Item 1. Business
Two Harbors Investment Corp. is a Maryland corporation focused on investing in, financing and managing Agency residential mortgage-backed securities, or Agency RMBS, mortgage servicing rights, or MSR, and other financial assets, which we collectively refer to as our target assets. We operate as a real estate investment trust, or REIT, as defined under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code. The terms “Two Harbors,” “we,” “our,” “us” and the “company” refer to Two Harbors Investment Corp. and its subsidiaries as a consolidated entity.
We were incorporated on May 21, 2009 and commenced operations as a publicly traded company on October 28, 2009, upon completion of a merger with Capitol Acquisition Corp., or Capitol, which became our wholly owned indirect subsidiary as a result of the merger. Our common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, under the symbol “TWO”.
Our objective is to provide attractive risk-adjusted total return to our stockholders over the long term, primarily through dividends and secondarily through capital appreciation. We acquire and manage an investment portfolio of our target assets, which include the following:
•Agency RMBS, meaning RMBS whose principal and interest payments are guaranteed by the Government National Mortgage Association (or Ginnie Mae), the Federal National Mortgage Association (or Fannie Mae), or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (or Freddie Mac);
•Other financial assets comprising approximately 5% to 10% of the portfolio.
We seek to deploy moderate leverage as part of our investment strategy. We generally finance our Agency RMBS securities through short- and long-term borrowings structured as repurchase agreements. We also finance our MSR through revolving credit facilities, term notes payable and convertible senior notes.
We have elected to be treated as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes. To qualify as a REIT, we are required to meet certain investment and operating tests and annual distribution requirements. We generally will not be subject to U.S. federal income taxes on our taxable income to the extent that we annually distribute all of our net taxable income to stockholders, do not participate in prohibited transactions and maintain our intended qualification as a REIT. However, certain activities that we may perform may cause us to earn income which will not be qualifying income for REIT purposes. We have designated certain of our subsidiaries as taxable REIT subsidiaries, or TRSs, as defined in the Code, to engage in such activities, and we may form additional TRSs in the future. We also operate our business in a manner that will permit us to maintain our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, or the 1940 Act.
Through August 14, 2020, we were externally managed and advised by PRCM Advisers LLC, a subsidiary of Pine River Capital Management L.P., under the terms of a Management Agreement between us and PRCM Advisers. We terminated the Management Agreement effective August 14, 2020 for “cause” in accordance with Section 15(a) thereof. On August 15, 2020, we completed our transition to self-management and directly hired the senior management team and other personnel who had historically provided services to us.
Our team of investment professionals has broad experience in managing our target assets and has demonstrated the ability to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns under different market conditions and cycles. We have extensive long-term relationships with financial intermediaries, including prime brokers, investment banks, broker-dealers and asset custodians. We believe these relationships enhance our ability to source, finance, protect and hedge our investments and, thus, enable us to succeed in various credit and interest rate environments. We also benefit from our risk management, accounting, operations, legal, compliance and information technology teams.
Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains, or incorporates by reference, not only historical information, but also forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or the Exchange Act, and that are subject to the safe harbors created by such sections. Forward-looking statements involve numerous risks and uncertainties. Our actual results may differ from our beliefs, expectations, estimates, and projections and, consequently, you should not rely on these forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Forward-looking statements are not historical in nature and can be identified by words such as “anticipate,” “estimate,” “will,” “should,” “expect,” “target,” “believe,” “intend,” “seek,” “plan,” “goals,” “future,” “likely,” “may,” and similar expressions or their negative forms, or by references to strategy, plans, or intentions. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties, including, among other things, those described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K under the caption “Risk Factors.” Other risks, uncertainties, and factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected are described below and may be described from time to time in reports we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, including our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and Current Reports on Form 8-K. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and we undertake no obligation to update or revise any such forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.
Important factors, among others, that may affect our actual results include:
•changes in interest rates and the market value of our target assets;
•changes in prepayment rates of mortgages underlying our target assets;
•our exposure to adjustable-rate and negative amortization mortgage loans underlying our target assets;
•the state of the credit markets and other general economic conditions, particularly as they affect the price of earning assets, the credit status of borrowers and home prices;
•the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the actions taken by federal and state governmental authorities and GSEs in response, on the U.S. economy, financial markets and our target assets;
•legislative and regulatory actions affecting our business;
•the availability and cost of our target assets;
•the availability and cost of financing for our target assets, including repurchase agreement financing, revolving credit facilities, term notes and convertible notes;
•the impact of any increases in payment delinquencies and defaults on the mortgages comprising and underlying our target assets, including additional servicing costs and servicing advance obligations on the MSR assets we own;
•changes in liquidity in the market for real estate securities, the re-pricing of credit risk in the capital markets, inaccurate ratings of securities by rating agencies, rating agency downgrades of securities, and increases in the supply of real estate securities available-for-sale;
•changes in the values of securities we own and the impact of adjustments reflecting those changes on our consolidated statements of comprehensive (loss) income and balance sheets, including our stockholders’ equity;
•our ability to generate cash flow from our target assets;
•our ability to effectively execute and realize the benefits of strategic transactions and initiatives, including our transition to self-management, we have pursued or may in the future pursue;
•our decision to terminate our Management Agreement with PRCM Advisers and the ongoing litigation with PRCM Advisers related to such termination;
•changes in the competitive landscape within our industry, including changes that may affect our ability to attract and retain personnel;
•our exposure to legal and regulatory claims, penalties or enforcement activities, including those related to the termination of our Management Agreement with PRCM Advisers and arising from our ownership and management of MSR and prior securitization transactions;
•our exposure to counterparties involved in our MSR business and prior securitization transactions and our ability to enforce representations and warranties made by them;
•our ability to acquire MSR and successfully operate our seller-servicer subsidiary and oversee the activities of our subservicers;
•our ability to manage various operational and regulatory risks associated with our business;
•interruptions in or impairments to our communications and information technology systems;
•our ability to maintain appropriate internal controls over financial reporting;
•our ability to establish, adjust and maintain appropriate hedges for the risks in our portfolio;
•our ability to maintain our REIT qualification for U.S. federal income tax purposes; and
•limitations imposed on our business due to our REIT status and our status as exempt from registration under the 1940 Act.
This Annual Report on Form 10-K may contain statistics and other data that, in some cases, have been obtained or compiled from information made available by mortgage loan servicers and other third-party service providers.
Our Investment Strategy
Our investment objective is to provide attractive risk-adjusted total return to our stockholders over the long-term, primarily through dividends and secondarily through capital appreciation. We intend to achieve this objective by constructing a well-balanced portfolio consisting of Agency RMBS, MSR and other financial assets, with a focus on managing various associated risks, including interest rate, prepayment, credit, mortgage spread and financing risk. The preservation of book value is of paramount importance to our ability to generate total return on an ongoing basis.
Our investment team makes investment decisions based on a rigorous asset selection process that takes into consideration a variety of factors, including expected cash yield, risk-adjusted returns, current and projected credit fundamentals, current and projected macroeconomic considerations, current and projected supply and demand, credit and market risk concentration limits, liquidity, cost of financing and financing availability. It is our intention to select our assets in such a way as to maintain our REIT qualification and our exemption from registration under the 1940 Act.
Our Target Assets
Our portfolio includes assets that are primarily sensitive to changes in interest rates, prepayments and mortgage spreads, including but not limited to Agency RMBS, MSR and related hedging transactions. These assets have minimal exposure to the underlying credit performance of the investments. Our portfolio is managed by our Chief Investment Officer and our resources are allocated and financial performance is assessed on a consolidated basis. Our target asset classes are as follows:
Agency RMBS collateralized by fixed rate mortgage loans, adjustable-rate mortgage (or ARM) loans or hybrid mortgage loans, or derivatives thereof, including:
mortgage pass-through certificates;
collateralized mortgage obligations;
uniform mortgage-backed securities;
Freddie Mac gold certificates;
Fannie Mae certificates;
Ginnie Mae certificates;
“to-be-announced” forward contracts, or TBAs, which are pools of mortgages with specific investment terms to be issued by government sponsored entities, or GSEs, at a future date; and
interest-only and inverse interest-only securities.
The right to control the servicing of residential mortgage loans, receive the servicing income therefrom and the obligation to service the loans in accordance with relevant standards; the actual servicing functions are outsourced to appropriately licensed third-party subservicers, which service the loans in their own names.
Other assets may include other financial and mortgage-related assets other than our target assets, including non-Agency securities (securities that are not issued or guaranteed by Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) and certain non-hedging transactions that may produce non-qualifying income for purposes of the REIT gross income tests.
Our Investment Activities
Historically, we viewed our target assets in two strategies that were based on our core competencies of understanding and managing prepayment and credit risk. Our rates strategy included assets that are primarily sensitive to changes in interest rates and prepayment speeds, specifically Agency RMBS and MSR. Our credit strategy included assets that were primarily sensitive to changes in inherent credit risk, including non-Agency securities. In the first quarter of 2020, we experienced unprecedented market conditions as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, including unusually significant spread widening in both Agency RMBS and non-Agency securities. In response, we focused our efforts on raising excess liquidity and de-risking our portfolio. On March 25, 2020, we sold substantially all of our non-Agency securities in order to eliminate the risks posed by continued margin calls and ongoing funding concerns associated with the significant spread widening on these assets. We also sold approximately one-third of our Agency RMBS during the first quarter in order to reduce risk and raise cash to establish a strong defensive liquidity position to weather potential ongoing economic and market instability. Throughout the remainder of 2020, we focused on the composition of our Agency RMBS and MSR portfolio, deploying risk as the market entered a period of stabilization and asset price recovery. Going forward, management expects our capital to be fully allocated to our strategy of pairing Agency RMBS and MSR.
Our Agency RMBS portfolio is comprised of adjustable rate and fixed rate mortgage-backed securities backed by single-family and multi-family mortgage loans. All of our principal and interest Agency RMBS are Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage pass-through certificates or collateralized mortgage obligations that carry an implied rating of “AAA,” or Ginnie Mae mortgage pass-through certificates, which are backed by the guarantee of the U.S. government. The majority of these securities consist of whole pools in which we own all of the investment interests in the securities.
One of our wholly owned subsidiaries holds the requisite approvals from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to own and manage MSR, which represent a contractual right to control the servicing of a mortgage loan, the obligation to service the loan in accordance with relevant standards and the right to collect a fee for the performance of servicing activities, such as collecting principal and interest from a borrower and distributing those payments to the owner of the loan. We do not directly service the mortgage loans underlying the MSR we acquire; rather, we contract with appropriately licensed third-party subservicers to handle substantially all servicing functions in the name of the subservicer for the loans underlying our MSR. As the servicer of record, however, we remain accountable to the GSEs for all servicing matters and, accordingly, provide substantial oversight of each of our subservicers.
We believe MSR are a natural fit for our portfolio over the long term. Our MSR business leverages our core competencies in prepayment and credit risk analytics and the MSR assets provide offsetting risk to our Agency RMBS, hedging both interest rate and mortgage spread risk. One of our goals is to create long-lasting relationships with high quality originators in order to facilitate our acquisition of MSR through both flow and bulk transactions.
In making our capital allocation decisions, we take into consideration a number of factors, including the opportunities available in the marketplace, the cost and availability of financing, and the cost of hedging interest rate, prepayment, credit and other portfolio risks. We have expertise in mortgage credit and may choose to invest again in those assets should the opportunity arise.
Our Investment Guidelines
Our board of directors has approved the following investment guidelines:
•no investment shall be made that would cause us to fail to qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes;
•no investment shall be made that would cause us to be regulated as an investment company under the 1940 Act;
•we will primarily invest within our target assets, consisting primarily of Agency RMBS, non-Agency securities, residential mortgage loans, MSR and commercial real estate assets, inclusive of commercial real estate loans, commercial real property, CMBS, commercial corporate debt and loans and other commercial real estate related investments in the U.S; approximately 5% to 10% of our portfolio may include other financial assets; and
•until appropriate investments can be identified, we will invest available cash in interest-bearing and short-term investments that are consistent with (i) our intention to qualify as a REIT and (ii) our exemption from investment company status under the 1940 Act.
