerations, such as prepayment risk, tend to overshadow spread risk in our selection of Agency Securities.
We may not be able to minimize potential credit risks that could arise in the event of bankruptcy of one or more of our counterparties
Substantially all of our Agency Securities are issued or guaranteed by GSEs, which we consider the functional equivalent of the full faith and credit of the U.S Government. Our primary credit risk relates to our exposure to our counterparties for the amount of the excess collateral they hold to secure our repurchase financing and derivative obligations. We would typically become a general unsecured creditor for that amount in the event of the bankruptcy of a counterparty.
We mitigate our credit risk by evaluating the credit quality of our counterparties on an ongoing basis, reducing or closing positions with counterparties where we have credit concerns, monitoring our collateral positions to minimize excess collateral balances and diversifying our repurchase financing and derivatives positions among numerous counterparties. At
December 31, 2014
we did not have any repurchase counterparties that individually account for 5% or greater of our stockholders' equity.
Changes in laws and regulations affecting the relationship between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the U.S. Government, may adversely affect our business.
The payments we receive on the Agency Securities in which we invest depend upon a steady stream of payments by borrowers on the underlying mortgages and the fulfillment of guarantees by GSEs. There can be no assurance that the U.S. Government's intervention in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to be adequate for the longer-term viability of these GSEs. These uncertainties may lead to concerns about the availability of and trading market for Agency Securities in the long term. Accordingly, if the GSEs defaulted on their guaranteed obligations, suffered losses or ceased to exist, the value of our Agency Securities and our business, operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
The passage of any new federal legislation affecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may create market uncertainty and reduce the actual or perceived credit quality of securities issued or guaranteed by them. If Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were reformed or wound down, it is unclear what effect, if any, this would have on the value of the existing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Agency Securities. The foregoing could materially adversely affect the pricing, supply, liquidity and value of the Agency Securities in which we invest and otherwise materially adversely affect our business, operations and financial condition.
The adoption of derivatives legislation by Congress could have an adverse impact on our ability to hedge risks associated with our business.
The Dodd-Frank Act regulates derivative transactions, which include certain instruments used in our risk management activities. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, most swaps will eventually be required to clear through a registered clearing facility and traded on a designated exchange or swap execution facility. There are some exceptions to these requirements for entities that use swaps to hedge or mitigate commercial risk. However, we do not currently anticipate qualifying for an exception. Among the other provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that may affect derivative transactions are those relating to establishment of capital and margin requirements for certain derivative participants; establishment of business conduct standards, record keeping and reporting requirements; and imposition of position limits. Although the Dodd-Frank Act includes significant new provisions regarding the regulation of derivatives, the impact of those requirements will not be known definitively until regulations have been adopted by the SEC and the CFTC. The new legislation and any new regulations could increase the operational and transactional cost of derivatives contracts and affect the number and/or creditworthiness of available hedge counterparties to us. We have established an account with a futures commission merchant for this purpose. To date, we have not entered into any cleared interest rate swap contracts.
We cannot predict the impact of future Fed monetary policy on the prices and liquidity of Agency Securities or other securities in which we invest, although Fed action could increase the prices of our target assets and reduce the spread on our investments.
Since 2008, the Fed has conducted various quantitative easing programs of buying Agency and U.S. Treasury Securities intended to expedite an economic recovery, stabilize prices, reduce unemployment and improve business and household spending. The Fed's most recent round of this quantitative easing ended in September 2014. We cannot predict the impact of any future actions by the Fed on the prices and liquidity of Agency Securities or other securities in which we invest, although future Fed action could increase the prices of our target assets and reduce the spread on our investments. Future securities purchase programs or other monetary policy enacted by the Fed could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and our ability to pay distributions to our stockholders.
Risks Related to Our Corporate Structure
Maintenance of our exclusion from the 1940 Act will impose limits on our business.
We conduct our business so as not to become regulated as an investment company under the 1940 Act. If we were to fall within the definition of investment company, we would be unable to conduct our business as described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Section 3(a)(1)(A) of the 1940 Act defines an investment company as any issuer that is or holds itself out as being engaged primarily in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities. Section 3(a)(1)(C) of the 1940 Act also defines an investment company as any issuer that is engaged or proposes to engage in the business of investing, reinvesting, owning, holding or trading in securities and owns or proposes to acquire investment securities having a value exceeding 40% of the value of the issuer’s total assets (exclusive of U.S. Government securities and cash items) on an unconsolidated basis. Excluded from the term “investment securities,” among other things, in Section 3(a)(1)(C) of the 1940 Act, as defined above, are GSEs and securities issued by majority-owned subsidiaries that are not themselves investment companies and are not relying on the exclusion from the definition of investment company set forth in Section 3(c)(1) or Section 3(c)(7) of the 1940 Act.
We rely on the exclusion from the definition of “investment company” provided by Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the 1940 Act. To qualify for the exclusion, we make investments so that at least 55% of the assets we own consist of “qualifying assets” and so that at least 80% of the assets we own consist of qualifying assets and other real estate related assets. We generally expect that our investments in our target assets will be treated as either qualifying assets or real estate related assets under Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the 1940 Act in a manner consistent with SEC staff no-action letters. Qualifying assets for this purpose include mortgage loans and other assets, such as whole pool Agency Securities that are considered the functional equivalent of mortgage loans for purposes of the 1940 Act. The SEC staff has not issued guidance with respect to whole pool Non-Agency Securities. Accordingly, based on our own judgment and analysis of the SEC’s pronouncements with respect to agency whole pool certificates, we may also treat Non-Agency Securities issued with respect to an underlying pool of mortgage loans in which we hold all of the certificates issued by the pool as qualifying assets. We invest at least 55% of our assets in whole pool Agency Securities and Non-Agency Securities that constitute qualifying assets in accordance with SEC staff guidance and at least 80% of our assets in qualifying assets plus other real estate related assets. Other real estate related assets would consist primarily of Agency Securities and Non-Agency Securities that are not whole pools, such as CMOs and commercial mortgage backed securities. As a result of the foregoing restrictions, we are limited in our ability to make or dispose of certain investments. To the extent that the SEC staff publishes new or different guidance with respect to these matters, we may be required to adjust our strategy accordingly. These restrictions could also result in our holding assets we might wish to sell or selling assets we might wish to hold. Although we monitor our portfolio for compliance with the Section 3(c)(5)(C) exclusion periodically and prior to each acquisition and disposition, there can be no assurance that we will be able to maintain this exclusion.
To the extent that we elect in the future to conduct our operations through majority-owned subsidiaries, such business will be conducted in such a manner as to ensure that we do not meet the definition of investment company under either Section 3(a)(1)(A) or Section 3(a)(1)(C) of the 1940 Act, because less than 40% of the value of our total assets on an unconsolidated basis would consist of investment securities. We intend to monitor our portfolio periodically to insure compliance with the 40% test. In such case, we would be a holding company which conducts business exclusively through majority-owned subsidiaries and we would be engaged in the non-investment company business of our subsidiaries.
Loss of the 1940 Act exclusion would adversely affect us, the market price of shares of our stock and our ability to distribute dividends.
