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Section 1: 10-K (10-K)

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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549 
 
Form 10-K
 
 
(Mark One)
 
ý      ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
 
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018
 
Or
 
o         TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
 
For the transition period from      to      
 
Commission file number:
001-36299
 
 
Ladder Capital Corp
396926286_ladrlogoa20.jpg
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
 
 
Delaware
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
 
80-0925494
(IRS Employer
Identification No.)
 
 
 
345 Park Avenue, New York
(Address of principal executive offices)
 
10154
(Zip Code)
 
(212) 715-3170
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
 
 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Class A common stock, $0.001 par value
(Title of Each Class)
 
New York Stock Exchange
(Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered)

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
None

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.  Yes  ý  No  o

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.  Yes  o  No  ý

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.  Yes  ý  No  o
 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).  Yes  ý  No  o

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§ 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  o

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act:
 
Large accelerated filer ý
 
Accelerated filer o
 
 
 
Non-accelerated filer o
 
Smaller reporting company o
 
 
 
 
 
Emerging growth company o

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. o

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act): 
Yes o  No ý

The aggregate market value of the Class A common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was $1,359,293,887 as of June 30, 2018, based on the closing price of the registrant’s Class A common stock reported on the New York Stock Exchange on such date of $15.62 per share. The registrant has no non-voting common stock.

Indicate the number of shares outstanding of each of the registrant’s classes of common stock, as of the latest practicable date.
 
Class
 
Outstanding at February 27, 2019
Class A Common Stock, $0.001 par value
 
107,016,471
Class B Common Stock, $0.001 par value
 
13,198,344

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the definitive proxy statement for the Company’s 2019 Annual Meeting of Shareholders have been incorporated by reference into Part III of this Report.
 



Table of Contents

LADDER CAPITAL CORP
 
FORM 10-K
December 31, 2018

Index
 
 
 
Page
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



 




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CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
 
This Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Annual Report”) includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). All statements other than statements of historical fact contained in this Annual Report, including statements regarding our future results of operations and financial position, strategy and plans, and our expectations for future operations, are forward-looking statements. The words “anticipate,” “estimate,” “expect,” “project,” “plan,” “intend,” “believe,” “may,” “might,” “will,” “should,” “can have,” “likely,” “continue,” “design,” and other words and terms of similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements.
 
We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, strategy, short-term and long-term business operations and objectives and financial needs. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in our forward-looking statements are reasonable, actual results could differ from those expressed in our forward-looking statements. Our future financial position and results of operations, as well as any forward-looking statements are subject to change and inherent risks and uncertainties. You should consider our forward-looking statements in light of a number of factors that may cause actual results to vary from our forward-looking statements including, but not limited to:
 
risks discussed under the heading “Risk Factors” in this Annual Report, as well as our consolidated financial statements, related notes, and the other financial information appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report and our other filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”);
changes in general economic conditions, in our industry and in the commercial finance and the real estate markets;
changes to our business and investment strategy;
our ability to obtain and maintain financing arrangements;
the financing and advance rates for our assets;
our actual and expected leverage and liquidity;
the adequacy of collateral securing our loan portfolio and a decline in the fair value of our assets;
interest rate mismatches between our assets and our borrowings used to fund such investments;
changes in interest rates and the market value of our assets;
changes in prepayment rates on our mortgages and the loans underlying our mortgage-backed and other asset-backed securities;
the effects of hedging instruments and the degree to which our hedging strategies may or may not protect us from interest rate and credit risk volatility;
the increased rate of default or decreased recovery rates on our assets;
the adequacy of our policies, procedures and systems for managing risk effectively;
a potential downgrade in the credit ratings assigned to our investments;
our compliance with, and the impact of and changes in, governmental regulations, tax laws and rates, accounting guidance and similar matters;
our ability to maintain our qualification as a real estate investment trust (“REIT”) for U.S. federal income tax purposes and our ability and the ability of our subsidiaries to operate in compliance with REIT requirements;
our ability and the ability of our subsidiaries to maintain our and their exemptions from registration under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “Investment Company Act”);
potential liability relating to environmental matters that impact the value of properties we may acquire or the properties underlying our investments;
the inability of insurance covering real estate underlying our loans and investments to cover all losses;
the availability of investment opportunities in mortgage-related and real estate-related instruments and other securities;
fraud by potential borrowers;
the availability of qualified personnel;
the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and/or estimates concerning the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which are subject to change based on further analysis and/or IRS guidance;
the degree and nature of our competition; and
the market trends in our industry, interest rates, real estate values, the debt securities markets or the general economy.
 

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You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. In addition, neither we nor any other person assumes responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of any of these forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report are made as of the date hereof, and the Company assumes no obligation to update or supplement any forward-looking statements.

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REFERENCES TO LADDER CAPITAL CORP
 
Ladder Capital Corp is a holding company, and its primary assets are a controlling equity interest in Ladder Capital Finance Holdings LLLP (“LCFH” or the “Operating Partnership”) and in each series thereof, directly or indirectly. Unless the context suggests otherwise, references in this report to “Ladder,” “Ladder Capital,” the “Company,” “we,” “us” and “our” refer (1) prior to the February 2014 initial public offering (“IPO”) of the Class A common stock of Ladder Capital Corp and related transactions, to LCFH (“Predecessor”) and its consolidated subsidiaries and (2) after our IPO and related transactions, to Ladder Capital Corp and its consolidated subsidiaries.


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Part I
 
Item 1. Business

Overview

We are a leading commercial real estate finance company structured as an internally-managed REIT. We conduct our business through three commercial real estate-related business lines: loans, securities, and real estate investments. We believe that our in-house origination platform, ability to flexibly allocate capital among complementary product lines, credit-centric underwriting approach, access to diversified financing sources, and experienced management team position us well to deliver attractive returns on equity to our shareholders through economic and credit cycles.

Our businesses, including balance sheet lending, conduit lending, securities investments, and real estate investments, provide for a stable base of net interest and rental income. We have originated $22.8 billion of commercial real estate loans from our inception through December 31, 2018. During this timeframe, we also acquired $10.6 billion of predominantly investment grade-rated securities secured by first mortgage loans on commercial real estate and $1.7 billion of selected net leased and other real estate assets.

As part of our commercial mortgage lending operations, we originate conduit loans, which are first mortgage loans on stabilized, income producing commercial real estate properties that we intend to make available for sale in commercial mortgage-backed securities (“CMBS”) securitizations. From our inception in October 2008 through December 31, 2018, we originated $15.5 billion of conduit loans, $15.4 billion of which were sold into 59 CMBS securitizations, making us, by volume, the second largest non-bank contributor of loans to CMBS securitizations in the United States in such period. Our sales of loans into securitizations are generally accounted for as true sales, not financings, and we generally retain no ongoing interest in loans which we securitize unless we are required to do so as issuer pursuant to the risk retention requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act. The securitization of conduit loans enables us to reinvest our equity capital into new loan originations or allocate it to other investments.