These investment guidelines may be changed from time to time by our board of directors in its discretion without the approval of our stockholders.
Within the constraints of the foregoing investment guidelines, we have broad authority to select, finance and manage our investment portfolio. As a general matter, our investment strategy is designed to enable us to:
•build an investment portfolio consisting of Agency RMBS, non-Agency securities, MSR and other financial assets that will generate attractive returns while having a moderate risk profile;
•manage financing, interest, prepayment rate, credit and similar risks;
•capitalize on discrepancies in the relative valuations in the mortgage and housing markets; and
•provide regular quarterly dividend distributions to stockholders.
Within the requirements of the investment guidelines, we make determinations as to the percentage of our assets that will be invested in each of our target assets. Our investment decisions depend on prevailing market conditions and may change over time in response to opportunities available in different interest rate, economic and credit environments. As a result, we cannot predict the percentage of our assets that will be invested in any of our target asset classes at any given time. We believe that the diversification of our portfolio of assets and the flexibility of our strategy, combined with the expertise of our investment team, will enable us to achieve attractive risk-adjusted total return under a variety of market conditions and economic cycles.
We deploy moderate leverage to fund the acquisition of our target assets and increase potential returns to our stockholders. We are not required to maintain any particular leverage ratio. The amount of leverage we deploy for particular investments in our target assets depends upon a variety of factors, including without limitation: general economic, political and financial market conditions; the anticipated liquidity and price volatility of our assets; the gap between the duration of assets and liabilities, including hedges; the availability and cost of financing our assets; our opinion of the credit worthiness of financing counterparties; the health of the U.S. residential mortgage and housing markets; our outlook for the level, slope and volatility of interest rates; the credit quality of the loans underlying our Agency and non-Agency securities; the rating assigned to securities; and our outlook for asset spreads relative to the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, curve and benchmark rate curves.
Our primary financing sources for Agency RMBS are repurchase agreements. Repurchase agreements are financings pursuant to which one party, the seller/borrower, sells assets to the repurchase agreement counterparty, the buyer/lender, for an agreed price with the obligation to repurchase the assets from the buyer at a future date and at a price different than the original purchase price, with the difference representing the borrowing rate. The amount of financing available under a repurchase agreement is limited to a specified percentage of the estimated market value of the assets. The difference between the sale price and repurchase price is the interest expense of financing under a repurchase agreement. Under repurchase agreement financing arrangements, if the value of the collateral decreases, the buyer could require the seller to provide additional cash collateral to re-establish the ratio of value of the collateral to the amount of borrowing (i.e., a margin call). In the current economic climate, lenders under repurchase agreements generally advance approximately 90% to 97% of the market value of the Agency RMBS financed (a discount from market value, generally referred to as a haircut, of 3% to 10%).
To finance MSR assets and related servicing advance obligations, we may enter into repurchase agreements, revolving credit facilities and securitization transactions collateralized by the value of the MSR and/or servicing advances pledged. If the value of our MSR and/or servicing advances pledged as collateral for the agreements decreases, the respective lender could require us to provide additional collateral or cash as collateral to re-establish the ratio of value of the collateral to the amount of the debt outstanding. Due to certain GSE requirements, we may be restricted as to the frequency in which we are able to pledge additional MSR and/or servicing advance collateral to counterparties. As a result, we may choose to over-collateralize certain financing arrangements in order to avoid having to provide cash as additional collateral. Lenders generally advance approximately 65% to 70% of the market value of the MSR financed (i.e., a haircut of 30% to 35%) and 80% to 95% of the value of servicing advances financed (i.e., a haircut of 5% to 20%), depending on the type of advance (corporate, escrow, etc.).
During the year ended December 31, 2019, we formed a trust entity, or the MSR Issuer Trust, for the purpose of financing MSR through securitization. On June 27, 2019, we, through the MSR Issuer Trust, completed an MSR securitization transaction pursuant to which, through two of our wholly owned subsidiaries, MSR is pledged to the MSR Issuer Trust and in return, the MSR Issuer Trust issued (i) an aggregate principal amount of $400.0 million in term notes to qualified institutional buyers and (ii) a variable funding note, or VFN, with a maximum principal balance of $1.0 billion to one of the subsidiaries, in each case secured on a pari passu basis. The term notes bear interest at a rate equal to one-month LIBOR plus 2.80% per annum. The term notes will mature on June 25, 2024 or, if extended pursuant to the terms of the related indenture supplement, June 25, 2026 (unless earlier redeemed in accordance with their terms).
A significant decrease in the advance rate or an increase in the haircut could result in us having to sell assets in order to meet additional margin requirements by the lender. We expect to mitigate our risk of margin calls under financing arrangements by deploying leverage at an amount that is below what could be used under current advance rates.
In order to reduce our exposure to risks associated with lender counterparty concentration, we generally seek to diversify our exposure by entering into repurchase agreements with multiple counterparties. At December 31, 2020, we had $15.1 billion of outstanding balances under repurchase agreements with 20 counterparties, with a maximum net exposure (the difference between the amount loaned to us, including interest payable, and the value of the assets pledged by us as collateral, including accrued interest receivable on such assets) to any single lender of $98.1 million, or 3.2% of stockholders’ equity.
Through February 19, 2021, our wholly owned subsidiary, TH Insurance Holdings Company LLC, or TH Insurance, was a member of the FHLB. As a member of the FHLB, TH Insurance had access to a variety of products and services offered by the FHLB, including secured advances. Eligible collateral may include conventional 1-4 family residential loans, commercial real estate loans, Agency RMBS and non-Agency securities with a rating of A and above. We historically used FHLB advances to finance a portion of our Agency RMBS. Similar to repurchase agreements, if the value of our assets pledged to the FHLB as collateral for advances decreased, the FHLB could have required us to provide additional collateral to re-establish the ratio of value of the collateral to the amount of advances outstanding. The FHLB generally advances approximately 90% to 95% of the market value of the Agency RMBS financed (i.e., a haircut of 5% to 10%).
In January 2016, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA, released a final rule regarding membership in the Federal Home Loan Bank system. Among other effects, the ruling excludes captive insurers from membership eligibility, including our subsidiary member, TH Insurance. Since TH Insurance was admitted as a member in 2013, it was eligible for a membership grace period that ran through February 19, 2021, during which new advances or renewals that matured beyond the grace period were prohibited; however, any existing advances that matured beyond this grace period were permitted to remain in place subject to their terms insofar as we maintained good standing with the FHLB. Any new advances or renewals occurring during this time were limited to 40% of TH Insurance’s total assets. TH Insurance did not have any outstanding secured advances or credit capacity available as of December 31, 2020, and its FHLB membership expired on February 19, 2021.
Interest Rate Hedging and Risk Management Strategy
We may enter into a variety of derivative and non-derivative instruments to economically hedge interest rate risk or “duration mismatch (or gap)” by adjusting the duration of our floating-rate borrowings into fixed-rate borrowings to more closely match the duration of our assets. This particularly applies to borrowing agreements with maturities or interest rate resets of less than six months. Typically, the interest receivable terms (i.e., LIBOR or the OIS rate) of certain derivatives match the terms of the underlying debt, resulting in an effective conversion of the rate of the related borrowing agreement from floating to fixed. The objective is to manage the cash flows associated with current and anticipated interest payments on borrowings, as well as the ability to roll or refinance borrowings at the desired amount by adjusting the duration. To help manage the adverse impact of interest rate changes on the value of our portfolio as well as our cash flows, we may, at times, enter into various forward contracts, including short securities, Agency to-be-announced securities, or TBAs, options, futures, swaps, caps, credit default swaps and total return swaps. In executing on our current interest rate risk management strategy, we have entered into TBAs, interest rate swap and swaption agreements and U.S. Treasury futures. In addition, because MSR are negative duration assets, they provide a hedge to interest rate exposure on our Agency RMBS portfolio. In hedging interest rate risk, we seek to reduce the risk of losses on the value of our investments that may result from changes in interest rates in the broader markets, improve risk-adjusted returns and, where possible, obtain a favorable spread between the yield on our assets and the cost of our financing.
Through August 14, 2020, we were externally managed and advised by PRCM Advisers under the terms of a Management Agreement between us and PRCM Advisers. We terminated the Management Agreement effective August 14, 2020 for “cause” in accordance with Section 15(a) thereof. On August 15, 2020,we completed our transition to self-management and directly hired the senior management team and other personnel who had historically provided services to us.
Prior to the termination of the Management Agreement, PRCM Advisers was responsible for administering our business activities and day-to-day operations, at all times subject to the supervision and oversight of our board of directors. Under the Management Agreement, PRCM Advisers was required to provide us with our personnel, including our executive officers, investment professionals and other support personnel. We did not have our own employees. Each of our executive officers was an employee or partner of an affiliate of PRCM Advisers. We paid PRCM Advisers a management fee equal to 1.5% per annum, calculated and payable quarterly in arrears, of our stockholders’ equity, and reimbursed it for certain expenses, as described below.
For purposes of calculating the management fee, our stockholders’ equity represented the sum of the net proceeds from all issuances of our equity securities since inception (allocated on a pro rata daily basis for such issuances during the fiscal quarter of any such issuance), plus retained earnings at the end of the most recently completed calendar quarter (without taking into account any non-cash equity compensation expense incurred in current or prior periods), less the consolidated stockholders’ equity of Granite Point Mortgage Trust Inc. and its subsidiaries, or Granite Point, during the time Granite Point was consolidated on our balance sheet (i.e., prior to our distribution of shares of Granite Point common stock to Two Harbors common stockholders in 2017), the weighted average cost basis of Granite Point common stock purchased by us, the outstanding principal balance of the promissory note due from the sale of Granite Point preferred stock and any amount that we have paid for repurchases of our common stock since inception, and excluding any unrealized gains, losses or other items that do not affect realized net income (regardless of whether such items are included in other comprehensive income or loss, or in net income). In connection with our acquisition of CYS Investments, Inc., or CYS, effective July 31, 2018, the Management Agreement was amended to reduce the base management fee with respect to the additional equity under management resulting from the merger from 1.5% to 0.75% from the effective time of the merger through the first anniversary of the effective time. Effective July 31, 2019, the management fee reduction on the equity acquired in the CYS transaction expired. The base management fee was subject to other adjustments from time to time, as described in the Management Agreement.
Additionally, prior to the termination of the Management Agreement, we reimbursed PRCM Advisers for (i) our allocable share of the compensation paid by PRCM Advisers to its personnel serving as our principal financial officer and general counsel and personnel employed by PRCM Advisers as in-house legal, tax, accounting, consulting, auditing, administrative, information technology, valuation, computer programming and development and back-office resources to us, (ii) any amounts for personnel of PRCM Advisers’ affiliates arising under a shared facilities and services agreement, and (iii) certain costs allocated to us by PRCM Advisers for data services and technology. In accordance with the Management Agreement, expense reimbursements to PRCM Advisers were required to be made in cash on a quarterly basis following the end of each quarter.
Subsequent to the transition to self-management, we no longer pay a management fee to, or reimburse the expenses of, PRCM Advisers. Expenses for which we previously reimbursed PRCM Advisers are now paid directly by us. We are also now responsible for the cash compensation and employee benefits of our Chief Executive Officer, Chief Investment Officer and investment professionals, which were previously the responsibility of PRCM Advisers. Prior to the termination of the Management Agreement, we were only responsible for the equity compensation paid to such individuals.
We believe that our people are the foundation of our success. We are committed to attracting and retaining the industry’s top talent by providing competitive wages and benefits and cultivating a workplace environment in which all of our employees can thrive and contribute. As of December 31, 2020, we had 109 full time equivalent employees based out of our three office locations in Minneapolis, Minnesota; New York, New York; and Naples, Florida.