As described above, we conduct our operations so as not to become required to register as an investment company under the 1940 Act based on current laws, regulations and guidance. Although we monitor our portfolio, we may not be able to maintain this exclusion under the 1940 Act. If we were to fail to qualify for this exclusion in the future, we could be required to restructure our activities or the activities of our subsidiaries, if any, including effecting sales of assets in a manner that, or at a time when we would not otherwise choose, which could negatively affect the value of our stock, the sustainability of our business model and our ability to make distributions. The sale could occur during adverse market conditions and we could be forced to accept a price below that which we believe is appropriate.
There can be no assurance that the laws and regulations governing the 1940 Act status of REITs, including guidance and interpretations from the SEC and its staff regarding the Section 3(c)(5)(C) exclusion, will not change in a manner that adversely affects our operations or business. The SEC or its staff may issue new interpretations of the Section 3(c)(5)(C) exclusion causing us to change the way we conduct our business, including changes that may adversely affect our ability to achieve our investment objective. We may be required at times to adopt less efficient methods of financing certain of our mortgage related investments and we may be precluded from acquiring certain types of higher yielding securities. The net effect of these factors would be to lower our net interest income. If we fail to qualify for an exclusion from registration as an investment company or an exclusion from the definition of an investment company, our ability to use leverage would be substantially reduced. Our business will be materially and adversely affected if we fail to qualify for an exclusion from regulation under the 1940 Act.
Failure to maintain an exemption from being regulated as a commodity pool operator could subject us to additional regulation and compliance requirements and may result in fines and other penalties which could materially adversely affect our business and financial condition.
Rules adopted under the Dodd-Frank Act establish a comprehensive new regulatory framework for derivative contracts commonly referred to as swaps. Under these rules, any investment fund that trades in swaps may be considered a “commodity pool,” which would cause its directors to be regulated as CPOs. Under the rules, which became effective on October 12, 2012 for those who became CPOs solely because of their use of swaps, CPOs must register with the NFA, which requires compliance with NFA's rules, and are subject to regulation by the CFTC including with respect to disclosure, reporting, record keeping and business conduct.
Our hedging strategies are designed to reduce the impact on our earnings caused by the potential adverse effects of changes in interest rates on our target assets and liabilities. Subject to complying with REIT requirements, we use hedging techniques to limit the risk of adverse changes in interest rates on the value of our target assets as well as the differences between the interest rate adjustments on our target assets and borrowings. These techniques primarily consist of entering into interest rate swap contracts and purchasing or selling Futures Contracts and may also include entering into interest rate cap or floor agreements, purchasing put and call options on securities or securities underlying Futures Contracts, or entering into forward rate agreements. Although we are not legally limited to our use of hedging, we limit our use of derivative instruments to only those techniques described above and enter into derivative transactions only with counterparties that we believe have a strong credit rating to help limit the risk of counterparty default or insolvency. These transactions are not entered into for speculative purposes. We do not use these instruments for the purpose of trading in commodity interests, and we do not consider our company or its operations to be a commodity pool as to which CPO regulation or compliance is required.
On December 7, 2012, the CFTC staff issued a no-action letter (CFTC Staff Letter 12-44) to provide exemptive relief to mortgage REITs that claim such relief. On December 11, 2012, we submitted our claim and our directors do not intend to register as CPOs with the NFA. To comply with CFTC Staff Letter 12-44, we are restricted to operating within certain parameters discussed in the no-action letter. For example, the exemptive relief limits our ability to enter into interest rate hedging transactions such that the initial margin and premiums for such hedges will not exceed five percent of the fair market value of our total assets.
The CFTC has substantial enforcement power with respect to violations of the laws over which it has jurisdiction, including their anti-fraud and anti-manipulation provisions. Among other things, the CFTC may suspend or revoke the registration of a person who fails to comply, prohibit such a person from trading or doing business with registered entities, impose civil money penalties, require restitution and seek fines or imprisonment for criminal violations. Additionally, a private right of action exists against those who violate the laws over which the CFTC has jurisdiction or who willfully aid, abet, counsel, induce or procure a violation of those laws. In the event we fail to maintain exemptive relief from the CFTC on this matter and our directors fail to comply with the regulatory requirements of these new rules, we may be subject to significant fines, penalties and other civil or governmental actions or proceedings, any of which could have a materially adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are highly dependent on information and communications systems. System failures, security breaches or cyber-attacks of networks or systems could significantly disrupt our business and negatively affect the market price of our common stock and our ability to distribute dividends.
Our business is highly dependent on communications and information systems that allow us to monitor, value, buy, sell, finance and hedge our investments. These systems are primarily operated by third-parties and, as a result, we have limited ability to ensure their continued operation. In the event of systems failure or interruption, we will have limited ability to affect the timing and success of systems restoration. Any failure or interruption of our systems could cause delays or other problems in our securities trading activities, including Agency RMBS trading activities, which could have a material adverse effect on our operating results and negatively affect the market price of our common stock and our ability to make distributions to our stockholders.
We rely on sophisticated information technology systems, networks and infrastructure in managing our day-to-day operations. Despite cyber-security measures already in place, our information technology systems, networks and infrastructure may be vulnerable to deliberate attacks or unintentional events that could interrupt or interfere with their functionality or the confidentiality of our information. Our inability to effectively utilize our information technology systems, networks and infrastructure, and protect our information could adversely affect our business.
We have not established a minimum dividend payment level and there are no guarantees of our ability to pay dividends in the future.
We expect to continue to make regular cash distributions to our stockholders in amounts such that all or substantially all of our taxable income in each year, subject to certain adjustments, is distributed. This, along with other factors, should enable us to qualify for the tax benefits accorded to a REIT under the Code. However, we have not established a minimum dividend payment level and our ability to pay dividends may be adversely affected by the risk factors described in this report. Future distributions are made at the discretion of our Board and will depend on our earnings, our financial condition, maintenance of our REIT status and such other factors as our Board may deem relevant from time to time. There are no guarantees of our ability to pay dividends in the future. In addition, some of our distributions may include a return of capital.
Although we have no intention to do so, we may use proceeds from equity and debt offerings and other financings to fund distributions, which will decrease the amount of capital available for purchasing our target assets.
We presently have no intention of using the proceeds of any offering of our equity or debt or other financings to fund distributions to stockholders. However, there are no restrictions in our charter or in any agreement to which we are a party that prohibits us from doing so. In the event that we elect to fund any distribution to our stockholders from sources other than our earnings, the amount of capital available to us to purchase our target assets would decrease, which could have an adverse effect on our overall financial results and performance.
We are subject to financial reporting and other requirements for which our accounting, internal audit and other management systems and resources may not be adequately prepared.
We are subject to reporting and other obligations under the Securities Act and the Exchange Act, including the requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. These reporting and other obligations, may place significant demands on our management, administrative, operational, internal audit and accounting resources and cause us to incur significant expenses. We may need to upgrade our systems or create new systems; implement additional financial and management controls, reporting systems and procedures; expand or outsource our internal audit function; and hire additional accounting, internal audit and finance staff. If we are unable to accomplish these objectives in a timely and effective fashion, our ability to comply with the financial reporting requirements and other rules that apply to reporting companies could be impaired. Any failure to maintain effective internal controls could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and stock price.