As of December 31, 2018, we had $6.3 billion in total assets and $1.6 billion of total equity. Our assets included $3.5 billion of loans, $1.4 billion of securities, and $1.0 billion of real estate.

We have a diversified and flexible financing strategy supporting our business operations, including unsecured debt and significant committed term financing from leading financial institutions. As of December 31, 2018, we had $1.2 billion of unsecured debt financing outstanding. This unsecured financing was comprised of $266.2 million in aggregate principal amount of 5.875% senior notes due 2021 (the “2021 Notes”), $500.0 million in aggregate principal amount of 5.25% senior notes due 2022 (the “2022 Notes”) and $400.0 million in aggregate principal amount of 5.25% senior notes due 2025 (the “2025 Notes,” collectively with the 2021 Notes and the 2022 Notes, the “Notes”), and there were no borrowings outstanding under our $266.4 million Revolving Credit Facility.

In addition, as of December 31, 2018, we had $3.3 billion of secured debt financing outstanding. This financing was comprised of $1.3 billion of financing from the Federal Home Loan Bank (the “FHLB”), $497.5 million of committed secured term repurchase agreement financing, $166.2 million of other securities financing, $743.9 million of third-party, non-recourse mortgage debt and $601.5 million of collateralized loan obligation (“CLO”) debt and $2.5 million of participation financing - mortgage loan receivable.

As of December 31, 2018, we had $2.6 billion of committed, undrawn total funding capacity available, consisting of $266.4 million of availability under our $266.4 million Revolving Credit Facility, $647.5 million of undrawn committed FHLB financing and $1.7 billion of other undrawn committed financings. As of December 31, 2018, our debt-to-equity ratio was 2.7:1.0, as we employ leverage prudently to maximize financial flexibility. Our adjusted leverage, a non-GAAP financial measure, was 2.3:1.0 as of December 31, 2018. See “—Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures” for our definition of adjusted leverage and a reconciliation to debt obligations, net.
 
Ladder was founded in October 2008 and we completed our IPO in February 2014. We are led by a disciplined and highly aligned management team. As of December 31, 2018, our management team and directors held interests in our Company comprising 11.5% of our total equity. On average, our management team members have 29 years of experience in the industry. Our management team includes Brian Harris, Chief Executive Officer; Pamela McCormack, President; Marc Fox, Chief Financial Officer; Thomas Harney, Head of Merchant Banking & Capital Markets; and Robert Perelman, Head of Asset Management. Additional officers of Ladder include Kelly Porcella, General Counsel and Secretary, and Kevin Moclair, Chief Accounting Officer. We employ 74 full-time industry professionals.

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We are organized and conduct our operations to qualify as a REIT under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). As such, we will generally not be subject to U.S. federal income tax on that portion of our net income that is distributed to shareholders if we distribute at least 90% of our taxable income and comply with certain other requirements.

Recent Developments

Lease Prepayment by Lessor and Retirement of Related Mortgage Loan Financing

On January 10, 2019, the Company received $10.0 million prepayment of a lease on a single-tenant industrial two-story office building in Wayne, NJ. As of December 31, 2018, this property had a book value of $8.2 million, which is net of accumulated depreciation and amortization of $1.5 million. The Company intends to recognize the $10.0 million of operating lease income on a straight-line basis over the revised lease term, which ends on May 31, 2019. On February 6, 2019, the Company paid off $6.6 million of mortgage loan financing related to the property, recognizing a loss on defeasance of debt of $1.1 million.

Committed Loan Repurchase Facility

On February 26, 2019, the Company executed an amendment of one of its committed loan repurchase facilities with a major banking institution, providing for, among other things, the extension of the initial term of the facility to February 24, 2022 and continues to have two additional 12-month extension periods at Company’s option. No new advances are permitted after the initial maturity date.


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Our Businesses

We invest primarily in loans, securities and other interests in U.S. commercial real estate, with a focus on senior secured assets. Our complementary business segments are designed to provide us with the flexibility to opportunistically allocate capital in order to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns under varying market conditions. The following table summarizes the value of our investment portfolio as reported in our consolidated financial statements as of the dates indicated below ($ in thousands):
 
December 31, 2018
 
December 31, 2017
Loans
 

 
 
 
 

 
 
Balance sheet loans:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Balance sheet first mortgage loans
3,170,788

 
50.5
 %
 
3,123,268

 
51.9
 %
Other commercial real estate-related loans
147,602

 
2.4
 %
 
159,194

 
2.6
 %
Provision for loan losses
(17,900
)
 
(0.3
)%
 
(4,000
)
 
(0.1
)%
Total balance sheet loans
3,300,490

 
52.6
 %
 
3,278,462

 
54.4
 %
Conduit first mortgage loans
182,439

 
2.9
 %
 
230,180

 
3.8
 %
Total loans
3,482,929

 
55.5
 %
 
3,508,642

 
58.2
 %
Securities
 
 
 

 
 

 
 

CMBS investments
1,308,331

 
20.8
 %
 
1,066,570

 
17.7
 %
U.S. Agency Securities investments
36,374

 
0.6
 %
 
39,947

 
0.7
 %
Corporate bonds
53,871

 
0.9
 %
 

 
 %
Equity securities
11,550

 
0.2
 %
 

 
 %
Total securities
1,410,126

 
22.5
 %
 
1,106,517

 
18.4
 %
Real Estate
 
 
 

 
 

 
 

Real estate and related lease intangibles, net
998,022

 
15.9
 %
 
1,032,041

 
17.1
 %
Total real estate
998,022

 
15.9
 %
 
1,032,041

 
17.1
 %
Other Investments
 
 
 

 
 

 
 

Investments in unconsolidated joint ventures
40,354

 
0.6
 %
 
35,441

 
0.6
 %
FHLB stock
57,915

 
0.9
 %
 
77,915

 
1.3
 %
Total other investments
98,269

 
1.5
 %
 
113,356

 
1.9
 %
Total investments
5,989,346

 
95.4
 %
 
5,760,556

 
95.6
 %
Cash, cash equivalents and restricted cash
98,450

 
1.6
 %
 
182,683

 
3.0
 %
Other assets
185,076

 
3.0
 %
 
82,376

 
1.4
 %
Total assets
$
6,272,872

 
100.0
 %
 
$
6,025,615

 
100.0
 %

We invest in the following types of assets:
 
Loans
 
Balance Sheet First Mortgage Loans.  We originate and invest in balance sheet first mortgage loans secured by commercial real estate properties that are undergoing transition, including lease-up, sell-out, and renovation or repositioning. These mortgage loans are structured to fit the needs and business plans of the property owners, and generally have LIBOR based floating rates and terms (including extension options) ranging from one to five years. Our loans are directly originated by an internal team that has longstanding and strong relationships with borrowers and mortgage brokers throughout the United States. We follow a rigorous investment process, which begins with an initial due diligence review; continues through a comprehensive legal and underwriting process incorporating multiple internal and external checks and balances; and culminates in approval or disapproval of each prospective investment by our Investment Committee. Balance sheet first mortgage loans in excess of $50.0 million also require the approval of our board of directors’ Risk and Underwriting Committee.