Compensation and Benefits. We use market data to benchmark and guide our compensation practices to ensure that our compensation program is competitive and rewarding, while at the same time aligning the interests of our employees with those of our stockholders. In addition to competitive wages and salaries, our compensation programs include cash bonus and equity incentive compensation opportunities, a 401(k) plan and profit sharing contribution, employer-paid health benefits, health savings and dependent care flexible spending accounts, generous paid time off, short- and long-term disability insurance, a variety of personal and family leave options, life-planning financial and legal resources, and other voluntary supplemental benefits.
Professional Development. We encourage the professional development of our people through regular leadership development training, talent management, and tuition reimbursement programs. We also offer a wide variety of educational opportunities through our educational platforms, Two Harbors University and a learning management system platform. We encourage collaboration and teamwork to ensure mutual understanding of responsibilities, priorities and expectations. We thoughtfully plan for our collective success by aligning individual employee and company goals.
Health, Safety and Well-being. We sponsor a number of programs and events that emphasize the health and well-being of our employees, including relational, financial, emotional and physical. We promote a culture of health and well-being through employee assistance program services, comprehensive health care benefits and resources for preventative health, such as flu shot clinics and reduced-fee health club memberships. Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have put the health and safety of our employees and their families first, supporting comprehensive work-from-home policies, as well as enhanced safety measures and precautions in each of our offices as recommended by the federal, state and our local agencies for employees who carry out essential on-site work.
Workplace Culture. We strive to foster a workplace culture where every individual on our team brings their unique perspectives, abilities and experiences which contribute to driving our organizational value. We are committed to supporting the engagement and leadership of women (who comprise 50% of our senior management team and approximately 40% of our workforce) and providing opportunities for collaboration, development and career growth. We conduct an annual pulse survey which provide valuable insights from employees on topics involving culture, education, benefits and engagement, and pride ourselves on having a greater than 75% participation rate. We also offer a flexible work environment, providing employees the opportunity to balance their professional obligations with that of their personal.
Charitable Partnerships. We are committed to strengthening our local communities through the support of charitable organizations allied with the housing sector, and in particular those that provide housing support to families and children in need. Examples of our support include partnerships with AEON, Simpson Housing and Habitat for Humanity. In addition, we match dollar-for-dollar the cash donations made by our employees to our charitable partnerships.
Operating and Regulatory Structure
Our business is subject to extensive regulation by U.S. federal and state governmental authorities, and self-regulatory organizations. We are required to comply with numerous federal and state laws, including those described below. The laws, rules and regulations comprising this regulatory framework change frequently, as can the interpretation and enforcement of existing laws, rules and regulations. Some of the laws, rules and regulations to which we are subject are intended primarily to safeguard and protect consumers, rather than stockholders or creditors. From time to time, we may receive requests from U.S. federal and state agencies for records, documents and information regarding our policies, procedures and practices regarding our business activities. We incur significant ongoing costs to comply with these regulations.
We elected to be taxed as a REIT under the Code, commencing with our taxable period ended December 31, 2009. Our qualification as a REIT depends upon our ability to meet on a continuing basis, through actual investment and operating results, various complex requirements under the Code relating to, among other things, the sources of our gross income, the composition and value of our assets, our distribution levels and the diversity of ownership of our shares. We believe that we are organized in conformity with the requirements for qualification and taxation as a REIT under the Code, and we conduct our operations in a manner which will enable us to continue to meet the requirements for qualification and taxation as a REIT. Certain activities that we may perform may cause us to earn income that will not be qualifying income for REIT purposes. We have designated certain of our subsidiaries as TRSs to engage in such activities, and we may in the future form additional TRSs.
As long as we continue to qualify as a REIT, we generally will not be subject to U.S. federal income tax on the REIT taxable income we distribute currently 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 U.S. federal income tax at regular corporate rates and may be precluded from qualifying as a REIT for the subsequent four taxable years following the year during which we lost our REIT qualification. Even if we qualify for taxation as a REIT, we may be subject to certain U.S. federal, state and local taxes on our income or property.
Investment Company Act of 1940
We conduct our operations so that we are not required to register as an investment company under the 1940 Act. If we were to fall within the definition of an 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, are U.S. government securities 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 are organized as a holding company that conducts business primarily through our subsidiaries. Any business conducted through our subsidiaries will be conducted in such a manner as to ensure that we do not meet the definition of “investment company” because less than 40% of the value of our total assets on an unconsolidated basis would consist of “investment securities.”
To avoid registration as an investment company, certain of our subsidiaries rely on certain exemptions from the 1940 Act, including Section 3(c)(5)(C), which exempts entities that are “primarily engaged in the business of purchasing or otherwise acquiring mortgages and other liens on and interests in real estate.” Under the SEC staff’s current guidance, to qualify for this exemption, we must maintain (i) at least 55% of our assets in qualifying interests (referred to as the 55% Test) and (ii) at least 80% of our assets in qualifying interest plus other real estate related assets (referred to as the 80% Test). Qualifying interests for this purpose include mortgage loans and other assets, such as whole pool Agency and non-Agency RMBS, which are considered the functional equivalent of mortgage loans for the purposes of the 1940 Act. We expect each of our subsidiaries relying on Section 3(c)(5)(C) to invest at least 55% of its assets in qualifying interests in accordance with SEC staff guidance, and an additional 25% of its assets in either qualifying interests or other types of real estate related assets that do not constitute qualifying interests. We believe that we conduct our business so that we are exempt from the 1940 Act under Section 3(c)(5)(C), but rapid changes in the values of our assets could disrupt prior efforts to conduct our business to meet the 55% Test and the 80% Test. Our efforts to comply with the 55% Test and the 80% Test could require us to acquire or dispose of certain assets at unfavorable prices and limit our ability to pursue certain investment opportunities.
Mortgage Industry Regulation
Although we do not originate or service residential mortgage loans, we must comply with various federal and state laws, rules and regulations as a result of owning MSR. These rules generally focus on consumer protection and include, among others, rules promulgated under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or the Dodd-Frank Act, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Modernization Act of 1999, or the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. We are also required to maintain qualifications, registrations and licenses in certain states in order to own certain of our assets. These requirements can and do change as statutes and regulations are enacted, promulgated or amended, or as regulatory guidance or interpretations evolve or change, and the trend in recent years among federal and state lawmakers and regulators has been toward increasing laws, regulations and investigative proceedings in relation to the mortgage industry generally.
The Dodd-Frank Act significantly changed the regulation of financial institutions and the financial services industry, including the mortgage industry. The Dodd-Frank Act tasked many agencies with issuing a variety of new regulations, including rules related to mortgage origination, mortgage servicing, securitization transactions and derivatives. The Dodd-Frank Act also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the CFPB, which has broad rulemaking authority with respect to many of the federal consumer protection laws applicable to the mortgage industry. In addition to its rulemaking authority, the CFPB has supervision, examination and enforcement authority over consumer financial products and services by certain non-depository institutions, including our company. The CFPB has issued a series of rules as part of ongoing efforts to effect reforms and create uniform standards for the mortgage lending and servicing industries. These mortgage lending rules include requirements addressing how lenders must evaluate a consumer’s ability to repay a mortgage loan and what specific disclosures and communications must be made to consumers at various stages in the mortgage lending process. These rules have led to increased costs to originate and service loans across the mortgage industry, and given their complexity, it is anticipated the originators, servicers and other mortgage industry participants will be exposed to greater regulatory scrutiny from federal and state regulators and increased litigation and complaints from both consumers and government officials.
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act imposes obligations on us to safeguard the information we maintain on mortgage loan borrowers, requires that we provide mortgage borrowers with notices describing how we collect, use and share their personal information, and allows mortgage borrowers to “opt-out” of sharing certain information with third parties and affiliates. In addition, certain states have passed a variety of laws to further protect borrower information, including laws that regulate the use and storage of personally identifiable information, require notifications to borrowers if the security of their personal information is breached, or require us to encrypt personal information when it is transmitted electronically. These federal and state laws require ongoing review and changes to our operations, increased compliance costs, and affect our ability to use and share information with third parties.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) was signed into law in March 2020. The CARES Act has provided billions of dollars of relief to individuals, businesses, state and local governments, and the health care system suffering the impact of the pandemic, including mortgage loan forbearance and modification programs to qualifying borrowers who have difficulty making their loan payments. One provision of the CARES Act provides up to 360 days of forbearance relief from mortgage loan payments for borrowers with federally backed (e.g.Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac) mortgages who experience financial hardship related to the pandemic. Subsequently, in February 2021, the FHFA announced extensions to the foreclosure moratorium and forbearance periods for borrowers with Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgages, and the Biden administration announced similar foreclosure moratorium and forbearance extensions for borrowers with Federal Housing Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture or U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mortgages. The CARES Act impacts MSR owners, like us, that are required for certain MSR assets to advance principal, interest, taxes and insurance payments during the time when borrowers are in forbearance or while foreclosure moratorium is in effect. During any period of forbearance granted pursuant to the CARES Act, mortgage servicers are also required to provide other relief to borrowers, including, but not limited to, suspending late fees and ceasing foreclosure and eviction activity.
We have implemented and will continue to implement policies and procedures in order to ensure ongoing compliance with the laws, rules and regulations applicable to our business. We have incurred and expect to incur ongoing operational costs to comply with such laws, rules and regulations.
Our comprehensive income depends, in large part, on our ability to acquire assets at favorable spreads over our borrowing costs. In acquiring our target assets, we compete with other REITs, specialty finance companies, savings and loan associations, banks, mortgage bankers, insurance companies, mutual funds, institutional investors, investment banking firms, financial institutions, governmental agencies, mortgage loan servicers, asset management firms and other entities. Some of these entities may not be subject to the same regulatory constraints that we are (e.g., REIT compliance or maintaining an exemption under the 1940 Act). Many of our competitors are significantly larger than us, have access to greater capital and other resources and may have other advantages over us. In addition, some of our competitors may have higher risk tolerances or different risk assessments, which could allow them to consider a wider variety of investments and establish different counterparty relationships than us. Further, we may from time to time face competition from government agencies in connection with initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy or the mortgage market. Market conditions may from time to time attract more competitors for certain of our target assets, which will not only affect the supply of assets but may also increase the competition for sources of financing for these assets. An increase in the competition for sources of funding could adversely affect the availability and cost of financing, and thereby adversely affect our financial results.
Our website can be found at www.twoharborsinvestment.com. We make available, free of charge on our website (on the Investors page under the “Financials” and “SEC Filings” tabs), our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and any amendments to those reports, as are filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act, as well as our proxy statement with respect to our annual meeting of stockholders, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. Our Exchange Act reports filed with, or furnished to, the SEC are also available at the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. The content of any website referred to in this Annual Report on Form 10-K is not incorporated by reference into this Form 10-K unless expressly noted.
We also make available, free of charge, the charters for our Audit Committee, Compensation Committee, Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and Risk Oversight Committee, as well as our Corporate Governance Guidelines, Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, Whistleblowing Procedures and Stockholder Communication Policy. Within the time period required by the SEC and the NYSE, we will post on our website any amendment to the Code of Ethics and any waiver applicable to any executive officer, director or senior officer (as defined in the Code of Ethics).
Our Investor Relations Department can be contacted at:
Two Harbors Investment Corp.
Attn: Investor Relations
601 Carlson Parkway, Suite 1400
Minnetonka, MN 55305
Item 1A. Risk Factors
The following is a summary of the significant risk factors known to us that we believe could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition to understanding the key risks described below, investors should understand that it is not possible to predict or identify all risk factors and, consequently, the following is not a complete discussion of all potential risks or uncertainties.
Risks Related to Our Business and Operations
Difficult conditions in the residential mortgage and real estate markets, the financial markets and the economy generally may adversely impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our results of operations are materially affected by conditions in the residential mortgage and real estate markets, the financial markets and the economy generally. In past years, concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment, the availability and cost of credit, rising government debt levels, inflation, energy costs, global economic lethargy, geopolitical unrest across various regions worldwide, European sovereign debt issues, U.S. budget debates, federal government shutdowns and international trade disputes, have from time to time contributed to increased volatility and uncertainty in the economy and financial markets. Adverse developments with respect to any of these market conditions may have an impact on new demand for homes, which may compress the home ownership rates and weigh heavily on future home price performance. There is a strong correlation between home price growth rates (or losses) and mortgage loan delinquencies. Any stagnation in or deterioration of the residential mortgage or real estate markets may limit our ability to acquire our target assets on attractive terms or cause us to experience losses related to our assets.