Future issuances or sales of stock could cause our stock price to decline.
Sales of substantial amounts of our stock in the public market, or the perception that such sales might occur, could adversely affect the market price of our stock. In addition, the sale of these shares could impair our ability to raise capital through a sale of additional equity securities.
Other issuances of our stock could have an adverse effect on the market price of our stock. In addition, future issuances of our stock may be dilutive to existing stockholders.
Provisions of Maryland law and other provisions of our organizational documents may limit the ability of a third-party to acquire control of the company.
Certain provisions of the MGCL may have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a transaction or a change in control of the company that might involve a premium price for holders of our common stock or otherwise be in their best interests. Additionally, our charter and bylaws contain other provisions that may delay or prevent a change of control of the company.
If we have a class of equity securities registered under the Securities Exchange Act and meet certain other requirements, Title 3, Subtitle 8 of the MGCL permits us without stockholder approval and regardless of what is currently provided in our charter or bylaws, to elect to be subject to statutory provisions that may have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a transaction or a change in control of the company that might involve a premium price for holders of our common stock or otherwise be in their best interest. Pursuant to Title 3, Subtitle 8 of the MGCL, once we meet the applicable requirements, our charter provides that our Board will have the exclusive power to fill vacancies on our Board. As a result, unless all of the directorships are vacant, our stockholders will not be able to fill vacancies with nominees of their own choosing. We may elect to opt in to additional provisions of Title 3, Subtitle 8 of the MGCL without stockholder approval at any time that we have a class of equity securities registered under the Securities Exchange Act and satisfy certain other requirements.
We have very broad investment guidelines and our Board will not approve each investment and financing decision made by ACM.
We are authorized to invest in Agency Securities and Non-Agency Securities backed by fixed rate, hybrid adjustable rate and adjustable rate home loans as well as unsecured notes and bonds issued by GSEs, U.S. Treasuries and money market instruments, subject to certain income tests we must satisfy for our qualification as a REIT. ACM is authorized to invest and obtain financing on our behalf within these guidelines. Our Board periodically reviews our investment guidelines and our investment portfolio but does not, and is not required to, review all of our investments on an individual basis or in advance. In conducting periodic reviews, our Board relies primarily on information provided to it by ACM. Furthermore, ACM may use complex strategies and transactions that may be costly, difficult or impossible to unwind if our Board determines that they are not consistent with our investment guidelines. In addition, because ACM has a certain amount of discretion in investment, financing and hedging decisions, ACM’s decisions could result in investment returns that are substantially below expectations or that result in losses, which would materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may change our target assets, financing and investment strategy and other operational policies without stockholder consent, which may adversely affect the market price of our common stock and our ability to make distributions to stockholders.
Within our overall investment guidelines, we may change our target assets financing strategy, and investment guidelines at any time without the consent of our stockholders, which could result in our making investments that are different from, and possibly riskier than, the investments described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Our Board also determines our other operational policies and may amend or revise such policies, including our policies with respect to our REIT qualification, acquisitions, dispositions, operations, indebtedness and distributions, or approve transactions that deviate from these policies, without a vote of, or notice to, our stockholders. A change in our targeted investments, financing strategy, investment guidelines and other operational policies may increase our exposure to interest rate risk, default risk and real estate market fluctuations, all of which could adversely affect the market price of our common stock and our ability to make distributions to our stockholders.
Risks Related to Our Management and Conflicts of Interest
We depend on ACM and particularly key personnel including Mr. Ulm and Mr. Zimmer. The loss of those key personnel could severely and detrimentally affect our operations.
As an externally managed company, we depend on the diligence, experience and skill of ACM for the selection, acquisition, structuring, hedging and monitoring of our MBS and associated borrowings. We depend on the efforts and expertise of our operating officers to manage our day-to-day operations and strategic business direction. If any of our key personnel were to leave the Company, locating individuals with specialized industry knowledge and skills similar to that of our key personnel may not be possible or could take months. Because we have no employees, the loss of ACM and particularly Mr. Ulm and Mr. Zimmer could harm our business, financial condition, cash flow and results of operations.
Messrs. Ulm and Zimmer have a long-term relationship with AVM and we have a contract with AVM to administer clearing and settlement services for our securities and derivative transactions. We have also entered into a second contract with AVM to assist us with financing transaction services such as repurchase financings and managing the margin arrangement between us and our lenders for each of our repurchase agreements. We rely on AVM for these aspects of our business so our executive
officers can focus on our daily operations and strategic direction. Further, as our business expands, we will be increasingly dependent on AVM to provide us with timely, effective services. In the future, as we expand our staff, we may absorb internally some or all of the services provided by AVM. Until we elect to move those services in-house, we will remain dependent on AVM or other third-parties that provide similar services. If we are unable to maintain a relationship with AVM or are unable to establish a successful relationship with other third-parties providing similar services at comparable pricing, we may have to reduce or delay our operations and/or increase our expenditures and undertake the repurchase agreement and trading and administrative activities on our own, which could have a material adverse effect on our business operations and financial condition. However, we believe that the breadth and scope of ACM’s experience will enable them to fill any needs created by discontinuing a relationship with AVM.
There are conflicts of interest in our relationship with ACM and its affiliates, which could result in decisions that are not in the best interests of our stockholders.
We are subject to conflicts of interest arising out of our relationship with ACM and its affiliates. Each of our executive officers and our non-independent directors are also affiliated with JAVELIN and they will not be exclusively dedicated to our business. Entities affiliated with Mr. Ulm and Mr. Zimmer are the general partners of ACM and each of Mr. Ulm, Mr. Zimmer, Mr. Staton and Mr. Bell is a limited partner in ACM and a stockholder of JAVELIN.
The Management Agreement with ACM may create a conflict of interest and its terms, including fees payable to ACM, may not be as favorable to us as if they had been negotiated with an unaffiliated third-party. In addition, we may choose not to enforce, or to enforce less vigorously, our rights under the Management Agreement because of our desire to maintain our ongoing relationship with ACM. ACM maintains a contractual and fiduciary relationship with us. The Management Agreement with ACM does not prevent ACM and its affiliates from engaging in additional management or investment opportunities some of which will compete with us. ACM and its affiliates may engage in additional management or investment opportunities that have overlapping objectives with ours and may thus face conflicts in the allocation of investment opportunities to these other investments. Such allocation is at the discretion of ACM and there is no guarantee that this allocation would be made in the best interest of our stockholders. We are not entitled to receive preferential treatment as compared with the treatment given by ACM or its affiliates to any investment company, fund or advisory account other than any fund or advisory account which contains only funds invested by ACM (and not of any of its clients or customers) or its officers and directors. Additionally, the ability of ACM and its respective officers and employees to engage in other business activities, including their activities related to JAVELIN, may reduce the time spent managing our activities.
We compete with current and future investment entities affiliated with ACM.