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We generally seek to hold our balance sheet first mortgage loans for investment although we also maintain the flexibility to contribute such loans into a CLO or similar structure, sell participation interests or “b-notes” in our mortgage loans or sell such mortgage loans as whole loans. These investments have been typically repaid at or prior to maturity (including by being refinanced by us into a new conduit first mortgage loan upon property stabilization). As of December 31, 2018, we held a portfolio of 157 balance sheet first mortgage loans with an aggregate book value of $3.2 billion. Based on the loan balances and the “as-is” third-party FIRREA appraised values at origination, the weighted average loan-to-value ratio of this portfolio was 68.2% at December 31, 2018.
 
Other Commercial Real Estate-Related Loans.  We selectively invest in note purchase financings, subordinated debt, mezzanine debt and other structured finance products related to commercial real estate that are generally held for investment. As of December 31, 2018, we held a portfolio of 30 other commercial real estate-related loans with an aggregate book value of $147.6 million. Based on the loan balance and the “as-is” third-party FIRREA appraised values at origination, the weighted average loan-to-value ratio of the portfolio was 68.3% at December 31, 2018.

Conduit First Mortgage Loans.  We also originate conduit loans, which are first mortgage loans that are secured by cash-flowing commercial real estate and are available for sale to securitizations. These first mortgage loans are typically structured with fixed interest rates and generally have five- to ten-year terms. Conduit first mortgage loans are originated, underwritten, approved and funded using the same comprehensive legal and underwriting approach, process and personnel used to originate our balance sheet first mortgage loans. Conduit first mortgage loans in excess of $50.0 million also require approval of our board of directors’ Risk and Underwriting Committee.

Although our primary intent is to sell our conduit first mortgage loans to CMBS trusts, we generally seek to maintain the flexibility to keep them on our balance sheet, sell participation interests or “b-notes” in our conduit first mortgage loans or sell conduit first mortgage loans as whole loans. From our inception in 2008 through December 31, 2018, we have originated and funded $15.5 billion of conduit first mortgage loans and securitized $15.4 billion of such mortgage loans in 59 separate transactions, including two securitizations in 2010, three securitizations in 2011, six securitizations in 2012, six securitizations in 2013, 10 securitizations in 2014, 10 securitizations in 2015, six securitizations in 2016, seven securitizations in 2017 and nine securitizations in 2018. We generally securitize our loans together with certain financial institutions, which to date have included affiliates of Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, UBS Securities LLC and Wells Fargo Securities, LLC. We have also completed three single-asset securitizations, executed a Ladder-only multi-borrower securitization from Ladder’s CMBS shelf in June 2017 and completed our first contributions of shorter-term loans into CLO transactions in the fourth quarter of 2017. As of December 31, 2018, we held 10 first mortgage loans that were available for contribution into a securitization with an aggregate book value of $182.4 million. Based on the loan balances and the “as-is” third-party Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA”) appraised values at origination, the weighted average loan- to-value ratio of this portfolio was 64.7% at December 31, 2018. The Company holds these conduit loans in its taxable REIT subsidiary (“TRS”).

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The following charts set forth our total outstanding balance sheet first mortgage loans, other commercial real estate-related loans, mortgage loans transferred but not considered sold and conduit first mortgage loans as of December 31, 2018 and a breakdown of our loan portfolio by loan size and geographic location and asset type of the underlying real estate.


396926286_loanpiecharts12312018a01.jpg 

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Securities
 
CMBS Investments.  We invest in CMBS secured by first mortgage loans on commercial real estate and own predominantly AAA-rated securities. These investments provide a stable and attractive base of net interest income and help us manage our liquidity. We have significant in-house expertise in the evaluation and trading of CMBS, due in part to our experience in originating and underwriting mortgage loans that comprise assets within CMBS trusts, as well as our experience in structuring CMBS transactions. AAA-rated CMBS or U.S. Agency securities investments in excess of $76.0 million and all other investment grade CMBS or U.S. Agency securities investments in excess of $51.0 million, each in any single class of any single issuance, require the approval of our board of directors’ Risk and Underwriting Committee. The Risk and Underwriting Committee also must approve any investments in non-rated or sub-investment grade CMBS or U.S. Agency Securities in any single class of any single issuance in excess of the lesser of (x) $21,000,000 and (y) 10% of the total net asset value of the respective Ladder investment company. As of December 31, 2018, the estimated fair value of our portfolio of CMBS investments totaled $1.3 billion in 157 CUSIPs ($8.3 million average investment per CUSIP). As of December 31, 2018, included in the $1.3 billion of CMBS securities are $12.2 million of CMBS securities designated as risk retention securities under the Dodd-Frank Act which are subject to transfer restrictions over the term of the securitization trust. As of that date, 100% of our CMBS investments were rated investment grade by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Group, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. or Fitch Ratings Inc., consisting of 84.4% AAA/Aaa-rated securities and 15.5% of other investment grade-rated securities, including 12.5% rated AA/Aa, 2% rated A/A and 1.1% rated BBB/Baa. In the future, we may invest in CMBS securities or other securities that are unrated. As of December 31, 2018, our CMBS investments had a weighted average duration of 2.3 years. The commercial real estate collateral underlying our CMBS investment portfolio is located throughout the United States. As of December 31, 2018, by property count and market value, respectively, 52.6% and 90.6% of the collateral underlying our CMBS investment portfolio was distributed throughout the top 25 metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) in the United States, with 5.5% and 11.5%, by property count and market value, respectively, of the collateral located in the New York-Newark-Edison MSA, and the concentrations in each of the remaining top 24 MSAs ranging from 0.2% to 7.1% by property count and 0.1% to 64.5% by market value.

U.S. Agency Securities Investments.  Our U.S. Agency Securities portfolio consists of securities for which the principal and interest payments are guaranteed by a U.S. government agency, such as the Government National Mortgage Association (“GNMA”), or by a government-sponsored enterprise (“GSE”), such as the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”). In addition, these securities are secured by first mortgage loans on commercial real estate. Investments in U.S. Agency Securities are subject to the same Risk and Underwriting Committee approval requirements as CMBS investments, as described above. As of December 31, 2018, the estimated fair value of our portfolio of U.S. Agency Securities was $36.4 million in 20 CUSIPs ($1.8 million average investment per CUSIP), with a weighted average duration of 4.9 years. The commercial real estate collateral underlying our U.S. Agency Securities portfolio is located throughout the United States. As of December 31, 2018, by market value, 76.7% and 18.0% of the collateral underlying our U.S. Agency Securities, excluding the collateral underlying our Agency interest-only securities, was located in New York and California, respectively, with no other state having a concentration greater than 10.0%. By property count, California represented 75.9% and New York represented 3.4% of such collateral. While the specific geographic concentration of our Agency interest-only securities portfolio as of December 31, 2018 is not obtainable, risk relating to any such possible concentration is mitigated by the interest payments of these securities being guaranteed by a U.S. government agency or a GSE.