The COVID-19 pandemic and government actions to mitigate its spread and economic impact could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to the U.S. and global economies and has contributed to volatility and negative pressure in financial markets. The impact of the pandemic and measures by governments and other authorities around the world to prevent its spread have negatively impacted and could further negatively impact our business. In March 2020, we sold approximately one-third of our Agency RMBS in order to reduce risk and raise cash to establish a strong defensive liquidity position to weather pandemic-driven economic and market instability. In addition, the economic impacts of the pandemic resulted in elevated delinquency levels among mortgage loan borrowers during 2020. While financial markets and mortgage delinquency levels have largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the losses incurred in connection with our non-Agency portfolio are expected to have a long-term impact on our book value and it is possible that, in the event pandemic conditions worsen, mortgage loan borrower delinquency levels could again rise, adversely impacting the value of our RMBS and MSR assets and increasing the cost to service our MSR assets.
In response to the pandemic, the U.S. government has taken various actions to support the economy and the continued functioning of the financial markets. In 2020, the Federal Reserve committed to purchase unlimited amounts of U.S. Treasuries, mortgage-backed securities, municipal bonds and other assets. In addition, the CARES Act provided billions of dollars of relief to individuals, businesses, state and local governments, and the health care system suffering the impact of the pandemic, including mortgage loan forbearance and modification programs to qualifying borrowers who have difficulty making their loan payments. The CARES Act and other executive, legislative and regulatory actions taken in response to the pandemic have created new, complex and rapidly evolving servicing compliance obligations impacting both our business and the businesses of our subservicers. There can be no assurance as to how, in the long term, these or any future actions by the U.S. government will affect our business or the efficiency, liquidity and stability of the financial and mortgage markets.
We have implemented policies and systems that enable our employees to work effectively from home; however, no assurance can be given that the steps we have taken will continue to be effective. While our employees have to date been able to continue conducting business in the ordinary course while working remotely, operational challenges may arise in the future, which may reduce our organizational efficiency or effectiveness, and increase operational, compliance and cybersecurity risks.
Our business model depends in part upon the continuing viability of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or similar institutions, and any changes to their structure or creditworthiness could have an adverse impact on us.
We purchase Agency RMBS that are protected from the risk of default on the underlying mortgages by guarantees from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or, in the case of the Ginnie Mae, the U.S. government. In 2008, the U.S. government and U.S. Treasury undertook a series of actions designed to stabilize these GSEs, including placing them into a federal conservatorship. In December 2009, the U.S. government committed virtually unlimited capital to ensure the continued existence of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. There is no assurance that such capital will continue to be available or that the GSEs will honor their guarantees or other obligations. If these GSEs fail to honor their guarantees, the value of any Agency RMBS that we hold would decline.
The continued flow of residential mortgage-backed securities from the GSEs is essential to the operation of the mortgage markets in their current form, and crucial to our business model. Although any reform would likely take several years to implement, if the structure of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac were altered, or if they were eliminated altogether, the amount and type of Agency RMBS and other mortgage-related assets available for investment would be significantly affected. A reduction in supply of Agency RMBS and other mortgage-related assets would result in increased competition for those assets and likely lead to a significant increase in the price for our target assets.
A number of legislative proposals have been introduced in recent years that would phase out or reform the GSEs. It is not possible to predict the scope and nature of the actions that the U.S. government will ultimately take with respect to the GSEs. As a result, market uncertainty with respect to the treatment of the GSEs could have the effect of reducing the actual or perceived quality of, and therefore the market value for, the Agency RMBS that we currently hold in our portfolio.
We operate in a highly regulated environment and may be adversely affected by changes in federal and state laws and regulations.
We operate in a highly regulated environment and are subject to the rules, regulations, approvals, licensing, reporting and examination requirements of various federal and state authorities. Any change in applicable federal or state laws, rules and regulations, or the interpretation or enforcement thereof, could have a substantial impact on our assets, operating expenses, business strategies and results of operations. Our inability or failure to comply with the rules, regulations or reporting requirements, to obtain or maintain approvals and licenses applicable to our businesses, or to satisfy annual or periodic examinations may impact our ability to do business and expose us to fines, penalties or other claims and, as a result, could harm our business.
Federal and state regulation of the mortgage industry is complex and constantly evolving, and any further changes to applicable laws and regulations, including those adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, may adversely impact our business.
Although we do not originate or service residential mortgage loans, we must comply with various federal and state laws, rules and regulations as a result of owning MSR. These rules include, among others, the Dodd-Frank Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the recently adopted CARES Act. We are also required to maintain qualifications, registrations and licenses in certain states in order to own certain of our assets. These requirements can and do change as statutes and regulations are enacted, promulgated or amended, or as regulatory guidance or interpretations evolve or change.
The Dodd-Frank Act and its implementing regulations, as well as other federal and state rules and regulations impacting mortgage servicing, combine to create a complex and constantly evolving regulatory environment, and the failure by us, or our subservicers, to comply with these requirements may results in fines or the suspension or revocation of the qualifications, registrations and licenses necessary to operate as an owner of MSR. New or modified regulations at the federal or state level to address concerns on a variety of fronts, including impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, fair and equitable access to housing and data privacy and security concerns, could increase our operational expenses or otherwise enhance regulatory supervision and enforcement efforts. The potential for continued cooperation between federal and state regulators could also contribute to increased industry scrutiny.
We expect to continue to incur the operational and system costs necessary to maintain processes to ensure our compliance with applicable rules and regulations as well as to monitor compliance by our business partners. Additional rules and regulations implemented by the CFPB and state regulators, as well as any changes to existing rules, could lead to changes in the way we conduct our business and increased costs of compliance.
We operate in a highly competitive market and we may not be able to compete successfully.
We operate in a highly competitive market. Our profitability depends, in large part, on our ability to acquire a sufficient supply of our target assets at favorable prices. In acquiring assets, we compete with a variety of investors, including other mortgage REITs, specialty finance companies, public and private investment funds, asset managers, commercial and investment banks, broker-dealers, commercial finance and insurance companies, the GSEs, mortgage servicers and other financial institutions. In addition, the Federal Reserve has in the past committed to purchase unlimited amounts of Agency RMBS and other assets in order to stabilize the financial markets. Many of our competitors are substantially larger and have greater financial, technical, marketing and other resources than we do. Competition for our target assets may lead to the price of such assets increasing and their availability decreasing, which may limit our ability to generate desired returns, reduce our earnings and, in turn, decrease the cash available for distribution to our stockholders.
Our executive officers and other key employees are critical to our success and the loss of any executive officer or key employee may materially adversely affect our business.
We operate in a highly specialized industry and our success is dependent upon the efforts, experience, diligence, skill and network of business contacts of our executive officers and key employees. The departure of any of our executive officers and/or key employees could have a material adverse effect on our operations and performance.
We may change any of our strategies, policies or procedures without stockholder consent.
We may change any of our strategies, policies or procedures with respect to investments, asset allocation, growth, operations, indebtedness, financing strategy and distributions at any time without the consent of stockholders. Changes in strategy could also result in the elimination of certain investments and business activities that we no longer view as attractive or in alignment with our business model. Shifts in strategy may increase our exposure to credit risk, interest rate risk, financing risk, default risk, regulatory risk and real estate market fluctuations. We also cannot assure you that we will be able to effectively execute or to realize the potential benefits of changes in strategy. Any such changes could adversely affect our financial condition, risk profile, results of operations, the market price of our common stock and our ability to make distributions to stockholders.
Our risk management policies and procedures may not be effective.
We have established and maintain risk management policies and procedures designed to identify, monitor and mitigate financial risks, such as credit risk, interest rate risk, prepayment risk and liquidity risk, as well as operational and compliance risks related to our business, assets and liabilities. These policies and procedures may not sufficiently identify all of the risks to which we are or may become exposed or mitigate the risks we have identified. Any expansion of our business activities may result in our being exposed to risks to which we have not previously been exposed or may increase our exposure to certain types of risks. Alternatively, any narrowing of our business activities may increase the concentration of our exposure to certain types of risk. Any failure to effectively identify and mitigate the risks to which we are exposed could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Maintaining our exemptions from registration as an investment company under the 1940 Act imposes limits on our operations.
We intend to conduct our operations so as not to become required to register as an investment company under the 1940 Act. 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. We are organized as a holding company that conducts its businesses primarily through our subsidiaries. We intend to conduct the operations of Two Harbors and its subsidiaries so that they do not come within the definition of an investment company, either because less than 40% of the value of their total assets on an unconsolidated basis will consist of “investment securities” or because they meet certain other exceptions or exemptions set forth in the 1940 Act based on the nature of their business purpose and activities, such as the Rule 3a-7 structured finance exemption for issuers of asset-backed securities or the Section 3(c)(3) exemption for insurance companies.
Certain of our subsidiaries intend to rely upon the exemption set forth in Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the 1940 Act, which is available for entities “primarily engaged in the business of purchasing or otherwise acquiring mortgages and other liens on and interests in real estate.” This exemption generally means that at least 55% of each such subsidiary’s portfolio must be comprised of qualifying assets and at least 80% of its portfolio must be comprised of qualifying assets and real estate-related assets under the 1940 Act. Qualifying assets for this purpose include mortgage loans and other assets, such as whole pool Agency and non-Agency RMBS, which are considered the functional equivalent of mortgage loans for the purposes of the 1940 Act. We expect each of our subsidiaries relying on Section 3(c)(5)(C) to invest at least 55% of its assets in whole pool Agency RMBS and other interests in real estate that constitute qualifying assets in accordance with SEC staff guidance and an additional 25% of its assets in either qualifying assets and other types of real estate related assets that do not constitute qualifying assets.
As a result of the foregoing restrictions, we are limited in our ability to make or dispose of certain investments. To the extent the SEC publishes new or different guidance with respect to these matters, we may be required to adjust our strategy accordingly. Although we monitor the portfolios of our subsidiaries relying on the Section 3(c)(5)(C) exemption periodically and prior to each acquisition or disposition of assets, there can be no assurance that such subsidiaries will be able to maintain this exemption.
Loss of our 1940 Act exemptions would adversely affect us, the market price of shares of our common stock and our ability to distribute dividends, and could result in the termination of certain of our financing or other agreements.
As described above, we intend to conduct operations so that we are not required to register as an investment company under the 1940 Act. Although we monitor our portfolio and our activities periodically, there can be no assurance that we will be able to maintain our exemption from investment company registration under the 1940 Act. Although we believe that we are properly relying on Section 3(c)(5)(C) to exempt us from regulation under the 1940 Act, any modifications to the 1940 Act exemption rules or interpretations may require us to change our business and operations in order for us to continue to rely on such exemption. If we were no longer able to qualify for exemptions from registration under the 1940 Act, we could be required to restructure our activities or the activities of our subsidiaries, 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 common stock, the sustainability of our business model, and our ability to make distributions. Such sales could occur during adverse market conditions, and we could be forced to accept prices below that which we believe are appropriate. The loss of our 1940 Act exemptions may also result in a default under or permit certain of our counterparties to terminate the many repurchase agreements, financing facilities or other agreements we have in place.
The lack of liquidity of our assets may adversely affect our business, including our ability to value, finance and sell our assets.
We have and may in the future acquire assets or other instruments with limited or no liquidity, including securities, MSR and other instruments that are not publicly traded. Market conditions could also significantly and negatively affect the liquidity of our assets. It may be difficult or impossible to obtain third-party pricing on such illiquid assets and validating third-party pricing for illiquid assets may be more subjective than more liquid assets. Illiquid assets typically experience greater price volatility, as a ready market may not exist for such assets, and such assets can be more difficult to value.