There are conflicts of interest in allocating investment opportunities among us and other funds, investment vehicles and ventures managed by ACM. There is a significant overlap in the assets and investment strategies of us and JAVELIN. Although ACM may dedicate certain trading and investment personnel to serve us only, in most cases the same trading and investment personnel may provide services to both entities. ACM and its affiliates may in the future form additional funds or sponsor additional investment vehicles and ventures that have overlapping objectives with us and therefore may compete with us for investment opportunities and ACM resources. ACM has an allocation policy that addresses the manner in which investment opportunities are allocated among the various entities and strategies for which they provide investment management services. However, we cannot assure you that ACM will always allocate every investment opportunity in a manner that is advantageous for us; indeed, we may expect that the allocation of investment opportunities will at times result in our receiving only a portion of, or none of, certain investment opportunities.
Resolution of potential conflicts of interest in allocation of investment opportunities.
In allocating investment opportunities among us and any other funds or accounts managed by them, ACM's personnel are guided by the principles that they will treat all entities fairly and equitably, they will not arbitrarily distinguish among entities and they will not favor one entity over another.
In allocating a specific investment opportunity among us and JAVELIN, ACM will make a determination, exercising their judgment in good faith, as to whether the opportunity is appropriate for each entity. Factors in making such a determination may include an evaluation of each entity's liquidity, overall investment strategy and objectives, the composition of the existing portfolio, the size or amount of the available opportunity, the characteristics of the securities involved, the liquidity of the markets in which the securities trade, the risks involved, and other factors relating to the entity and the investment opportunity. ACM is not required to provide every opportunity to each entity.
If ACM determines that an investment opportunity is appropriate for both us and JAVELIN, then ACM will allocate that opportunity in a manner that they determine, exercising their judgment in good faith, to be fair and equitable, taking into consideration all allocations among us and JAVELIN taken as a whole. ACM has broad discretion in making that determination, and in amending that determination over time.
In the future, ACM may adopt additional conflicts of interest resolution policies and procedures designed to support the equitable allocation and to prevent the preferential allocation of investment opportunities among entities with overlapping investment objectives.
If ACM ceases to be our investment manager, financial institutions providing any financing arrangements to us may not provide future financing to us.
Financial institutions that finance our investments may require that ACM continue to act in such capacity. If ACM ceases to be our manager, it may constitute an event of default and the financial institution providing the arrangement may have acceleration rights with respect to outstanding borrowings and termination rights with respect to our ability to finance our future investments with that institution. If we are unable to obtain financing for our accelerated borrowings and for our future investments under such circumstances, it is likely that we would be materially and adversely affected.
ACM’s failure to make investments on favorable terms that satisfy our investment strategy and otherwise generate attractive risk adjusted returns initially and consistently from time to time in the future would materially and adversely affect us.
Our ability to achieve our investment objective depends on ACM’s personnel and their ability to make investments on favorable terms that satisfy our investment strategy and otherwise generate attractive risk adjusted returns initially and consistently from time to time in the future. Accomplishing this result is also a function of ACM’s ability to execute our financing strategy on favorable terms.
The manner of determining the management fee may not provide sufficient incentive to ACM to maximize risk adjusted returns on our investment portfolio since it is based on our gross equity raised and not on our performance.
ACM is entitled to receive a monthly management fee that is based on the total of all gross equity raised (see Note 9 and Note 14 to the consolidated financial statements), as measured as of the date of determination (i.e., each month), regardless of our performance. Accordingly, the possibility exists that significant management fees could be payable to ACM for a given month despite the fact that we could experience a net loss during that month. ACM’s entitlement to such significant nonperformance-based compensation may not provide sufficient incentive to ACM to devote its time and effort to source and maximize risk adjusted returns on our investment portfolio, which could, in turn, adversely affect our ability to pay dividends to our stockholders and the market price of our common stock. Further, the management fee structure gives ACM the incentive to maximize gross equity raised by the issuance of new equity securities or the retention of existing equity, regardless of the effect of these actions on existing stockholders. In other words, the management fee structure will reward ACM primarily based on the size of our equity raised and not on our financial returns to stockholders.
The termination of the Management Agreement may be difficult and costly, which may adversely affect our inclination to end our relationship with ACM.
Termination of the Management Agreement with ACM without cause may be difficult and costly. The term “cause” is limited to those circumstances described in the Management Agreement with ACM. We may not terminate the Management Agreement during the New Initial Term, as defined therein, except for cause or in connection with a Corporate Event, as defined therein. Upon a termination by us without cause, which shall include a Corporate Event, the Management Agreement provides that we will pay ACM a termination payment equal to the greater of (a) the base management fee as calculated immediately prior to the effective date of the termination of the Management Agreement pursuant to Section 10.2 of the Management Agreement for the remainder of the then current term, or (b) three times the base management fee paid to ACM in the preceding twelve-month period before such termination, calculated as of the effective date of the termination. This provision increases the effective cost to us of electing to terminate the Management Agreement, thereby adversely affecting our inclination to end our relationship with ACM, even if we believe ACM’s performance is not satisfactory.
ACM may terminate the Management Agreement at any time and for any reason upon 180 days prior notice. If the Management Agreement is terminated and no suitable replacement is found to manage us, we may not be able to execute our business plan.
Additionally, following the initial term, the Management Agreement will automatically renew for successive five-year renewal terms unless either we or ACM give advance notice to the other of our intent not to renew the agreement prior to the expiration of the initial term or any renewal term. However, our right to give such a notice of non-renewal is limited and requires our independent directors to agree that certain conditions are met.
ACM’s liability is limited under the Management Agreement and we have agreed to indemnify ACM and its affiliates against certain liabilities. As a result, we could experience poor performance or losses for which ACM would not be liable.
The Management Agreement limits the liability of ACM and any directors and officers of ACM for money damages, except for liability resulting from actual receipt of an improper benefit or profit in money, property or services, or a final judgment based upon a finding of active and deliberate dishonesty by the director or officer that was material to the cause of action adjudicated.
Pursuant to the Management Agreement, ACM will not assume any responsibility other than to render the services called for there under and will not be responsible for any action of our Board in following or declining to follow its advice or recommendations. ACM and its affiliates, directors, officers, stockholders, equity holders, employees, representatives and agents and any affiliates thereof, will not be liable to us, our stockholders, any subsidiary of ours, the stockholders of any subsidiary of ours, our Board, any issuer of mortgage securities, any credit-party, any counterparty under any agreement, or any other person for any acts or omissions, errors of judgment or mistakes of law by ACM or its affiliates, directors, officers, stockholders, equity holders, employees, representatives or agents, or any affiliates thereof, under or in connection with the Management Agreement, except if ACM was grossly negligent, acted with reckless disregard or engaged in willful misconduct or fraud while discharging its duties under the Management Agreement. We have agreed to indemnify ACM and its affiliates, directors, officers, stockholders, equity holders, employees, representatives and agents and any affiliates thereof, with respect to all expenses, losses, costs, damages, liabilities, demands, charges and claims of any nature, actual or threatened (including reasonable attorneys’ fees), arising from or in respect of any acts or omissions, errors of judgment or mistakes of law (or any alleged acts or omissions, errors of judgment or mistakes of law) performed or made while acting in any capacity contemplated under the Management Agreement or pursuant to any underwriting or similar agreement to which ACM is a party that is related to our activities, unless ACM was grossly negligent, acted with reckless disregard or engaged in willful misconduct or fraud while discharging its duties under the Management Agreement. As a result, we could experience poor performance or losses for which ACM would not be liable.