Corporate Bonds.  In addition to CMBS and U.S. Agency Securities, we invest in other debt securities, including but not limited to debt securities issued by REITs and real estate companies. Approval of our board of directors’ Risk and Underwriting Committee is required for the aggregate investments in such debt securities made and owned by all Ladder investment companies to exceed $20.0 million. As of December 31, 2018, the estimated fair value of our portfolio of debt securities was $53.9 million in two CUSIPs ($26.9 million average investment per CUSIP), with a weighted average duration of 2.5 years.

Equity Securities.  We invest in real estate related equity investments. Approval of our board of directors’ Risk and Underwriting Committee is required for the aggregate real estate related equity investments made and owned by all Ladder investment companies to exceed $20.0 million. As of December 31, 2018, the estimated fair value of our portfolio of equity securities was $11.5 million in three CUSIPs ($3.8 million average investment per CUSIP).

Real Estate

Commercial Real Estate Properties.  As of December 31, 2018, we owned 143 single tenant net leased properties with an aggregate book value of $673.4 million. These properties are fully leased on a net basis where the tenant is generally responsible for payment of real estate taxes, property, building and general liability insurance and property and building maintenance expenses. As of December 31, 2018, our net leased properties comprised a total of 5.2 million square feet, 100% leased with an average age since construction of 14.2 years and a weighted average remaining lease term of 13.3 years.

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Commercial real estate investments in excess of $20.0 million require the approval of our board of directors’ Risk and Underwriting Committee.
 
In addition, as of December 31, 2018, we owned 69 diversified commercial real estate properties with an aggregate book value of $318.1 million. Through separate joint ventures, we owned a 40 property student housing portfolio in Isla Vista, CA with a book value of $83.5 million and an occupancy rate of 100.0%, a portfolio of 12 office buildings in Richmond, VA with a book value of $77.6 million with an 80.3% occupancy rate, an apartment complex in Miami, FL with a book value of $36.2 million and an occupancy rate of 91.2%, an unleased industrial building in Lithia Springs, GA with an aggregate book value of $24.3 million, a portfolio of seven office buildings in Richmond, VA with a book value of $15.8 million and an 80.3% occupancy rate, a 13-story office building in Oakland County, MI with a book value of $11.1 million and a 81.8% occupancy rate, a two-story office building in Grand Rapids, MI with a book value of $8.4 million and a 100.0% occupancy rate, and a single-tenant industrial building in Grand Rapids, MI with a book value of $5.1 million. We also own a single-tenant office building in Ewing, NJ with a book value of $28.2 million, a single-tenant office building in Crum Lynne, PA with a book value of $10.2 million, a single-tenant two-story office building in Wayne, NJ with a book value of $8.2 million, a shopping center in Carmel, NY with a book value of $6.3 million and a 43.0% occupancy rate, and an office building in Peoria, IL with a book value of $3.2 million and a 50.8% occupancy rate.

Residential Real Estate.  We sold 12 condominium units at Veer Towers in Las Vegas, NV, during the year ended December 31, 2018, generating aggregate gains on sale of $4.3 million. As of December 31, 2018, we owned one residential condominium unit at Veer Towers in Las Vegas, NV with a book value of $0.4 million through a joint venture, and we expect to complete the sale of this remaining unit in 2019. As of December 31, 2018, there were no condominium units under contract for sale. As of December 31, 2018, the remaining condominium unit we hold is not rented or occupied.
 
We sold 26 condominium units at Terrazas River Park Village in Miami, FL, during the year ended December 31, 2018, generating aggregate gains on sale of $1.1 million. As of December 31, 2018, we owned 22 residential condominium units at Terrazas River Park Village in Miami, FL with a book value of $6.1 million, and we intend to sell these remaining units in less than 24 months. As of December 31, 2018, three condominium units were under contract for sale with a book value of $0.7 million. As of December 31, 2018, the remaining condominium units we hold were 62.5% rented and occupied. During the year ended December 31, 2018, the Company recorded $0.7 million of rental income from the condominium units.

The Company holds these residential condominium units in its TRS.

Other Investments

Unconsolidated Joint Venture.  In connection with the origination of a loan in April 2012, we received a 25% equity interest with the right to convert upon a capital event. On March 22, 2013, we refinanced the loan, and we converted our equity interest into a 19% limited liability company membership interest in Grace Lake JV, LLC (“Grace Lake LLC”). As of December 31, 2018, Grace Lake LLC owned an office building campus with a carrying value of $57.5 million, which is net of accumulated depreciation of $26.9 million, that is financed by $66.7 million of long-term debt. Debt of Grace Lake LLC is non-recourse to the limited liability company members, except for customary non-recourse carve-outs for certain actions and environmental liability. As of December 31, 2018, the book value of our investment in Grace Lake LLC was $5.3 million. During the year ended December 31, 2018, we received a $1.3 million distribution from our investment in Grace Lake JV, LLC.
 

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Unconsolidated Joint Venture.  On August 7, 2015, the Company entered into a joint venture, 24 Second Avenue Holdings LLC (“24 Second Avenue”), with an operating partner to invest in a ground-up condominium construction and development project located at 24 Second Avenue, New York, NY. The Company contributed $31.1 million for a 73.8% interest, with the operating partner holding the remaining 26.2% interest. The Company is entitled to income allocations and distributions based upon its membership interest of 73.8% until the Company achieves a 1.70x profit multiple, after which, income is allocated and distributed 50% to the Company and 50% to the operating partner. As of December 31, 2016, the previously existing building had been demolished and the site was cleared with all supportive excavation work completed, and we are anticipating completion of the new construction in 2018. 24 Second Avenue consists of 31 residential condominium units and one commercial condominium unit. As of December 31, 2018, 16 residential condominium units were under contract for sale for $39.5 million in sales proceeds. As of December 31, 2018, 24 Second Avenue is holding a 10.0% deposit on each sales contract. 24 Second Avenue expects to start closing on the existing sales contracts during the quarter ended March 31, 2019, pending New York City Building Department approvals. 24 Second Avenue entered into a construction loan in the amount of $50.5 million to fund the completion of the project. As of December 31, 2018, draws of $46.7 million have been taken against the construction loan, which matures on February 11, 2019. On February 11, 2019, the Company provided 24 Second Avenue with a $50.5 million first mortgage loan and a $6.5 million mezzanine loan. 24 Second Avenue used the proceeds from these loans to repay the outstanding construction loan and will use the remaining funds to finance the completion of the project. As of December 31, 2018, the Company has a $0.6 million remaining capital commitment to our operating partner. As of December 31, 2018, the book value of our investment in 24 Second Avenue was $35.0 million.