Any illiquidity in our assets may make it difficult for us to sell such assets if the need or desire arises. The ability to quickly sell certain of our target assets, such as certain securities and MSR, may be constrained by a number of factors, including a small number of willing buyers, lack of transparency as to current market terms and price, and time delays resulting from the buyer’s desire to conduct due diligence on the assets, negotiation of a purchase and sale agreement, compliance with any applicable contractual or regulatory requirements, and for certain assets like MSR, operational and compliance considerations. Consequently, even if we identify a buyer for certain of our securities and MSR, there is no assurance that we would be able to sell such assets in a timely manner if the need or desire arises.
Assets that are illiquid are typically more difficult and costly to finance. As a result, we may be required to finance the assets at unattractive rates or hold them on our balance sheet without the use of leverage. Assets tend to become less liquid during times of financial stress, which is often the time that liquidity is most needed. To the extent that we use leverage to finance assets that later become illiquid, we may lose that leverage if the financing counterparty determines that the collateral is no longer sufficient to secure the financing, or the counterparty could reduce the amount of money that it is willing to lend against the asset.
We use leverage in executing our business strategy, which may adversely affect the return on our assets and may reduce cash available for distribution to our stockholders, as well as increase losses when economic conditions are unfavorable.
We use leverage to finance many of our investments and to enhance our financial returns. Through the use of leverage, we may acquire positions with market exposure significantly greater than the amount of capital committed to the transaction. It is not uncommon for investors in Agency RMBS to obtain leverage equal to ten or more times equity through the use of repurchase agreement financing. Subject to market conditions, we anticipate that we may deploy, on a debt-to-equity basis, up to ten times leverage on our Agency RMBS; however, there is no specific limit on the amount of leverage that we may use.
Leverage will magnify both the gains and the losses of our positions. Leverage will increase our returns as long as we earn a greater return on investments purchased with borrowed funds than our cost of borrowing such funds. However, if we use leverage to acquire an asset and the value of the asset decreases, the leverage will increase our losses. Even if the asset increases in value, if the asset fails to earn a return that equals or exceeds our cost of borrowing, the leverage will decrease our returns.
We may be required to post large amounts of cash as collateral or margin to secure our leveraged positions, including on our MSR financing facilities. In the event of a sudden, precipitous drop in value of our financed assets, we might not be able to liquidate assets quickly enough to repay our borrowings, further magnifying losses. Even a small decrease in the value of a leveraged asset may require us to post additional margin or cash collateral. This may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations and decrease the cash available to us for distributions to stockholders.
We depend on repurchase agreements and other credit facilities to execute our business plan and any limitation on our ability to access funding through these sources could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and business.
Our ability to purchase and hold assets is affected by our ability to secure repurchase agreements and other credit facilities on acceptable terms. We currently have repurchase agreements, revolving credit facilities and other credit facilities in place with numerous counterparties, but we can provide no assurance that lenders will continue to provide us with sufficient financing through the repurchase markets or otherwise. In addition, with respect to MSR financing, there can be no assurance that the GSEs will consent to such transactions or consent on terms consistent with prior MSR financing transactions. Because repurchase agreements and similar credit facilities are generally short-term commitments of capital, changing conditions in the financing markets may make it more difficult for us to secure continued financing during times of market stress.
Our ability to efficiently access financing through our repurchase agreements or otherwise may be adversely impacted by counterparty requirements regarding the type of assets that may be sold and the timing and process for such sales. Counterparty review and approval processes may delay the timing in which funding may be provided, or preclude funding altogether. For MSR, delays may also occur due to the need to obtain GSE approval of the collateral to be posted, the need for third-party valuations of the MSR collateral or the agreement of the relevant subservicers to be party to the financing agreement. Our lenders also may revise their eligibility requirements for the types of assets they are willing to finance or the terms of such financings, based on, among other factors, the regulatory environment and their management of perceived risk.
Changes in the financing markets could adversely affect the marketability of the assets in which we invest, and this could negatively affect the value of our assets. If our lenders are unwilling or unable to provide us with financing, or if the financing is only available on terms that are uneconomical or otherwise not satisfactory to us, we could be forced to sell assets when prices are depressed. The amount of financing we receive under our repurchase agreements, revolving credit facilities or other credit facilities will be directly related to the lenders’ valuation of the assets that secure the outstanding borrowings. If a lender determines that the value of the assets has decreased, it typically has the right to initiate a margin call, requiring us to transfer additional assets to such lender or repay a portion of the outstanding borrowings. We may be forced to sell assets at significantly depressed prices to meet margin calls and to maintain adequate liquidity, which could cause us to incur losses. Moreover, to the extent that we are forced to sell assets because of the availability of financing or changes in market conditions, other market participants may face similar pressures, which could exacerbate a difficult market environment and result in significantly greater losses on the sale of such assets. In an extreme case of market duress, a market may not exist for certain of our assets at any price.
Although we generally seek to reduce our exposure to lender concentration-related risk by entering into financing relationships with multiple counterparties, we are not required to observe specific diversification criteria, except as may be set forth in the investment guidelines adopted by our board of directors. To the extent that the number of or net exposure under our lending arrangements may become concentrated with one or more lenders, the adverse impacts of defaults or terminations by such lenders may be significantly greater.
Our inability to meet certain financial covenants related to our repurchase agreements, revolving credit facilities or other credit facilities could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
In connection with certain of our repurchase agreements, revolving credit facilities and other credit facilities, we are required to comply with certain financial covenants, the most restrictive of which are disclosed within Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Conditions and Results of Operations” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Compliance with these financial covenants will depend on market factors and the strength of our business and operating results. Failure to comply with our financial covenants could result in an event of default, termination of the lending facility, acceleration of all amounts owing under the lending facility, and may give the counterparty the right to exercise certain other remedies under the lending agreement, including without limitation the sale of the asset subject to repurchase at the time of default, unless we were able to negotiate a waiver. In addition, we may be subject to cross-default provisions under certain financing facilities that could cause an event of default under such financing facilities to be triggered by events of default under other financing arrangements.
If a counterparty to a repurchase agreement defaults on its obligation to resell the underlying security back to us at the end of the purchase agreement term, or if we default on our obligations under the repurchase agreement, we may incur losses.
When we enter into repurchase agreements, we sell the assets to lenders and receive cash from the lenders. The lenders are obligated to resell the same assets back to us at the end of the term of the repurchase agreement. Because the cash that we receive from the lender when we initially sell the assets to the lender is less than the value of those assets (the difference being the “haircut”), if the lender defaults on its obligation to resell the same assets back to us, we would incur a loss on the repurchase agreement equal to the amount of the haircut (assuming there was no change in the value of the securities). Further, if we default on our obligations under a repurchase agreement, the lender will be able to terminate the repurchase agreement and may cease entering into any other repurchase agreements with us. If a default occurs under any of our repurchase agreements and a lender terminates one or more of its repurchase agreements, we may need to enter into replacement repurchase agreements with different lenders. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in entering into such replacement repurchase agreements on the same terms as the repurchase agreements that were terminated or at all.
Our rights under our repurchase agreements are subject to the effects of bankruptcy laws in the event of the bankruptcy or insolvency of us or our lenders under the repurchase agreements.
In the event of our insolvency or bankruptcy, certain repurchase agreements may qualify for special treatment under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the effect of which, among other things, would be to allow the lender under the applicable repurchase agreement to avoid the automatic stay provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and to foreclose on the collateral agreement without delay. In the event of the insolvency or bankruptcy of a lender during the term of a repurchase agreement, the lender may be permitted, under applicable insolvency laws, to repudiate the contract, and our claim against the lender for damages may be treated simply as an unsecured creditor. In addition, if the lender is a broker or dealer subject to the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970, or an insured depository institution subject to the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, our ability to exercise our rights to recover our assets under a repurchase agreement or to be compensated for any damages resulting from the lender's insolvency may be further limited by those statutes. These claims would be subject to significant delay and, if and when received, may be substantially less than the damages we actually incur.
The impairment or negative performance of other financial institutions could adversely affect us.
We have exposure to and routinely execute transactions with numerous counterparties in the financial services industry, including broker-dealers, commercial banks, investment banks, investment funds and other institutions. The operations of U.S. and global financial services institutions are highly interconnected and a decline in the financial condition of one or more financial services institutions may expose us to credit losses or defaults, limit our access to liquidity or otherwise disrupt the operation of our businesses. While we regularly assess our exposure to different counterparties, the performance and financial strength of specific institutions are subject to rapid change, the timing and extent of which cannot be known.
We may not have the ability to raise funds necessary to pay principal amounts owed upon maturity of our outstanding convertible senior notes or to purchase such notes upon a fundamental change.
We have issued and outstanding approximately $143 million aggregate principal amount of 6.25% convertible senior notes due January 2022 and $287.5 million aggregate principal amount of 6.25% convertible senior notes due January 2026. To the extent these notes are not converted by the noteholders prior to their maturity date, we will be obligated to repay the principal amount of all outstanding notes upon maturity. In addition, if a fundamental change occurs (as described in the supplemental indentures governing the notes), noteholders have the right to require us to purchase for cash any or all of their notes. We may not have sufficient funds available at the time we are required to repay principal amounts or to purchase the notes upon a fundamental change, and we may not be able to arrange necessary financing for such payments on acceptable terms, if at all.
An increase in our borrowing costs relative to the interest that we receive on our leveraged assets may adversely affect our profitability.
As our repurchase agreements and other short-term borrowings mature, we must enter into new borrowings, find other sources of liquidity or sell assets. An increase in short-term interest rates at the time that we seek to enter into new borrowings would reduce the spread between the returns on our assets and the cost of our borrowings. This would adversely affect the returns on our assets, which might reduce earnings and, in turn, cash available for distribution to stockholders.
We are highly dependent on information technology and security breaches or systems failures could disrupt our business.
Our business is highly dependent on information technology. In the ordinary course of our business, we may store sensitive data, including our proprietary business information and that of our business partners, and personally identifiable information of mortgage borrowers, on our networks. The secure maintenance and transmission of this information is critical to our operations. Computer malware, viruses, hacking and phishing attacks remain prevalent and are increasingly sophisticated. We are from time to time the target of attempted cyber threats. We continuously monitor and develop our information technology networks and infrastructure to prevent, detect, address and mitigate the risk of unauthorized access, misuse, computer viruses and other events that could have a security impact. Despite these security measures, our information technology and infrastructure may be vulnerable to attacks by hackers or breached due to employee error, malfeasance or other disruptions. Any such breach could compromise our networks and the information stored there could be accessed, publicly disclosed, lost or stolen. Any such access, disclosure or other loss of information could result in legal claims or proceedings, liability under laws that protect the privacy of personal information, regulatory penalties, disrupt our operations, disrupt our trading activities or damage our reputation, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial results and negatively affect the market price of our common stock and our ability to pay dividends to stockholders.
The resources required to protect our information technology and infrastructure, and to comply with the laws and regulations related to data and privacy protection, are subject to uncertainty. Even in circumstances where we are able to successfully protect such technology and infrastructure from attacks, we may incur significant expenses in connection with our responses to such attacks. Government and regulatory scrutiny of the measures taken by companies to protect against cyber-security attacks has in the past and may in the future result in heightened cyber-security requirements and/or additional regulatory oversight. Any such actions may adversely impact our results of operations and financial condition.
We enter into hedging transactions that expose us to contingent liabilities in the future, which may adversely affect our financial results or cash available for distribution to stockholders.
We engage in transactions intended to hedge against various risks to our portfolio, including the exposure to changes in interest rates. The extent of our hedging activity varies in scope based on, among other things, the level and volatility of interest rates, the type of assets held and other market conditions. Although these transactions are intended to reduce our exposure to various risks, hedging may fail to adequately protect or could adversely affect us because, among other things: available hedges may not correspond directly with the risks for which protection is sought; the duration of the hedge may not match the duration of the related liability; the amount of income that a REIT may earn from certain hedging transactions is limited by U.S. federal income tax provisions; the credit quality of a hedging counterparty may be downgraded to such an extent that it impairs our ability to sell or assign our side of the hedging transaction; and the hedging counterparty may default on its obligations.