In addition, our articles of incorporation provide that no director or officer of ours shall be personally liable to us or our stockholders for money damages. Furthermore, our articles of incorporation permit and our by-laws require, us to indemnify, pay or reimburse any present or former director or officer of ours who is made or threatened to be made a party to a proceeding by reason of his or her service to us in such capacity. Officers and directors of ours who are also officers and board members of ACM will therefore benefit from the exculpation and indemnification provisions of our articles of incorporation and by-laws and accordingly may not be liable to us in such circumstances.
The Management Agreement was not negotiated on an arm’s-length basis and the terms, including fees payable, may not be as favorable to us as if they were negotiated with an unaffiliated third-party.
The Management Agreement that we entered into with ACM was negotiated between related parties, and we did not have the benefit of arm’s-length negotiations of the type normally conducted with an unaffiliated third-party. The terms of the Management Agreement, including fees payable, may not reflect the terms that we may have received if it were negotiated with an unrelated third-party. In addition, we may choose not to enforce, or to enforce less vigorously, our rights under the Management Agreement because of our desire to maintain our ongoing relationship with ACM.
Members of our management team have competing duties to other entities, which could result in decisions that are not in the best interests of our stockholders.
Our executive officers and the employees of ACM do not spend all of their time managing our activities and our investment portfolio. Our executive officers and the employees of ACM allocate some, or a material portion, of their time to other businesses and activities. For example, each of our executive officers is also an officer of JAVELIN and an employee of ACM. None of these individuals is required to devote a specific amount of time to our affairs. As a result of these overlapping responsibilities, there may be conflicts of interest among and reduced time commitments from our officers and the officers of JAVELIN and employees of ACM that we will face in making investment decisions on our behalf. Accordingly, we will compete with JAVELIN and ACM, and their existing activities, other ventures and possibly other entities in the future for the time and attention of these officers.
In the future, we may enter, or ACM may cause us to enter, into additional transactions with ACM or its affiliates. In particular, we may purchase, or ACM may cause us to purchase, assets from ACM or its affiliates or make co-purchases alongside
ACM or its affiliates. These transactions may not be the result of arm’s length negotiations and may involve conflicts between our interests and the interests of ACM and/or its affiliates in obtaining favorable terms and conditions.
Federal Income Tax Risks
Rapid changes in the values of our target assets may make it more difficult for us to maintain our qualification as a REIT or our exemption from the 1940 Act.
If the market value or income potential of our Agency Securities declines as a result of increased interest rates, prepayment rates, general market conditions, government actions or other factors, we may need to increase certain types of our assets and income or liquidate our non-qualifying assets to maintain our REIT qualifications or our exemption from the 1940 Act. If the decline in real estate asset values or income occurs quickly, this may be especially difficult to accomplish. We may have to make decisions that we otherwise would not make absent the REIT and the 1940 Act considerations.
Our qualification as a REIT subjects us to a broad array of financial and operating parameters that may influence our business and investment decisions and limit our flexibility in reacting to market developments.
In order to qualify and maintain our qualification as a REIT, we must, among other things, ensure that:
that at least 75% of our gross income each year is derived from certain real estate related sources;
that at least 75% of the value of our assets consists of cash, cash items, government securities and qualified REIT real estate assets at the end of each calendar quarter;
that the remainder of our investment in securities generally cannot include more than 10% of the outstanding voting securities of any one issuer, or more than 10% of the total value of the outstanding securities of any one issuer; and
that no more than 5% of the value of our assets can consist of securities of any one issuer.
If we fail to comply with these requirements, we must dispose of a portion of our assets within 30 days after the end of the calendar quarter in order to avoid losing our REIT status and suffering adverse tax consequences. If we fail to qualify as a REIT, we will be subject to federal income tax as a regular corporation and may face substantial tax liability.
Qualification as a REIT involves the satisfaction of numerous requirements (some on an annual or quarterly basis) established under highly technical and complex provisions of the Code for which only a limited number of judicial or administrative interpretations exist. We believe we currently satisfy all the requirements of a REIT. However, the determination that we satisfy all REIT requirements requires an analysis of various factual matters and circumstances that may not be totally within our control. We have not requested and do not intend to request, a ruling from the IRS, that we qualify as a REIT. Accordingly, we are not certain we will be able to qualify and remain qualified as a REIT for federal income tax purposes. Even a technical or inadvertent mistake could jeopardize our REIT status. Furthermore, the U.S. Congress or the IRS might change tax laws or regulations and the courts might issue new rulings, in each case potentially having retroactive effect, which could make it more difficult or impossible for us to qualify as a REIT.
If we fail to qualify as a REIT in any tax year, then:
we would be taxed as a regular domestic corporation, which, among other things, means that we would be unable to deduct distributions to stockholders in computing taxable income and would be subject to federal income tax on our taxable income at regular corporate rates;
any resulting tax liability could be substantial and would reduce the amount of cash available for distribution to stockholders and could force us to liquidate assets at inopportune times, causing lower income or higher losses than would result if these assets were not liquidated; and
unless we were entitled to relief under applicable statutory provisions, we would be disqualified from treatment as a REIT for the subsequent four taxable years following the year during which we lost our qualification and thus, our cash available for distribution to our stockholders would be reduced for each of the years during which we do not qualify as a REIT.
Even if we qualify and remain qualified as a REIT, we may face other tax liabilities that reduce our cash flow.
Even if we qualify and remain qualified for taxation as a REIT, we may be subject to certain federal, state and local taxes on our income and assets, including taxes on any undistributed income, tax on income from some activities conducted as a result of a foreclosure, excise taxes, state or local income, property and transfer taxes, such as mortgage recording taxes, and other taxes. In addition, in order to meet the REIT qualification requirements, prevent the recognition of certain types of non-cash income, or
to avert the imposition of a 100% tax that applies to certain gains derived by a REIT from dealer property or inventory, we may hold some of our assets through a TRS or other subsidiary corporations that will be subject to corporate level income tax at regular rates. In addition, if we lend money to a TRS, the TRS may be unable to deduct all or a portion of the interest paid to us, which could result in an even higher corporate level tax liability. Any of these taxes would decrease cash available for distribution to our stockholders.
REIT distribution requirements could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan.
We generally must distribute annually at least 90% of our taxable income, subject to certain adjustments and excluding any net capital gain, in order for federal corporate income tax not to apply to earnings that we distribute. To the extent that we satisfy this distribution requirement, but distribute less than 100% of our taxable income, we will be subject to federal corporate income tax on our undistributed taxable income. In addition, we will be subject to a non-deductible 4% excise tax if the actual amount that we pay out to our stockholders in a calendar year is less than 85% of our taxable income. We intend to make distributions to our stockholders to comply with the REIT requirements of the Code.