FHLB Stock. Tuebor Captive Insurance Company LLC (“Tuebor”) is a member of the FHLB. Each member of the FHLB must purchase and hold FHLB stock as a condition of initial and continuing membership, in proportion to their borrowings from the FHLB and levels of certain assets. Members may need to purchase additional stock to comply with these capital requirements from time to time. FHLB stock is redeemable by Tuebor upon five years’ prior written notice, subject to certain restrictions and limitations. Under certain conditions, the FHLB may also, at its sole discretion, repurchase FHLB stock from its members. As of December 31, 2018, the book value of our investment in FHLB Stock was $57.9 million.

Our Financing Strategies
 
Our financing strategies are critical to the success and growth of our business. We manage our financing to complement our asset composition and to diversify our exposure across multiple capital markets and counterparties.
 
We fund our investments in commercial real estate loans and securities through multiple sources, including the following:

$611.6 million of gross proceeds we raised in our initial equity private placement beginning in October 2008,
$257.4 million of gross proceeds we raised in our follow-on equity private placement in the third quarter of 2011,
$325.0 million of gross proceeds from the issuance of 2017 Notes in 2012,
$259.0 million of gross proceeds from the issuance of Class A common stock in 2014,
$300.0 million of gross proceeds from the issuance of 2021 Notes in 2014,
$500.0 million of gross proceeds from the issuance of 2022 Notes in 2017,
$400.0 million of gross proceeds from the issuance of 2025 Notes in 2017,
$99.0 million of gross proceeds we raised in our primary equity offering in the fourth quarter of 2018,
current and future earnings and cash flow from operations, and
existing debt facilities, and other borrowing programs in which we participate.
 
We finance our portfolio of commercial real estate loans using committed term facilities provided by multiple financial institutions, with total commitments of $1.8 billion at December 31, 2018, a $266.4 million Revolving Credit Facility, CLO transactions and through our FHLB membership. As of December 31, 2018, there was $497.5 million outstanding under the committed term facilities. We finance our securities portfolio, including CMBS and U.S. Agency Securities, through our FHLB membership, a $400.0 million committed term master repurchase agreement from a leading domestic financial institution and uncommitted master repurchase agreements with numerous counterparties. As of December 31, 2018, we had total outstanding balances of $166.2 million under all securities master repurchase agreements. We finance our real estate investments with non-recourse first mortgage loans. As of December 31, 2018, we had outstanding balances of $743.9 million on these non-recourse mortgage loans.

In addition to the amounts outstanding on our other facilities, we had $1.3 billion of borrowings from the FHLB outstanding at December 31, 2018. As of December 31, 2018, we also had a $266.4 million Revolving Credit Facility, with no borrowings outstanding, and $1.2 billion of Notes issued and outstanding. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources” and Note 8, Debt Obligations, Net in our consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report for more information about our financing arrangements.

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We enter into interest rate and credit spread derivative contracts to mitigate our exposure to changes in interest rates and credit spreads. We generally seek to hedge the interest rate risk on the financing of assets that have a duration longer than five years, including newly-originated conduit first mortgage loans, securities in our CMBS portfolio if long enough in duration, and most of our U.S. Agency Securities portfolio. We monitor our asset profile and our hedge positions to manage our interest rate and credit spread exposures, and we seek to match fund our assets according to the liquidity characteristics and expected holding periods of our assets.
 
We generally seek to maintain a debt-to-equity ratio of approximately 3.0:1.0 or below. We expect this ratio to fluctuate during the course of a fiscal year due to the normal course of business in our conduit lending operations, in which we generally securitize our inventory of conduit loans at intervals, and also because of changes in our asset mix, due in part to such securitizations. As of December 31, 2018, our debt-to-equity ratio was 2.7:1.0. Our adjusted leverage, a non-GAAP financial measure, was 2.3:1.0 as of December 31, 2018. See “—Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures” for our definition of adjusted leverage and a reconciliation to debt obligations, net. We believe that our predominantly senior secured assets and our moderate leverage provide financial flexibility to be able to capitalize on attractive market opportunities as they arise.
 
From time to time, we may add financing counterparties that we believe will complement our business, although the agreements governing our indebtedness may limit our ability and the ability of our present and future subsidiaries to incur additional indebtedness. Our amended and restated charter and by-laws do not impose any threshold limits on our ability to use leverage.

Business Outlook
 
We believe the commercial real estate finance market is currently characterized by solid demand for fixed and floating rate mortgage financing supported by stable property values in most parts of the U.S. The demand is driven by acquisitions and refinancings of existing properties, the need to fund expenditures to renovate or otherwise improve buildings, and new real estate development. After an extended period of low and stable interest rates in the U.S., recent interest rate increases and concerns regarding the potential for additional future interest rate increases has also contributed to demand for long term fixed rate mortgage financing. More than $1.9 trillion of commercial real estate debt is scheduled to mature over the next five years (according to Trepp), providing a substantial foundation of demand for mortgage financing services going forward. Somewhat offsetting these positive macro market factors is the yield curve's flattening trend which may reflect a market anticipating slower economic growth in the future.
From our perspective as a commercial mortgage lender that finances its customers’ real estate investments nationwide, the trends observed in the commercial mortgage backed securities market are often informative and somewhat predictive. In 2017, new U.S. CMBS issuance volume increased 27.1% to $87.8 billion in comparison to 2016, a year in which swings in credit spreads created uncertainty for lenders and borrowers thereby suppressing transaction activity. The return to positive annual growth in U.S. CMBS issuance volume in 2017 was, at least in part, due to more stable and favorable credit spread environment. Although spreads continued to tighten into the beginning of 2018, they mostly widened during the rest of the year. Still, the U.S. CMBS new issuance market was active in 2018, with issuance totaling $77.0 billion during the year, a decrease of 12.3% compared to 2017, but an increase of 11.4% compared to 2016.

We believe the CMBS market will continue to play an important role in the financing of commercial real estate that is expected to produce substantial streams of stabilized income over multiple years and we expect to continue to participate in this market as a loan originator and a contributor of loans to securitization transactions in which CMBS are issued. We also expect to continue to be active as a lender to owners of properties that are in transition and are expected to start generating substantial streams of stabilized income after the financed property’s transition plan has been executed. Our ability to offer borrowers mortgage loan financing on transitional properties enables us to remain an active lender even when the CMBS market experiences disruptions or periods of slower activity that impair the origination of new loans for securitization.

Reflected in all of these lending and financing capabilities that Ladder applies in its daily operations is its ability to apply superior credit skills in the underwriting of commercial real estate debt and equity investments while maintaining the ability to efficiently shift capital among mortgage loans, securities, and real estate investments. Underwriting commercial real estate credit risk is Ladder’s core strength—and Ladder expresses its view of the commercial real estate market and of specific investment opportunities within it by making loans, investing in debt securities, and acquiring real estate—constantly fine-tuning that mix of investments in an ongoing effort to optimize risk adjusted returns on equity.