Subject to maintaining our qualification as a REIT and satisfying the criteria for no-action relief from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s commodity pool operator registration rules, there are no current limitations on the hedging transactions that we may undertake. Our hedging transactions could require us to fund large cash payments in certain circumstances (e.g., the early termination of the hedging instrument caused by an event of default or other early termination event, or a demand by a counterparty that we make increased margin payments). Our ability to fund these obligations will depend on the liquidity of our assets and our access to capital at the time. The need to fund these obligations could adversely affect our financial condition. Further, hedging transactions, which are intended to limit losses, may actually result in losses, which would adversely affect our earnings and could in turn reduce cash available for distribution to stockholders.
Our results may experience greater fluctuations due to our decision not to elect hedge accounting treatment on our derivative instruments.
We have elected to not qualify for hedge accounting treatment under Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 815, Derivatives and Hedging, or ASC 815, for our current derivative instruments. The economics of our derivative hedging transactions are not affected by this election; however, our earnings (losses) for U.S. GAAP purposes may be subject to greater fluctuations from period to period as a result of this accounting treatment for changes in fair value of derivative instruments or for the accounting of the underlying hedged assets or liabilities in our financial statements, as it does not necessarily align with the accounting used for derivative instruments.
We depend on third-party service providers, including mortgage loan servicers, for a variety of services related to our business. We are, therefore, subject to the risks associated with third-party service providers.
We depend on a variety of services provided by third-party service providers related to our investments in Agency RMBS and MSR, as well as for general operating purposes. For example, we rely on the mortgage servicers who service the mortgage loans underlying our Agency RMBS and MSR to, among other things, collect principal and interest payments on such mortgage loans and perform loss mitigation services in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. Mortgage servicers and other service providers, such as trustees, bond insurance providers, due diligence vendors and document custodians, may fail to perform or otherwise not perform in a manner that promotes our interests.
Any legislation or regulation intended to reduce or prevent foreclosures through, among other things, loan modifications may reduce the value of mortgage loans, including those underlying our Agency RMBS and MSR. Mortgage servicers may be required or otherwise incentivized by federal or state governments to pursue actions designed to assist mortgagors, such as loan modifications, forbearance plans and other actions intended to prevent foreclosure, even if such loan modifications and other actions are not in the best interests of the beneficial owners of the mortgage loans. As a consequence of the foregoing matters, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.
In addition, in connection with our ownership of MSR, we possess personally identifiable information that is shared with third-party service providers, including our mortgage servicers, as required or permitted by law. In the event the information technology networks and infrastructure of our third-party service providers is breached, we may be liable for losses suffered by individuals whose personal information is stolen as a result of such breach and any such liability could be material. Even if we are not liable for such losses, any breach of these third-party systems could expose us to material costs related to notifying affected individuals or other parties and providing credit monitoring services, as well as to regulatory fines or penalties.
We may be subject to fines, penalties or other enforcement actions based on the conduct of third-party mortgage loan servicers who service the loans underlying the MSR we acquire or our failure to conduct appropriate oversight of these servicers.
We contract with third-party mortgage loan servicers to perform the actual day-to-day servicing obligations on the mortgage loans underlying our MSR. We and the mortgage loan servicers operate in a highly regulated industry and are required to comply with various federal, state and local laws and regulations, including the obligation to oversee our third-party mortgage servicers to assess their compliance with these laws and regulations. Although the servicing activity is conducted primarily in the name of the mortgage loan servicers, to the extent these servicers fail to comply with applicable laws and regulations, we could be subject to governmental actions such as denial, suspension or revocation of licenses, be fined or otherwise subject to regulatory enforcement action, or incur losses or be subject to lawsuits.
Our ability to own and manage MSR is subject to terms and conditions established by the GSEs, which are subject to change.
Our subsidiary’s continued approval from the GSEs to own and manage MSR is subject to compliance with each of their respective selling and servicing guidelines, minimum capital requirements and other conditions they may impose from time to time at their discretion. Failure to meet such guidelines and conditions could result in the unilateral termination of our subsidiary’s approved status by one or more GSEs or result in the acceleration and termination of our MSR financing facilities. In addition, the implementation of more restrictive or operationally intensive guidance may increase the costs associated with owning and managing MSR as well as our ability to finance MSR.
Our securitization activities expose us to risk of litigation, which may materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.
In connection with our securitization transactions, we prepare disclosure documentation, including term sheets and offering memorandums, which contain disclosures regarding the securitization transactions and the assets securitized. If our disclosure documentation is alleged or found to contain inaccuracies or omissions, we may be liable under federal securities laws, state securities laws or other applicable laws for damages to third parties that invest in these securitization transactions, including in circumstances in which we relied on a third party in preparing accurate disclosures, or we may incur other expenses and costs in connection with disputing these allegations or settling claims.
We may be subject to representation and warranty risk in our capacity as an owner of MSR as well as in connection with our prior securitization transactions and our sales of MSR and other assets.
The MSR we acquire may be subject to existing representations and warranties made to the applicable investor (including, without limitation, the GSEs) regarding, among other things, the origination and prior servicing of those mortgage loans, as well as future servicing practices following our acquisition of such MSR. If such representations and warranties are inaccurate, we may be obligated to repurchase certain mortgage loans or indemnify the applicable investor for any losses suffered as a result of the origination or prior servicing of the mortgage loans. As such, the applicable investor will have direct recourse to us for such origination and/or prior servicing issues.
In connection with our prior securitization transactions and with the sales of our MSR and other assets from time to time, we may have been or may be required to make representations and warranties to the purchasers of the assets regarding certain characteristics of those assets. If our representations and warranties are inaccurate, we may be obligated to repurchase the assets, which may result in a loss. Even if we obtain representations and warranties from the parties from whom we acquired the asset, as applicable, they may not correspond with the representations and warranties we make or may otherwise not protect us from losses. Additionally, the loan originator or other parties from whom we acquired the MSR may be insolvent or otherwise unable to honor their respective indemnification or repurchase obligations for breaches of representation and warranties.
Risks Related To Our Assets
Declines in the market values of our assets may adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
A substantial portion of our assets are classified for accounting purposes as “available-for-sale.” Changes in the market values of those assets will be directly charged or credited to stockholders’ equity. As a result, a decline in values may result in connection with factors that are out of our control and adversely affect our book value. Moreover, if the decline in value of an available-for-sale security is other than temporary, such decline will reduce our earnings.
In addition, some of the assets in our portfolio are not publicly traded. The fair value of securities and other assets that are not publicly traded may not be readily determinable. We value these assets quarterly at fair value, as determined in accordance with ASC 820, Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures, which may include unobservable inputs. Because such valuations are subjective, the fair value of certain of our assets may fluctuate over short periods of time and our determinations of fair value may differ materially from the values that would have been used if a ready market for these securities existed. We may be adversely affected if our determinations regarding the fair value of these assets are materially higher than the values that we ultimately realize upon their disposal.
Changes in mortgage prepayment rates may adversely affect the value of our assets.
The value of our assets is affected by prepayment rates on mortgage loans, and our investment strategy includes making investments based on our expectations regarding prepayment rates. A prepayment rate is the measurement of how quickly borrowers pay down the unpaid principal balance of their loans or how quickly loans are otherwise brought current, modified, liquidated or charged off. With respect to our securities portfolio, typically the value of a mortgage-backed security includes market assumptions regarding the speed at which the underlying mortgages will be prepaid. Faster than expected prepayments could adversely affect our profitability, including in the following ways:
•We may purchase securities that have a higher interest rate than the market interest rate at the time. In exchange for this higher interest rate, we may pay a premium over the par value to acquire the security. In accordance with U.S. GAAP, we may amortize this premium over the estimated term of the security. If the security is prepaid in whole or in part prior to its maturity date, however, we may be required to expense the premium that was prepaid at the time of the prepayment.
•A substantial portion of our adjustable-rate Agency RMBS may bear interest rates that are lower than their fully indexed rates, which are equivalent to the applicable index rate plus a margin. If an adjustable-rate security is prepaid prior to or soon after the time of adjustment to a fully-indexed rate, we will have held that security while it was least profitable and lost the opportunity to receive interest at the fully indexed rate over the remainder of its expected life.
•If we are unable to acquire new Agency RMBS similar to the prepaid security, our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows could suffer.
Changes in prepayment rates also significantly affect the value of MSR because such rights are priced on an assumption of a stable repayment rate. If the prepayment rate is significantly greater than expected, the fair value of the MSR could decline and we may be required to record a non-cash charge, which would have a negative impact on our financial results. Furthermore, a significant increase in the prepayment rate could materially reduce the ultimate cash flows we receive from MSR, and we could ultimately receive substantially less than what we paid for such assets.
Prepayment rates may be affected by a number of factors including mortgage rates, the availability of mortgage credit, the relative economic vitality of the area in which the related properties are located, the remaining life of the loans, the size of the remaining loans, the servicing of mortgage loans, changes in tax laws, other opportunities for investment, homeowner mobility and other economic, social, geographic, demographic and legal factors. Consequently, prepayment rates cannot be predicted with certainty. If we make erroneous assumptions regarding prepayment rates in connection with our investment decisions, we may experience significant losses.
Changes in inter-bank lending rate reporting practices or the method pursuant to which LIBOR is determined may adversely affect the value of our assets and financial obligations that are linked to LIBOR.
LIBOR and other “benchmark” indices have been the subject of recent national, international and other regulatory guidance and proposals for reform. It had been expected that a number of private-sector banks currently reporting information used to set LIBOR would stop doing so after 2021 when their current reporting commitment ends, which would either cause LIBOR to stop publication immediately or cause LIBOR’s regulator to determine that its quality has degraded to the degree that it is no longer representative of its underlying market. On November 30, 2020, Intercontinental Exchange Inc. announced that ICE Benchmark Administration Limited, the administrator of LIBOR, does not intend to stop publication of the majority of USD-LIBOR tenors until June 30, 2023. In the U.S., the Alternative Reference Rates Committee, or ARRC, has identified the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, or SOFR, as its preferred alternative rate for U.S. dollar-based LIBOR. SOFR is a measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight, collateralized by U.S. Treasury securities, and is based on directly observable U.S. Treasury-backed repurchase transactions. Some market participants may continue to explore whether other U.S. dollar-based reference rates would be more appropriate for certain types of instruments. The ARRC has proposed a paced market transition plan to SOFR, and various organizations are currently working on industry wide and company-specific transition plans as it relates to derivatives and cash markets exposed to LIBOR. Given the differences between LIBOR and any other alternative benchmark rate that may be established, there are many uncertainties regarding a transition from LIBOR, including but not limited to the need to amend all contracts with LIBOR as the referenced rate and how this will impact our cost of variable rate debt and certain derivative financial instruments. The consequences of these developments with respect to LIBOR cannot be entirely predicted, and may span multiple future periods, but could result in an increase in the cost of our variable rate debt or derivative financial instruments which may be detrimental to our financial position or operating results.
Our delayed delivery transactions, including TBAs, subject us to certain risks, including price risks and counterparty risks.
We may purchase Agency RMBS through delayed delivery transactions, including TBAs. In a delayed delivery transaction, we enter into a forward purchase agreement with a counterparty to purchase either (i) an identified Agency RMBS, or (ii) a to-be-issued (or “to-be-announced”) Agency RMBS with certain terms. As with any forward purchase contract, the value of the underlying Agency RMBS may decrease between the contract date and the settlement date. Furthermore, a transaction counterparty may fail to deliver the underlying Agency RMBS at the settlement date.
It may be uneconomical to roll our TBA dollar roll transactions or we may be unable to meet margin calls on our TBA contracts, which could negatively affect our financial condition and results of operations.