From time to time, we may generate taxable income greater than our income for financial reporting purposes prepared in accordance with GAAP, or differences in timing between the recognition of taxable income and the actual receipt of cash may occur. For example, we may be required to accrue income from MBS and other types of debt securities or interests in debt securities before we receive any payments of interest or principal on such assets. We may also acquire discounted debt investments that are subsequently modified by agreement with the borrower. If such arrangements constitute “significant modifications” of such debt under the applicable Treasury regulations, the modified debt may be considered to have been reissued to us in a debt-for-debt exchange with the borrower, with gain recognized by us to the extent that the principal amount of the modified debt exceeds our cost of purchasing it prior to modification.
As a result, we may find it difficult or impossible to meet distribution requirements in certain circumstances. In particular, where we experience differences in timing between the recognition of taxable income and the actual receipt of cash, the requirement to distribute a substantial portion of our taxable income could cause us to: (i) sell assets in adverse market conditions, (ii) borrow on unfavorable terms, (iii) distribute amounts that would otherwise be invested in future acquisitions, capital expenditures or repayment of debt, in order to comply with REIT requirements, or (iv) make taxable distributions of our capital stock or debt securities. These alternatives could increase our costs or reduce our equity. Thus, compliance with the REIT requirements may hinder our ability to grow, which could adversely affect the value of our common stock.
Complying with REIT requirements may cause us to forgo otherwise attractive opportunities.
To qualify as a REIT for federal income tax purposes, we must continually satisfy tests concerning, among other things, the sources of our income, the nature and diversification of our assets, the amounts that we distribute to our stockholders and the ownership of our stock. We may be required to make distributions to stockholders at disadvantageous times or when we do not have funds readily available for distribution, and may be unable to pursue investments that would be otherwise advantageous to us in order to satisfy the source-of-income or asset-diversification requirements for qualifying as a REIT. In addition, in certain cases, the modification of a debt instrument or, potentially, an increase in the value of a debt instrument that we acquired at a significant discount, could result in the conversion of the instrument from a qualifying real estate asset to a wholly or partially non-qualifying asset that must be contributed to a TRS or disposed of in order for us to qualify or maintain our qualification as a REIT. Thus, compliance with the REIT requirements may hinder our ability to make and, in certain cases, to maintain ownership of, certain attractive investments.
Complying with REIT requirements may force us to liquidate otherwise attractive investments.
To qualify as a REIT, we must ensure that at the end of each calendar quarter, at least 75% of the value of our assets consists of cash, cash items, government securities and qualified REIT real estate assets, including certain mortgage loans and certain kinds of MBS. The remainder of our investment in securities (other than government securities, TRSs and qualified real estate assets) generally cannot include more than 10% of the outstanding voting securities of any one issuer or more than 10% of the total value of the outstanding securities of any one issuer. In addition, in general, no more than 5% of the value of our assets (other than government securities, TRSs and qualified real estate assets) can consist of the securities of any one issuer, and no more than 25% of the value of our total securities can be represented by securities of one or more TRSs. If we fail to comply with these requirements at the end of any calendar quarter, we must correct the failure within 30 days after the end of the calendar quarter or qualify for certain statutory relief provisions to avoid losing our REIT qualification and suffering adverse tax consequences. As a result, we may be required to liquidate from our investment portfolio otherwise attractive investments. For example, in certain cases, the modification of a debt instrument or, potentially, an increase in the value of a debt instrument that we acquired at a significant discount, could result in the conversion of the instrument from a qualifying real estate asset to a wholly
or partially non-qualifying asset that must be liquidated in order for us to qualify or maintain our qualification as a REIT. These actions could have the effect of reducing our income and amounts available for distribution to our stockholders.
The failure of assets subject to repurchase agreements to qualify as real estate assets could adversely affect our ability to qualify as a REIT.
In order to finance some of our assets that we hold or acquire, we may enter into repurchase agreements, including with persons who sell us those assets. Under a repurchase agreement, we will nominally sell certain of our assets to a counterparty and simultaneously enter into an agreement to repurchase those sold assets. Although the tax treatment of repurchase transactions is unclear, we take the position that we are treated for U.S. federal income tax purposes as the owner of those assets that are the subject of any such repurchase agreement notwithstanding that we may transfer record ownership of those assets to the counterparty during the term of any such agreement. Because we enter into repurchase agreements the tax treatment of which is unclear, the IRS could assert, particularly in respect of our repurchase agreements with persons who sell us the assets that we wish to finance by way of repurchase agreements, that we did not own those assets during the term of the repurchase agreements, in which case we could fail to qualify as a REIT.
Our capital loss carry forward for tax purposes may expire before we can fully use it to offset otherwise taxable income or gains.
For U.S. federal income tax purposes, we have incurred a net capital loss during our taxable year ending on
December 31, 2014
. Such net capital loss may be carried forward for five taxable years and generally used to offset taxable net capital gains realized during the carry forward period. Net capital losses realized in 2013 and 2014 totaling
, respectively, will be available to offset future capital gains realized through 2018 and 2019, respectively. Any capital loss carry forward that we have not used to offset otherwise taxable net capital gains will expire after the end of such five-year period, and will no longer be available to us. Our capital loss carry forward may expire before we can fully use it because, for example, we do not generate enough taxable net capital gains during that period. In the absence of offsetting net capital loss carry forward amounts, we will be required to make timely distributions of future net capital gains realized, or alternatively, pay U.S. federal income tax on such realized net capital gains not distributed.
We may be required to report taxable income for certain investments in excess of the economic income we ultimately realize from them.
We may acquire debt instruments in the secondary market for less than their face amount. The discount at which such debt instruments are acquired may reflect doubts about their ultimate collectability rather than current market interest rates. The amount of such discount will nevertheless generally be treated as “market discount” for federal income tax purposes. Accrued market discount is reported as income when, and to the extent that, any payment of principal of the debt instrument is made. If we collect less on the debt instrument than our purchase price plus the market discount we had previously reported as income, we may not be able to benefit from any offsetting loss deductions. Some of the debt instruments that we acquire may have been issued with original issue discount. We are required to report such original issue discount based on a constant yield method and will be taxed based on the assumption that all future projected payments due on such debt instruments will be made. If such debt instruments or MBS turn out not to be fully collectible, an offsetting loss deduction will become available only in the later year that uncollectability is provable.
In addition, we may acquire debt instruments that are subsequently modified by agreement with the borrower. If the amendments to the outstanding instrument are “significant modifications” under the applicable Treasury regulations, the modified instrument is considered to have been reissued to us in a debt-for-debt exchange with the borrower. In that event, we may be required to recognize taxable gain to the extent the principal amount of the modified instrument exceeds our adjusted tax basis in the unmodified instrument, even if the value of the instrument or the payment expectations have not changed. Following such a taxable modification, we would hold the modified loan with a cost basis equal to its principal amount for federal tax purposes.