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Factors impacting operating results
 
There are a number of factors that influence our operating results in a meaningful way. The most significant factors include: (1) our competition; (2) market and economic conditions; (3) loan origination volume; (4) profitability of securitizations; (5) avoidance of credit losses; (6) availability of debt and equity funding and the costs of that funding; (7) the net interest margin on our investments; (8) effectiveness of our hedging and other risk management practices; (9) real estate transactions volumes; (10) occupancy rates; and (11) expense management.

Investment Process

Origination

Our team of originators is responsible for sourcing and directly originating new commercial first mortgage loans from the brokerage community and directly from real estate owners, operators, developers and investors. The extensive industry experience of our management team and origination team has enabled us to build a strong network of mortgage brokers and direct borrowers throughout the commercial real estate community in the United States.

Credit and Underwriting

Our underwriting and credit process commences upon receipt of a potential borrower’s executed loan application and non-refundable deposit.

Our underwriters conduct a thorough due diligence process for each prospective investment. The team coordinates in-house and third-party due diligence for each prospective loan as part of a checklist-based process that is designed to ensure that each loan receives a systematic evaluation. Elements of the underwriting process generally include:

Cash Flow Analysis. We create an estimated cash flow analysis and underwriting model for each prospective investment. Creation of the cash flow analysis generally draws on an assessment of current and historical data related to the property’s rent roll, operating expenses, net operating income, leasing cost, and capital expenditures. Underwriting evaluates and factors in assumptions regarding current market rents, vacancy rates, operating expenses, tenant improvements, leasing commissions, replacement reserves, renewal probabilities and concession packages based on observable conditions in the subject property’s sub-market at the time of underwriting. The cash flow analysis may also rely upon third-party environmental and engineering reports to estimate the cost to repair or remediate any identified environmental and/or property-level deficiencies. The final underwritten cash flow analysis is used to estimate the property’s overall value and its ability to produce cash flow to service the proposed loan.

Borrower Analysis. Careful attention is also paid to the proposed borrower, including an analysis based on available information of its credit history, financial standing, existing portfolio and sponsor exposure to leverage and contingent liabilities, capacity and capability to manage and lease the collateral, depth of organization, knowledge of the local market, and understanding of the proposed product type. We also generally commission and review a third-party background check of our prospective borrower and sponsor.

Site Inspection. A Ladder underwriter typically conducts a physical site inspection of each property. The site inspection gives the underwriter insights into the local market and the property’s positioning within it, confirms that tenants are in-place, and generally helps to ensure that the property has the characteristics, qualities, and potential value represented by the borrower.

Legal Due Diligence. Our in-house transaction management team, comprised of experienced attorneys, manages, negotiates, structures and closes all transactions and completes legal due diligence on each property, borrower, and sponsor, including the evaluation of documents such as leases, title, title insurance, opinion letters, tenant estoppels, organizational documents, and other agreements and documents related to the property or the loan.

Third-party Appraisal. We generally commission an appraisal from a member of the Appraisal Institute to provide an independent opinion of value as well as additional supporting property and market data. Appraisals generally include detailed data on recent property sales, local rents, vacancy rates, supply, absorption, demographics and employment, as well as a detailed projected cash flow and valuation analysis. We typically use the independent appraiser’s valuation to calculate ratios such as loan-to-value and loan-to-stabilized-value ratio, as well as to serve as an independent source to which the in-house cash flow and valuation model can be compared.


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Third-party Engineering Report. We generally engage an approved licensed engineer to complete property condition/engineering reports and a seismic report for applicable properties. The engineering report is intended to identify any issues with respect to the safety and soundness of a property that may warrant further investigation, and provide estimates of ongoing replacement reserves, overall replacement cost, and the cost to bring a property into good repair.

Third-party Environmental Report. We also generally engage an approved environmental consulting firm to complete a Phase I Environmental Assessment to identify and evaluate potential environmental issues at the property and may also order and review Phase II Environmental Assessments and/or Operations & Maintenance plans if applicable. Environmental reports and supporting documentation are typically reviewed in-house as well as by our dedicated outside environmental counsel who prepares a summary report on each property.

Third-party Insurance Review. A third-party insurance specialist reviews each prospective borrower’s existing insurance program to analyze the specific risk exposure of each property and to ensure that coverage is in compliance with our standard insurance requirements. Our transaction management team oversees this third-party review and makes the conclusions of their analysis available to the underwriting team.

A credit memorandum is prepared to summarize the results of the underwriting and due diligence process for the consideration of the Investment Committee. We thoroughly document the due diligence process up to and including the credit memorandum and maintain an organized digital archive of our work.

Transaction Management

The transaction management team is generally responsible for coordinating and managing outside counsel, working directly with originators, underwriters and borrowers to manage, structure, negotiate and close all transactions, including the securitization of our loans. The transaction management team plays an integral role in the legal underwriting of each property, consults with outside counsel on significant business, credit and/or legal issues, and facilitates the funding and closing of all investments and dispositions. The transaction management team also supports asset management and investment realization activities, including coordination of post-closing issues and assistance with loan sales, financings, refinancing and repayments.

Investment Committee Approval

All loan and real estate investments require approval from our Investment Committee, comprised of Brian Harris, CEO; Pamela McCormack, President; and Michael Scarola, Chief Credit Officer. The Investment Committee generally requires each investment to be fully described in a comprehensive Investment Committee memorandum that identifies the investment, the due diligence conducted and the findings, as well as all identified related risks and mitigants. The Investment Committee meets regularly to ensure that all investments are fully vetted prior to issuance of Investment Committee approval.

In addition to Investment Committee approval, the Risk and Underwriting Committee of our board of directors approves all loan and real estate investments above certain thresholds, which are currently set at $50.0 million for loans and $20.0 million for real estate investments.

Financing

Prior to securitization or other disposition, or in the case of balance sheet loans, maturity, we finance most of the loans we originate using our multiple committed term facilities from leading financial institutions and our membership in the FHLB. Our finance team endeavors to match the characteristics and expected holding periods of the assets being financed with the characteristics of the financing options available and our short and long term cash needs in determining the appropriate financing approaches to be applied. The approaches we apply to financing our assets are a key component of our asset/liability risk management strategy with respect to managing liquidity risk. These approaches, supplemented by the use of hedging primarily via the use of standard derivative instruments, facilitate the prudent management of our interest rate and credit spread exposures.


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Asset Management

The asset management team, together with our third-party servicers, monitors the credit performance of our investment portfolio, working closely with borrowers and/or their partners to monitor performance of our collateral assets and overseeing our real estate portfolio. Asset management focuses on careful asset specific and market surveillance, active enforcement of loan and security rights, and regular review of potential disposition strategies. Loan modifications, asset recapitalizations and other necessary variations to a borrower’s or partner’s business plan or budget will generally be vetted through the asset management team with a recommended course of action presented to the Investment Committee for approval.