We utilize TBA dollar roll transactions as a means of investing in and financing Agency RMBS. TBA contracts enable us to purchase or sell, for future delivery, Agency RMBS with certain principal and interest terms and certain types of collateral, but the specific securities to be delivered are not identified until shortly before the TBA settlement date. Prior to settlement of the TBA contract we may choose to move the settlement of the securities to a later date by entering into an offsetting position (referred to as a “pair off”), net settling the paired off positions for cash, and simultaneously purchasing a similar TBA contact for a later settlement date, collectively referred to as a “dollar roll”. The Agency RMBS purchased for a forward settlement date under the TBA contracts are typically priced at a discount to Agency RMBS for settlement in the current month. This difference (or discount) is referred to as the “price drop.” The price drop is the economic equivalent of net interest carry income on the underlying Agency RMBS over the roll period (interest income less implied financing cost) and is commonly referred to as a “dollar roll income.” Consequently, dollar roll transactions and such forward purchase of Agency RMBS represent a form of financing and increase our “at-risk” leverage.
Under certain market conditions, TBA dollar roll transactions may result in negative carry income whereby the Agency RMBS purchase for a forward settlement date under TBA contract are priced at a premium to Agency RMBS for settlement in the current month. Under such conditions, it may be uneconomical to roll our TBA positions prior to the settlement date and we could have to take physical delivery of the underlying securities and settle our obligations for cash. We may not have sufficient funds or alternative financing sources available to settle such obligations. In addition, pursuant to the margin provisions established by the Mortgage-Backed Securities Division (MBSD) of the FICC, we are subject to margin calls on our TBA contracts. Further, our prime brokerage agreements may require us to post additional margin above the levels established by the MBSD. Any failure to procure adequate financing to settle our obligations or meet margin calls under our TBA contracts could result in defaults or force us to sell assets under adverse market conditions or through foreclosure and adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Increases in interest rates could adversely affect the value of our assets and cause our interest expense to increase.
Our operating results depend in large part on the difference between the income from our assets and financing costs. We anticipate that, in many cases, the income from our assets will respond more slowly to interest rate fluctuations than the cost of our borrowings. Consequently, changes in interest rates, particularly short-term interest rates, may significantly influence our financial results.
Interest rates are highly sensitive to many factors, including governmental monetary and tax policies, domestic and international economic and political considerations and other factors beyond our control. We cannot predict the impact that any future actions or non-actions by the Federal Reserve with respect to the federal funds rate or otherwise may have on the markets or the economy. Interest rate fluctuations present a variety of risks, including the risk of a narrowing of the difference between asset yields and borrowing rates, flattening or inversion of the yield curve and fluctuating prepayment rates.
We endeavor to hedge our exposure to changes in interest rates, but there can be no assurances that our hedges will be successful, or that we will be able to enter into or maintain such hedges. As a result, interest rate fluctuations can cause significant losses, reductions in income, and limitations on our cash available for distribution to stockholders.
An increase in interest rates may cause a decrease in the availability of certain of our target assets, which could adversely affect our ability to acquire target assets that satisfy our investment objectives and to generate income and pay dividends.
Rising interest rates generally reduce the demand for mortgage loans due to the higher cost of borrowing. A reduction in the volume of mortgage loans originated may affect the volume of certain target assets available to us, which could adversely affect our ability to acquire assets that satisfy our investment and business objectives. Rising interest rates may also cause certain target assets that were issued prior to an interest rate increase to provide yields that are below prevailing market interest rates. If rising interest rates cause us to be unable to acquire a sufficient volume of our target assets with a yield that is above our borrowing cost, our ability to satisfy our investment objectives and to generate income and pay dividends may be materially and adversely affected.
The value of our Agency RMBS and MSR may be adversely affected by deficiencies in servicing and foreclosure practices, as well as related delays in the foreclosure process.
Deficiencies in servicing and foreclosure practices among servicers of residential mortgage loans have raised and may in the future raise concerns relating to such practices. The integrity of servicing and foreclosure processes is critical to the value of our Agency RMBS and MSR, and our financial results could be adversely affected by deficiencies in the conduct of those processes. For example, delays in the foreclosure process that may result from improper servicing practices may adversely affect the values of, and our losses on, our mortgage-related assets. Foreclosure delays may also result in the curtailment of payments to the GSEs, thereby resulting in additional expense and reducing the amount of funds available for distribution to investors. In addition, the subordinate classes of securities issued by the securitization trusts may continue to receive interest payments while the defaulted loans remain in the trusts, rather than absorbing the default losses. This may reduce the amount of credit support available for any senior classes we own, thus possibly adversely affecting these securities. We continue to monitor and review the issues raised by improper servicing practices. While we cannot predict exactly how servicing, loss mitigation and foreclosure matters or any resulting litigation, regulatory actions or settlement agreements will affect our business, there can be no assurance that these matters will not have an adverse impact on our results of operations and financial condition.
Risks Related to the Termination of our Management Agreement with PRCM Advisers LLC
We may not be able to fully realize the expected benefits of our transition to a self-managed company or the ability to realize such benefits may take longer than anticipated.
On August 14, 2020, our Management Agreement with PRCM Advisers terminated and we thereafter became a self-managed company. We believe that the termination of the Management Agreement, the elimination of the annual base management fee, and the transition to a self-management structure will result in material benefits to our stockholders, including substantial cost savings, the potential for enhanced returns on future capital growth, the elimination of conflicts of interest and strengthened alignment of interests between management and stockholders, and the potential to attract new institutional investors.
Our ability to fully and timely realize the anticipated benefits of this transition is subject to various risks. Certain risks that may adversely impact the process include: any adverse impacts resulting from litigation with PRCM Advisers related to the termination of the Management Agreement; unforeseen or higher than anticipated expenses following the transition; and other unforeseen developments resulting from the change in our management structure. The failure to manage the transition process efficiently and effectively could result in the anticipated benefits of the transition not being realized in the timeframe currently anticipated or at all.
Legal and regulatory matters related to the termination of our Management Agreement with PRCM Advisers may adversely affect our business, results of operations, and/or financial condition.
In connection with the termination of our Management Agreement, PRCM Advisers has filed a complaint in federal court that alleges, among other things, the misappropriation of trade secrets in violation of both the Defend Trade Secrets Act and New York common law, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unfair competition and business practices, unjust enrichment, conversion, and tortious interference with contract. The complaint seeks, among other things, an order enjoining the company from making any use of or disclosing PRCM Advisers’ trade secret, proprietary, or confidential information; damages in an amount to be determined at a hearing and/or trial; disgorgement of the Company’s wrongfully obtained profits; and fees and costs incurred by PRCM Advisers in pursuing the action. Our board of directors believes the complaint is without merit and that the company has complied with the terms of the Management Agreement. However, the results of litigation are inherently uncertain. It is possible that a court could enjoin us from using certain intellectual property. In addition, any damages or costs and fees that may be awarded to PRCM Advisers related to the litigation may be significant. While we dispute and intend to vigorously defend against the claims set forth in the complaint, it is possible that the results of the litigation with PRCM Advisers may adversely affect our business, results of operations, and/or financial condition.
Separately, the staff of the SEC is conducting a non-public investigation following the company's decision not to renew its Management Agreement with PRCM Advisers on the basis of unfair compensation payable to PRCM Advisers in accordance with Section 13(a)(ii) of the Management Agreement. We are cooperating with the SEC but cannot predict the duration or outcome of the SEC investigation.
Risks Related to Our Organization and Structure
Certain provisions of Maryland law could inhibit changes in control.
Certain provisions of the Maryland General Corporation Law, or MGCL, may have the effect of deterring a third party from making a proposal to acquire us or of impeding a change in control under circumstances that otherwise could provide the holders of shares of our common stock with the opportunity to realize a premium over the then-prevailing market price of such shares. We are subject to the “business combination” provisions of the MGCL that, subject to limitations, prohibit certain business combinations between our company and an “interested stockholder” (as defined under the MGCL) or an affiliate thereof for five years after the most recent date on which the stockholder becomes an interested stockholder. In addition, the “unsolicited takeover” provisions of the MGCL (Title 3, Subtitle 8 of the MGCL) permit our board of directors, without stockholder approval and regardless of what is currently provided in our charter or bylaws, to implement takeover defenses, some of which we do not currently have. These provisions may have the effect of inhibiting a third party from making an acquisition proposal for our company or of delaying, deferring or preventing a change in control of our company.
Our authorized but unissued shares of common and preferred stock and the ownership limitations contained in our charter may prevent a change in control.
Our charter authorizes Two Harbors to issue additional authorized but unissued shares of common or preferred stock. In addition, our board of directors may, without stockholder approval, amend our charter to increase or decrease the aggregate number of shares of our stock or the number of shares of stock of any class or series that Two Harbors has the authority to issue and classify or reclassify any unissued shares of common or preferred stock and set the terms of the classified or reclassified shares. As a result, our board may establish a series of shares of common or preferred stock that could delay or prevent a transaction or a change in control that might be in the best interests of stockholders.
In addition, our charter contains restrictions limiting the ownership and transfer of shares of our common stock and other outstanding shares of capital stock. The relevant sections of our charter provide that, subject to certain exceptions, ownership of shares of our common stock by any person is limited to 9.8% by value or by number of shares, whichever is more restrictive, of our outstanding shares of common stock (the common share ownership limit), and no more than 9.8% by value or number of shares, whichever is more restrictive, of our outstanding capital stock (the aggregate share ownership limit). The common share ownership limit and the aggregate share ownership limit are collectively referred to herein as the “ownership limits.” These charter provisions will restrict the ability of persons to purchase shares in excess of the relevant ownership limits.
Our charter contains provisions that make removal of our directors difficult, which could make it difficult for stockholders to effect changes in management.
Our charter provides that, subject to the rights of any series of preferred stock, a director may be removed only by the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of all the votes entitled to be cast generally in the election of directors. Our charter and bylaws provide that vacancies generally may be filled only by a majority of the remaining directors in office, even if less than a quorum. These requirements make it more difficult to change management by removing and replacing directors and may prevent a change in control that is in the best interests of stockholders.
Our rights and stockholders’ rights to take action against directors and officers are limited, which could limit recourse in the event of actions not in the best interests of stockholders.
As permitted by Maryland law, our charter eliminates the liability of its directors and officers to Two Harbors and its stockholders 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.
In addition, pursuant to our charter we have agreed contractually to indemnify our present and former directors and officers for actions taken by them in those capacities to the maximum extent permitted by Maryland law. Further, our bylaws require us to indemnify each present or former director or officer, to the maximum extent permitted by Maryland law, who is made, or threatened to be made, a party to any proceeding because of his or her service to Two Harbors. As part of these indemnification obligations, we may be obligated to fund the defense costs incurred by our directors and officers.
Our amended and restated bylaws designate certain Maryland courts as the sole and exclusive forum for certain types of actions and proceedings that may be initiated by our stockholders.
Our amended and restated bylaws provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland, or, if that Court does not have jurisdiction, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, shall be the sole and exclusive forum for the following: any derivative action or proceeding brought on behalf of the corporation; any action asserting a claim of breach of any duty owed by any of our directors, officers or other employees to the corporation or to our stockholders; any action asserting a claim against the corporation or any of our directors, officers or other employees arising pursuant to any provision of the MGCL or our charter or bylaws; or any action asserting a claim against the corporation or any of our directors, officers or other employees that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine. This choice of forum provision may limit a stockholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that the stockholder believes is favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers or other employees, which may discourage lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and employees.
Risks Related to Our Securities
Future issuances and sales of shares of our common stock may depress the market price of our common stock or have adverse consequences for our stockholders.
We may issue additional shares of our common stock in public offerings, private placements as well as through restricted stock awards to our directors, officers and employees pursuant to our Second Restated 2009 Equity Incentive Plan. Additionally, shares of our common stock have also been reserved for issuance in connection with the conversion of our 6.25% convertible senior notes due January 2022, our 6.25% convertible senior notes due 2026 and our Series A, Series B, Series C, Series D and Series E preferred stock. We cannot predict the effect, if any, of future issuances or sales of our common stock on the market price of our common stock. We also cannot predict the amounts and timing of restricted stock awards to be issued pursuant to the Plan, nor can we predict the amount and timing of any conversions of our convertible senior notes due January 2022 or January 2026 or our Series A, Series B Series C, Series D and Series E preferred stock into shares of our common stock. Any stock offerings, awards or conversions resulting in the issuance of substantial amounts of common stock, or the perception that such awards or conversions could occur, may adversely affect the market price for our common stock.