Finally, in the event that any debt instruments acquired by us are delinquent as to mandatory principal and interest payments, or in the event payments with respect to a particular instrument are not made when due, we may nonetheless be required to continue to recognize the unpaid interest as taxable income as it accrues, despite doubt as to its ultimate collectability. Similarly, we may be required to accrue interest income with respect to debt instruments at its stated rate regardless of whether corresponding cash payments are received or are ultimately collectible. In each case, while we would in general ultimately have an offsetting loss deduction available to us when such interest was determined to be uncollectible, the utility of that deduction could depend on our having taxable income in that later year or thereafter.
Distributions to tax-exempt investors may be classified as unrelated business taxable income.
Neither ordinary nor capital gain distributions with respect to our common stock nor gain from the sale of common stock should generally constitute unrelated business taxable income to a tax-exempt investor. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule, including: (i) part of the income and gain recognized by certain qualified employee pension trusts with respect to our common stock may be treated as unrelated business taxable income if shares of our common stock are predominantly held by qualified employee pension trusts, and we are required to rely on a special look-through rule for purposes of meeting one of the REIT ownership tests, and we are not operated in a manner to avoid treatment of such income or gain as unrelated business taxable income; (ii) part of the income and gain recognized by a tax-exempt investor with respect to our common stock would constitute unrelated business taxable income if the investor incurs debt in order to acquire the common stock; (iii) part or all of the income or gain recognized with respect to our common stock by social clubs, voluntary employee benefit associations, supplemental unemployment benefit trusts and qualified group legal services plans which are exempt from federal income taxation under the Code may be treated as unrelated business taxable income; and (iv) to the extent that we are (or a part of us, or a disregarded subsidiary of ours, is) a “taxable mortgage pool,” or if we hold residual interests in a real estate mortgage investment conduit ("REMIC"), a portion of the distributions paid to a tax-exempt stockholder that is allocable to excess inclusion income may be treated as unrelated business taxable income.
The “taxable mortgage pool” rules may increase the taxes that we or our stockholders may incur, and may limit the manner in which we effect future securitizations.
Securitizations could result in the creation of taxable mortgage pools for federal income tax purposes. As a REIT, so long as we own 100% of the equity interests in a taxable mortgage pool, we generally would not be adversely affected by the characterization of the securitization as a taxable mortgage pool. Certain categories of stockholders, however, such as foreign stockholders eligible for treaty or other benefits, stockholders with net operating losses and certain tax-exempt stockholders that are subject to unrelated business income tax, could be subject to increased taxes on a portion of their distribution income from us that is attributable to the taxable mortgage pool. In addition, to the extent that our stock is owned by tax-exempt “disqualified organizations,” such as certain government-related entities and charitable remainder trusts that are not subject to tax on unrelated business income, we may incur a corporate level tax on a portion of our income from the taxable mortgage pool. In that case, we will reduce the amount of our distributions to any disqualified organization whose stock ownership gave rise to the tax. Moreover, we would be precluded from selling equity interests in these securitizations to outside investors, or selling any debt securities issued in connection with these securitizations that might be considered to be equity interests for tax purposes. These limitations may prevent us from using certain techniques to maximize our returns from securitization transactions.
We may incur excess inclusion income that would increase the tax liability of our stockholders or the Company.
In general, dividend income that a tax-exempt entity receives from us should not constitute unrelated business taxable income as defined in Section 512 of the Code. If we realize excess inclusion income and allocate it to stockholders, however, then this income would be fully taxable as unrelated business taxable income under Section 512 of the Code. If the stockholder is foreign, it would generally be subject to U.S. federal income tax withholding on this income without reduction pursuant to any otherwise applicable income tax treaty. U.S. stockholders would not be able to offset such income with their operating losses. If our stock is held in record name by "disqualified organizations" (generally government entities and certain tax-exempt investors, such as certain state pension plans and charitable remainder trusts, that are not subject to the tax on unrelated business taxable income), the Company must pay tax at the highest corporate rate on any excess inclusion income attributable to such disqualified organization investors. That tax would reduce our taxable REIT income.
We generally structure our borrowing arrangements in a manner designed to avoid generating significant amounts of excess inclusion income. However, excess inclusion income could result if we held a residual interest in a REMIC. Excess inclusion income also may be generated if we were to issue debt obligations with two or more maturities and the terms of the payments on these obligations bore a relationship to the payments that we received on our Agency Securities securing those debt obligations. For example, we may engage in non-REMIC CMO securitizations. We also enter into various repurchase agreements that have differing maturity dates and afford the lender the right to sell any pledged mortgage securities if we default on our obligations. These transactions may give rise to excess inclusion income that requires allocation among our stockholders. We may invest in equity securities of other REITs and it is possible that we might receive excess inclusion income from those investments. Some types of entities, including, without limitation, voluntarily employee benefit associations and entities that have borrowed funds to acquire their shares of our stock, may be required to treat a portion of or all of the dividends they receive from us as unrelated business taxable income.
To the extent we invest in construction loans, we may fail to qualify as a REIT if the IRS successfully challenges our estimates of the fair market value of land improvements that will secure those loans.
We may invest in construction loans, the interest from which will be qualifying income for purposes of the REIT income tests, provided that the loan value of the real property securing the construction loan is equal to or greater than the highest outstanding principal amount of the construction loan during any taxable year. For purposes of construction loans, the loan value of the real property is the fair market value of the land plus the reasonably estimated cost of the improvements or developments (other than personal property), which will secure the loan and which are to be constructed from the proceeds of the loan. There can be no assurance that the IRS would not successfully challenge our estimate of the loan value of the real property and our treatment of the construction loans for purposes of the REIT income and assets tests, which may cause us to fail to qualify as a REIT.
Liquidation of assets may jeopardize our REIT qualification or create additional tax liability for us.
To qualify as a REIT, we must comply with requirements regarding the composition of our assets and our sources of income. If we are compelled to liquidate our investments to repay obligations to our lenders, we may be unable to comply with these requirements, ultimately jeopardizing our qualification as a REIT, or we may be subject to a 100% tax on any resultant gain if we sell assets that are treated as dealer property or inventory.
The tax on prohibited transactions limits our ability to engage in transactions, including certain methods of securitizing mortgage loans, which would be treated as prohibited transactions for federal income tax purposes.
Net income that we derive from a prohibited transaction is subject to a 100% tax. The term “prohibited transaction” generally includes a sale or other disposition of property (including mortgage loans, but other than foreclosure property, as discussed below) that is held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of a trade or business by us or by a borrower that has issued a shared appreciation mortgage or similar debt instrument to us. We might be subject to this tax if we were to dispose of or securitize loans in a manner that was treated as a prohibited transaction for federal income tax purposes.
We conduct our operations so that no asset that we own (or are treated as owning) will be treated as, or as having been, held for sale to customers, and that a sale of any such asset will not be treated as having been in the ordinary course of our business. As a result, we may choose not to engage in certain sales of loans at the REIT level, and may limit the structures we utilize for our securitization transactions, even though the sales or structures might otherwise be beneficial to us. In addition, whether property is held “primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of a trade or business” depends on the particular facts and circumstances. No assurance can be given that any property that we sell will not be treated as property held for sale to customers, or that we can comply with certain safe-harbor provisions of the Code that would prevent such treatment. The 100% tax does not apply to gains from the sale of property that is held through a TRS or other taxable corporation, although such income will be subject to tax in the hands of the corporation at regular corporate rates. We structure our activities to avoid prohibited transaction characterization.