Specific responsibilities of the asset management team include:

coordinating cash processing and cash management for collections and distributions through lock box accounts that are set up to trap all cash flow from a property;
monitoring tax and insurance administration to ensure timely payments to appropriate authorities and maintenance or placement of applicable insurance coverages;
assisting with escrow analysis to maintain appropriate balances in required accounts;
monitoring UCC administration for continued compliance with lien laws in various jurisdictions;
assisting with reserve and draw management from pre-funded accounts and future advance obligations, including, where appropriate, working with borrowers to recast business plans and rebalance loan reserves to account for changes in business plans;
coordinating and conducting site inspections and surveillance activities including periodic analysis of financial statements;
re-underwriting assets regularly in order to monitor asset and market level performance;
maintaining regular communication with local market participants, including brokers and appraisers, to monitor changes in local market conditions;
where appropriate, identifying existing loan exposures for refinance through the CMBS market;
reviewing operating statements (including rent rolls) and comparing financial performance and timing of asset to original underwriting and current budgets;
reviewing for approval as required by the loan agreements items including major leases, management/franchise agreements, other major/significant contracts and agreements;
reviewing available information for any material variances; and
completing and updating asset summary reviews and providing active portfolio management reporting to ensure that borrowers remain compliant with the terms of their loans and remain on target for established budgets and business plans.

Disposition and Distribution

Our securitization team works with our transaction management and underwriting teams to realize our disposition strategy of selling certain first mortgage loans into CMBS securitization trusts. We typically partner with other leading financial institutions to contribute loans to multi-asset securitizations. We have also led single asset securitizations on single loans we have originated.

From time to time, our registered broker-dealer subsidiary, Ladder Capital Securities LLC (“LCS”), may act as a co-manager for the underwriting syndicate of public and private CMBS securitizations where an affiliate of LCS is contributing collateral to the CMBS deal as a loan seller. In such instances, LCS, as a co-manager, will participate in the underwriting syndicate, on a best efforts basis, to structure and arrange the bond issuance and participate in the associated investor meetings and road shows. LCS generally does not receive any allocation of securities in these offerings for distribution to investor accounts and, as such, has not participated in the direct sale of any CMBS to institutional and/or retail investors. During the year ended December 31, 2018, LCS recorded no fee income resulting from securitization transactions, which was eliminated upon consolidation.

In addition, Ladder has from time to time purchased predominantly AAA-rated CMBS from securitizations into which we have sold conduit first mortgage loans, generally as one of several loan contributors. In such instances, however, we have not participated as a co-manager in the underwriting syndicates. As of December 31, 2018, we owned $69.6 million of such CMBS, representing 6.7% of the $1.0 billion of CMBS issued by the related securitization trusts. As with our other CMBS investments, we purchased these securities in both primary and secondary market transactions over time.


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In June 2016, our subsidiary, Ladder Capital Commercial Mortgage Securities LLC, successfully had its shelf registration statement declared effective with the SEC which permits us to act as an issuer in a public securitization of first mortgage loans contributed by us (and/or a third-party loan contributor). We may, in the future, contribute first mortgage loans to a securitization utilizing this shelf registration statement or future shelf registration statements.

In addition to contributing first mortgage loans into CMBS securitization trusts, we also maintain the flexibility to keep such loans on our balance sheet, contribute loans into a collateralized loan obligation (CLO) or similar structure, sell participation interests or “b-notes” in our first mortgage loans or sell first mortgage loans as whole loans. Balance sheet loans that are refinanced by us into a new conduit first mortgage loan upon property stabilization and intended for securitization are re-underwritten and structured by our origination, underwriting and transaction management teams.

Our asset management team also manages sales of our real property and works with our trading and finance teams on sales of securities.

Competition

The commercial real estate finance markets are highly competitive. We face competition for lending and investment opportunities from a variety of institutional lenders and investors and many other market participants, including specialty finance companies, other REITs, commercial banks and thrift institutions, investment banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial institutions. Many of these competitors enjoy competitive advantages over us, including greater name recognition, established lending relationships with customers, financial resources, and access to capital.

We compete on the basis of relationships, product offering, loan structure, terms, pricing and customer service. Our success depends on our ability to maintain and capitalize on relationships with borrowers and brokers, offer attractive loan products, remain competitive in pricing and terms, and provide superior service.

Taxation

We have elected to be subject to tax as a REIT under Sections 856 through 860 of the Code, commencing with the taxable year ending December 31, 2015, and certain of our subsidiaries have also elected to be subject to tax as a REIT. To qualify as REITs, we must make qualifying distributions to shareholders and satisfy, on a continuing basis, through actual investment and operating results, certain asset, income, organizational, distribution, stock ownership and other REIT requirements. If we fail to qualify as REITs, and do not qualify for certain statutory relief provisions, we will be subject to U.S. federal, state and local income taxes and may be precluded from qualifying as REITs for the subsequent four taxable years following the year in which we lost our REIT qualification. The failure to qualify as REITs could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations and amounts available for distribution to shareholders.

We utilize TRSs to reduce the impact of the prohibited transaction tax and to avoid penalty for the holding of assets not qualifying as real estate assets for purposes of the REIT asset tests. Any income associated with a TRS is fully taxable because a TRS is subject to federal and state income taxes as a domestic C corporation based upon its net income. See “Risk factors—Risks related to our taxation as a REIT.”

Regulation

Our operations are subject, in certain instances, to supervision and regulation by state and U.S. federal governmental authorities and may be subject to various laws and judicial and administrative decisions imposing various requirements and restrictions. In addition, certain of our subsidiaries’ businesses may rely on exemptions from various requirements of the Securities Act, the Exchange Act, the Investment Company Act, and the U.S. Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”). These exemptions are sometimes highly complex and may in certain circumstances depend on compliance by third-parties who we do not control.


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Regulatory Reform

The Dodd-Frank Act, which went into effect on July 21, 2010, is intended to make significant structural reforms to the financial services industry. For example, pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, various federal agencies have promulgated, or are in the process of promulgating, regulations and rules with respect to various issues that affect securitizations, including: (a) a rule that took effect December 24, 2016 (the “Risk Retention Rule”) requiring that either (i) a securitization’s sponsor retain, until the unpaid balance of the bonds or the loans is reduced by a certain amount, a 5% vertical interest in each class of securities issued, (ii) the sponsor or certain third-party purchasers (each, a “Third Party Purchaser”) retain, until the unpaid balance of the bonds or the loans is reduced by a certain amount (or for third-party purchasers, for at least five years), securities in an amount equal to 5% of the credit risk associated with the issued securities in the form of the subordinate tranches or (iii) a combination of (i) and (ii); (b) requirements for additional disclosure; (c) requirements for additional review and reporting (including revisions to Regulation AB); (d) for public securitizations, requirements that the chief executive officer (“CEO”) of an issuer file with the SEC an individual certificate attesting to certain matters, as described below; and (e) certain restrictions designed to prohibit conflicts of interest. Other regulations have been and may ultimately be adopted.