Any future offerings of our securities could dilute our existing stockholders and may rank senior for purposes of dividend and liquidating distributions.
We may from time to time issue securities which may rank senior and/or be dilutive to our stockholders. For example, our senior unsecured notes due January 2022 and January 2026 are convertible into shares of our common stock at the election of the noteholder, and our Series A, Series B Series C, Series D and Series E preferred shares may be converted into shares of our common stock following the occurrence of certain events, as set forth in the articles supplementary for each series. Any election by noteholders or preferred stockholders to convert their notes or preferred shares into shares of our common stock will dilute the interests of other common stockholders.
In the future, we may again elect to raise capital through the issuance of convertible or non-convertible debt or common or preferred 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. Convertible debt and convertible preferred stock may have anti-dilution provisions which are unfavorable to our common stockholders. 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, our stockholders bear the risk of our future offerings reducing the market price of our common stock and diluting the value of their holdings.
We have not established a minimum distribution payment level and we cannot assure you of our ability to pay distributions in the future.
We intend to continue to pay quarterly distributions and to make distributions to our stockholders in an amount such that we distribute all or substantially all of our REIT taxable income in each year. We have not established a minimum distribution payment level and our ability to pay distributions may be adversely affected by a number of factors, including the risk factors described herein. All distributions will be made, subject to Maryland law, at the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on our earnings, our financial condition, any debt covenants, maintenance of our REIT qualification and other factors as our board of directors may deem relevant. We cannot assure you that we will achieve results that will allow us to make a specified level of cash distributions and distributions in future periods may be significantly lower than in prior quarterly periods.
The market price of our common stock could fluctuate and could cause you to lose a significant part of your investment.
The market price of our common stock may be highly volatile. In addition, the trading volume in our common stock may fluctuate and cause significant price variations to occur. If the market price of our common stock declines significantly, you may be unable to resell your shares of our common stock at a gain. We cannot assure you that the market price of our common stock will not fluctuate or decline significantly in the future.
The market price of our common stock may be influenced by many factors, including without limitation: changes in financial estimates by analysts; fluctuations in our results of operations or financial condition or the results of operations or financial condition of companies perceived to be similar to us; general economic and financial and real estate market conditions; changes in market valuations of similar companies; monetary policy and regulatory developments in the U.S.; and additions or departures of key personnel.
Our failure to qualify as a REIT would subject us to U.S. federal income tax and potentially increased state and local taxes, which would reduce the amount of our income available for distribution to our stockholders.
We operate in a manner that will enable us to qualify as a REIT and have elected to be taxed as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes commencing with our taxable year ended December 31, 2009. We have not requested and do not intend to request a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, that we qualify as a REIT. The U.S. federal income tax laws governing REITs and the assets they hold are complex, and judicial and administrative interpretations of the U.S. federal income tax laws governing REIT qualification are limited. To continue to qualify as a REIT, we must meet, on an ongoing basis, various tests regarding the nature of our assets and income, the ownership of our outstanding shares, and the amount of our distributions. Moreover, new legislation, court decisions, administrative guidance or actions by federal agencies or others to modify or re-characterize our assets may make it more difficult or impossible for us to qualify as a REIT. Thus, while we intend to operate so that we qualify as a REIT, no assurance can be given that we will so qualify for any particular year.
If we fail to qualify as a REIT in any taxable year, and do not qualify for certain statutory relief provisions, we would be required to pay U.S. federal income tax on our taxable income, and distributions to our stockholders would not be deductible by us in determining our taxable income. Furthermore, if we fail to maintain our qualification as a REIT, we no longer would be required to distribute substantially all of our net taxable income to stockholders.
Complying with REIT requirements may cause us to forego otherwise attractive investment opportunities or financing or hedging strategies.
In order to qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we must continually satisfy various tests on an annual and quarterly basis regarding the sources of our income, the nature and diversification of our assets, the amounts we distribute to stockholders and the ownership of our stock. To meet these tests, we may be required to forego investments we might otherwise make. We may be required to make distributions to stockholders at disadvantageous times. Thus, compliance with the REIT requirements may hinder our investment performance.
Complying with REIT requirements may force us to liquidate otherwise profitable assets.
In order to continue 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 designated real estate assets, including certain mortgage loans and shares in other REITs. Subject to certain exceptions, our ownership of securities, other than government securities and securities that constitute 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 total assets, other than government securities and securities that constitute real estate assets, can consist of the securities of any one issuer, no more than 20% of the value of our total assets can be represented by securities of one or more TRSs, and no more than 25% of the value of our total assets can consist of debt of “publicly offered” REITs that is not secured by real property or interests in real property. If we fail to comply with these requirements at the end of any calendar quarter, we must generally correct such failure within 30 days after the end of such calendar quarter to avoid losing our REIT qualification. As a result, we may be required to liquidate otherwise profitable assets prematurely, which could reduce our return on assets, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Potential characterization of distributions or gain on sale may be treated as unrelated business taxable income to tax exempt investors.
If (i) all or a portion of our assets are subject to the rules relating to taxable mortgage pools, (ii) we are a “pension held REIT,” (iii) a tax exempt stockholder has incurred debt to purchase or hold our common stock, or (iv) we purchase residual REMIC interests that generate “excess inclusion income,” then a portion of the distributions to and, in the case of a stockholder described in clause (iii), gains realized on the sale of common stock by such tax exempt stockholder may be subject to U.S. federal income tax as unrelated business taxable income under the Code.
Complying with REIT requirements may limit our ability to hedge effectively.
The REIT provisions of the Code may limit our ability to hedge our assets and liabilities. Any income from a hedging transaction will not constitute gross income for purposes of the 75% or 95% gross income test if we properly identify the transaction as specified in applicable Treasury Regulations and we enter into such transaction (i) in the normal course of our business primarily to manage risk of interest rate or price changes or currency fluctuations with respect to borrowings made or to be made, or ordinary obligations incurred or to be incurred, to acquire or carry real estate assets or (ii) primarily to manage risk of currency fluctuations with respect to any item of income or gain that would be qualifying income under the 75% or 95% gross income tests. To the extent that we enter into other types of hedging transactions, the income from those transactions is likely to be treated as non-qualifying income for purposes of both of these gross income tests. As a result of these rules, we intend to limit our use of advantageous hedging techniques or implement those hedges through a TRS. This could increase the cost of our hedging activities.
The failure of our Agency RMBS that are subject to a repurchase agreement to qualify as real estate assets would adversely affect our ability to qualify as a REIT.
We may enter into repurchase agreements under which we will nominally sell certain of our Agency RMBS to a counterparty and simultaneously enter into an agreement to repurchase the sold assets. We believe that we will be treated for U.S. federal income tax purposes as the owner of the securities that are the subject of any such agreement notwithstanding that such agreement may transfer record ownership of the assets to the counterparty during the term of the agreement. It is possible, however, that the IRS could assert that we did not own the securities during the term of the repurchase agreement, in which case we could fail to qualify as a REIT.
REIT distribution requirements could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan and may require us to incur debt, sell assets or take other actions to make such distributions.
In order to continue to qualify as a REIT, we must distribute to stockholders, each calendar year, at least 90% of our REIT taxable income (including certain items of non-cash income), determined without regard to the deduction for dividends paid and excluding net capital gain. To the extent that we satisfy the 90% distribution requirement, but distribute less than 100% of our taxable income, we will be subject to U.S. federal corporate income tax on our undistributed income. In addition, we will incur a 4% nondeductible excise tax on the amount, if any, by which our distributions in any calendar year are less than a minimum amount specified under U.S. federal income tax law.
We intend to distribute our net income to stockholders in a manner intended to satisfy the 90% distribution requirement and to avoid both corporate income tax and the 4% nondeductible excise tax. Our taxable income may substantially exceed our net income as determined by U.S. GAAP or differences in timing between the recognition of taxable income and the actual receipt of cash may occur in which case we may have taxable income in excess of cash flow from our operating activities. In such event, we may generate less cash flow than taxable income in a particular year and find it difficult or impossible to meet the REIT distribution requirements.
Our qualification as a REIT may depend on the accuracy of legal opinions or advice rendered or given or statements by the issuers of assets we acquire, including with respect to the treatment of our TBA securities and transactions for tax purposes.
When purchasing securities, we may rely on opinions or advice of counsel for the issuer of such securities, or statements made in related offering documents, for purposes of determining, among other things, whether such securities represent debt or equity securities for U.S. federal income tax purposes, the value of such securities, and also to what extent those securities constitute qualified real estate assets for purposes of the REIT asset tests and produce qualified income for purposes of the 75% gross income test. In addition, we may from time to time obtain and rely upon opinions of counsel regarding the qualification of certain assets and income as real estate assets. The inaccuracy of any such opinions, advice or statements may adversely affect our ability to qualify as a REIT and result in significant corporate-level tax.
We may utilize TBAs as a means of investing and financing Agency RMBS. There is no direct authority with respect to the qualification of TBAs as real estate assets or U.S. government securities for purposes of the 75% asset test or the qualification of income or gains from dispositions of TBAs as gains from the sale of real property (including interests in real property and interests in mortgages on real property) or other qualifying income for purposes of the 75% gross income test. We intend to treat our TBAs as qualifying assets for purposes of the 75% asset test, to the extent set forth in an opinion from Sidley Austin LLP substantially to the effect that, for purposes of the 75% asset test, our ownership of TBAs should be treated as ownership of the underlying Agency RMBS, and to treat income and gains from our TBAs as qualifying income for purposes of the 75% gross income test, to the extent set forth in an opinion from Sidley Austin LLP substantially to the effect that, for purposes of the 75% gross income test, any gain recognized by us in connection with the settlement of our TBAs should be treated as gain from the sale or disposition of the underlying Agency RMBS. Such opinions of counsel are not binding on the IRS, and there can be no assurance that the IRS will not successfully challenge the conclusions set forth therein.
Our ownership of, and relationship with, our TRSs will be restricted and a failure to comply with the restrictions would jeopardize our REIT status and may result in the application of a 100% excise tax.
A REIT may own up to 100% of the stock of one or more TRSs. A TRS may earn income that would not be qualifying REIT income if earned directly by the parent REIT. Both the TRS and the REIT must jointly elect to treat the subsidiary as a TRS. A corporation of which a TRS directly or indirectly owns more than 35% of the voting power or value of the stock will automatically be treated as a TRS. Overall, no more than 20% of the value of a REIT’s total assets may consist of stock or securities of one or more TRSs. The value of our interests in and thus the amount of assets held in a TRS may also be restricted by our need to qualify for an exclusion from regulation as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.
Any domestic TRS we own will pay U.S. federal, state and local income tax at regular corporate rates. In addition, the TRS rules limit the deductibility of interest paid or accrued by a TRS to its parent REIT to assure that the TRS is subject to an appropriate level of corporate taxation. The rules also impose a 100% excise tax on certain transactions between a TRS and its parent REIT that are not conducted on an arm’s-length basis. Although we monitor our investments in and transactions with TRSs, there can be no assurance that we will be able to comply with the limitation on the value of our TRSs discussed above or to avoid application of the 100% excise tax discussed above.
Dividends payable by REITs generally do not qualify for the reduced tax rates on dividend income from regular corporations, which could adversely affect the value of our shares.
The maximum U.S. federal income tax rate for dividends payable to domestic stockholders that are individuals, trusts and estates is 20%. Dividends payable by REITs, however, are generally not eligible for these reduced rates. Although the reduced U.S. federal income tax rate applicable to dividend income from regular corporate dividends does not adversely affect the taxation of REITs or dividends paid by REITs, the more favorable rates applicable to regular corporate dividends could cause investors who are individuals, trusts and estates to perceive investments in REITs to be relatively less attractive than investments in the stocks of non-REIT corporations that pay dividends, which could adversely affect the value of the shares of REITs, including our shares of common stock.