Complying with REIT requirements may force us to borrow to make distributions to our stockholders.
As a REIT, we must distribute at least 90% of our annual REIT taxable income (excluding net capital gains) to our stockholders. From time to time, we may generate taxable income greater than our net income for financial reporting purposes from, among other things, the non-taxable unrealized changes in the value of our derivatives, or our taxable income may be greater than our cash flow available for distribution to our stockholders. If we do not have other funds available in these situations, we may be unable to distribute 90% of our taxable income as required by the REIT rules. Thus, we could be required to borrow funds, sell a portion of our assets at disadvantageous prices or find another alternative source of funds. These alternatives could increase our costs or reduce our equity and reduce amounts available to invest in Agency Securities.
ERISA Tax Risks
Plans should consider ERISA risks of investing in our common stock.
Investment in our common stock may not be appropriate for a pension, profit-sharing, employee benefit, or retirement plan, considering the plan’s particular circumstances, under the fiduciary standards of ERISA, or other applicable similar laws including standards with respect to prudence, diversification and delegation of control and the prohibited transaction provisions of ERISA, the Code and any applicable similar laws.
ERISA and Section 4975 of the Code prohibit certain transactions that involve (i) certain pension, profit-sharing, employee benefit, or retirement plans or individual retirement accounts and (ii) any person who is a “party in interest” or “disqualified
person” with respect to such plan. Consequently, the fiduciary of a plan contemplating an investment in our common stock should consider whether its company, any other person associated with the issuance of its common stock or any affiliate of the foregoing is or may become a “party in interest” or “disqualified person” with respect to the plan and, if so, whether an exemption from such prohibited transaction rules is applicable.
ERISA may limit our ability to attract capital from Benefit Plan Investors.
It is unlikely that we will qualify as an operating company for purposes of ERISA. Consequently, in order to avoid our assets being deemed to include so-called “plan assets” under ERISA, we will initially limit equity ownership in us by Benefit Plan Investors to less than 25% of the value of each class or series of capital stock issued by us and to prohibit transfers of our common stock to Benefit Plan Investors. Our charter prohibits Benefit Plan Investors from holding any interest in any shares of our capital stock that are not publicly traded. These restrictions on investments in us by Benefit Plan Investors (and certain similar investors) may adversely affect the ability of our stockholders to transfer their shares of our common stock and our ability to attract private equity capital in the future.
Risks Related to Our Common Stock
The performance of our common stock correlates to the performance of our REIT investments, which may be speculative and aggressive compared to other types of investments.
The investments we make in accordance with our investment objectives may result in a greater amount of risk as compared to alternative investment options, including relatively higher risk of volatility or loss of principal. Our investments may be speculative and aggressive, and therefore an investment in our common stock may not be suitable for someone with lower risk tolerance.
One of the factors that investors may consider in deciding whether to buy or sell shares of our common stock is our distribution rate as a percentage of the trading price of our common stock relative to market interest rates. If the market price of our common stock is based primarily on the earnings and return that we derive from our investments and income with respect to our investments and our related distributions to stockholders, and not from the market value of the investments themselves, then interest rate fluctuations and capital market conditions are likely to affect adversely the market price of our common stock. For instance, if market rates rise without an increase in our distribution rate, the market price of our common stock could decrease as potential investors may require a higher distribution yield on our common stock or seek other securities paying higher distributions or interest. In addition, rising interest rates would result in increased interest expense on our variable rate debt, thereby reducing cash flow and our ability to service our indebtedness and pay distributions.
Future offerings of debt securities, which would rank senior to our common stock upon our liquidation, and future offerings of equity securities, which would dilute our existing stockholders and may be senior to our common stock for the purposes of dividend and liquidating distributions, may adversely affect the market price of our common stock.
In the future, we may raise capital through the issuance of debt or equity securities. Upon liquidation, holders of our debt securities and preferred stock, if any, and lenders with respect to other borrowings will be entitled to our available assets prior to the holders of our common stock. Additional equity offerings may dilute the holdings of our existing stockholders or reduce the market price of our common stock, or both. Additional series of preferred stock, if issued, could have a preference on liquidating distributions or a preference on dividend payments that could limit our ability to pay dividends to the holders of our common stock. Sales of substantial amounts of our common stock (including shares of our common stock issued pursuant to our 2009 Stock Incentive Plan), or the perception that these sales could occur, could have a material adverse effect on the price of our common stock. Because our decision to issue debt or equity securities in any future offering will depend on market conditions and other factors beyond our control, we cannot predict or estimate the amount, timing or nature of our future offerings. Thus holders of our common stock bear the risk of our future offerings reducing the market price of our common stock and diluting the value of their stock holdings in us.
There are significant restrictions on ownership of our common stock.
In order for us to maintain our qualification as a REIT under the Code, not more than 50% in value of the issued and outstanding shares of our capital stock may be owned, actually or constructively, by five or fewer individuals (as defined in the Code to include certain entities) at any time during the last half of each taxable year (other than our first year as a REIT). This test is known as the “5/50 test.” Attribution rules in the Code apply to determine if any individual actually or constructively owns our capital stock for purposes of this requirement, including, without limitation, a rule that deems, in certain cases, a certain holder of a warrant or option to purchase stock as owning the shares underlying such warrant or option and a rule that treats shares owned
(or treated as owned, including shares underlying warrants) by entities in which an individual has a direct or indirect interest as if they were owned by such individual. Additionally, at least 100 persons must beneficially own our capital stock during at least 335 days of each taxable year (other than our first year as a REIT). While we believe that we meet the 5/50 test, no assurance can be given that we will continue to meet this test.
Our charter prohibits beneficial or constructive ownership by any person of more than 9.8% in value or in number of shares, whichever is more restrictive, of the outstanding shares of our common stock or all classes of our capital stock. Additionally, our charter prohibits beneficial or constructive ownership of our stock that would otherwise result in our failure to qualify as a REIT. In each case, such prohibition includes a prohibition on owning warrants or options to purchase stock if ownership of the underlying stock would cause the holder or beneficial owner to exceed the prohibited thresholds. The ownership rules in our charter are complex and may cause the outstanding stock owned by a group of related individuals or entities to be deemed to be owned by one individual or entity. As a result, these ownership rules could cause an individual or entity to unintentionally own shares beneficially or constructively in excess of our ownership limits. Any attempt to own or transfer shares of our common or preferred stock, in excess of our ownership limits without the consent of our board of directors shall be void, and will result in the shares being transferred to a charitable trust. These provisions may inhibit market activity and the resulting opportunity for our stockholders to receive a premium for their shares that might otherwise exist if any person were to attempt to assemble a block of shares of our stock in excess of the number of shares permitted under our charter and which may be in the best interests of our stockholders. We may grant waivers from the 9.8% charter restriction for holders where, based on representations, covenants and agreements received from certain equity holders, we determine that such waivers would not jeopardize our status as a REIT.