The Risk Retention Rule and other rules and regulations that have been adopted or may be adopted under the Dodd-Frank Act could alter the structure of securitizations in the future and could pose additional risks to or reduce or eliminate the economic benefits of our participation in future securitizations. In addition, such rules and regulations could reduce or eliminate the economic benefits of securitization in general or discourage traditional issuers, underwriters, b-piece buyers or other participants from participating in future securitizations and affect the availability of securitization platforms into which we can contribute mortgage loans, which may require that we take on additional roles and risks in connection with effectuating securitizations of mortgage loans. Refer to Note 4 to our consolidated financial statements for further information regarding the Risk Retention Rule.
Certain other recent and anticipated federal, state and municipal rules could also impact our business. These include (1) recent rules issued by the U.S. Commodity and Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) regarding commodity pool operator (“CPO”) and commodity trading advisor (“CTA”) registration and compliance obligations, (2) recent regulatory, reporting and compliance requirements applicable to swap dealers, security based swaps dealers and major swap participants under the Dodd-Frank Act, (3) recent Dodd-Frank Act regulations on derivative transactions, (4) changes to bank capital rules proposed by international regulators under the Fundamental Review of Trading Book (“FRTB”), which could require certain banks to maintain higher levels of capital when trading in securitization positions, (5) changes in capital requirements announced by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, and (6) requirements of certain states and municipalities, such as California and New York City, that require placement agents who solicit funds from the retirement and public pension systems to register as lobbyists. Although some of the rules may not affect us directly, the rules may affect issuers that sponsor securitizations in which we may sell commercial mortgage loans thereby potentially affecting the structure and/or profitability of this part of our business. Because some of the rules are not yet final or are in the process of being implemented, the full effect of the rules may not be known for some time. In addition, the SEC and other agencies continue to generate new rules. See also “Risk factors-Risks related to regulatory and compliance matters” and “Risk Factors-Risks related to hedging.”

Regulation of Commercial Real Estate Lending Activities
 
Although most states do not regulate commercial finance, certain states impose limitations on interest rates and other charges and on certain collection practices and creditor remedies, and require licensing of lenders and financiers and adequate disclosure of certain contract terms. We also are required to comply with certain provisions of, among other statutes and regulations, certain provisions of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act that are applicable to commercial loans, the USA PATRIOT Act, regulations promulgated by the Office of Foreign Asset Control and U.S. federal and state securities laws and regulations.


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Regulation as an Investment Adviser

We conduct investment advisory activities in the United States through our subsidiary, Ladder Capital Asset Management LLC (“LCAM”), which is regulated by the SEC as a registered investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended (the “Advisers Act”). A registered investment adviser is subject to U.S. federal and state laws and regulations primarily intended to benefit its clients. These laws and regulations include requirements relating to, among other things, fiduciary duties to clients, maintaining an effective compliance program, solicitation agreements, conflicts of interest, record keeping and reporting requirements, disclosure requirements, custody arrangements, limitations on agency cross and principal transactions between an investment adviser and its advisory clients and general anti-fraud prohibitions. In addition, these laws and regulations generally grant supervisory agencies and bodies broad administrative powers, including the power to limit or restrict us from conducting our advisory activities in the event we fail to comply with those laws and regulations. Sanctions that may be imposed for a failure to comply with applicable legal requirements include the suspension of individual employees, limitations on our engaging in various advisory activities for specified periods of time, disgorgement, the revocation of registrations, and other censures and fines.
 
We may become subject to additional regulatory and compliance burdens as our investment adviser subsidiary expands its product offerings and investment platform. For example, our investment adviser is currently an investment adviser to a mutual fund registered under the Investment Company Act. The mutual fund and our subsidiary that serves as its investment adviser are subject to regulation under the Investment Company Act and the rules thereunder, which, among other things, govern the relationship between a mutual fund and its investment adviser and prohibit or severely restrict principal transactions and joint transactions and regulate the fees our subsidiary may earn from the mutual fund. This additional regulation could increase our compliance costs and create the potential for additional liabilities and penalties.
 
The SEC and its staff continue to engage in various initiatives that may change the regulations governing our investment adviser subsidiary and its clients, particularly the mutual fund. In 2016, the SEC adopted a rule governing the liquidity requirements applicable to mutual funds. We may incur additional expense in connection with ensuring the mutual fund complies with the new rule, which is expected to become effective in 2019.

In 2017, a new Department of Labor regulation became applicable revising the definition of when a party may be providing advice as a “fiduciary” for purposes of the fiduciary responsibility provisions of Title I of ERISA and the prohibited transaction excise tax provisions of the IRS.  Certain conditions of exemptions to the rule have been delayed, and the Department  of Labor is currently re-examining the rule.  The rule creates certain compliance and operational challenges for companies that distribute investment products and in some cases may make it more difficult for our investment adviser to raise capital from benefit plan investors (including Individual Retirement Accounts) for clients that it may manage.

Regulation as a Broker-Dealer

We have a subsidiary, Ladder Capital Securities LLC, that is registered as a broker-dealer with the SEC and in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”). This subsidiary, which from time to time co-manages the CMBS securitizations to which an affiliate contributes collateral as loan seller, is subject to regulations that cover all aspects of its business, including sales methods, trade practices, use and safekeeping of clients’ funds and securities, the capital structure of the subsidiary, recordkeeping, the financing of clients’ purchases and the conduct of directors, officers and employees. Violations of these regulations can result in the revocation of its broker-dealer license (which could result in our having to hire new licensed investment professionals before continuing certain operations), the imposition of censure or fines and the suspension or expulsion of the subsidiary, its officers or employees from FINRA. The subsidiary also may be required to maintain certain minimum net capital. Rule 15c3-1 of the Exchange Act specifies the minimum level of net capital a broker-dealer must maintain and also requires that a significant part of a broker-dealer’s assets be kept in relatively liquid form. The SEC and FINRA impose rules that require notification when net capital falls below certain predefined criteria, limit the ratio of subordinated debt to equity in the regulatory capital composition of a broker-dealer and constrain the ability of a broker-dealer to expand its business under certain circumstances. Additionally, the SEC’s uniform net capital rule imposes certain requirements that may have the effect of prohibiting a broker-dealer from distributing or withdrawing capital and requiring prior notice to the SEC for certain withdrawals of capital. As of December 31, 2018, Ladder Capital Securities LLC was in compliance with the minimum net capital requirements.


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Regulation as a Captive Insurance Company

We maintain a captive insurance company, Tuebor, to provide coverage previously self insured by us, including nuclear, biological or chemical coverage, excess property coverage and excess errors and omissions coverage. It is regulated by the state of Michigan and is subject to regulations that cover all aspects of its business. Violations of these regulations can result in revocation of its authorization to do business as a captive insurer or result in censures or fines. The subsidiary is also subject to insurance laws of states other than Michigan (i.e., states where the insureds are located). See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and capital resources.”

Investment Company Act Exemption

We intend to conduct our operations so that neither we nor any of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) are required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.

If we or any of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) fail to qualify for and maintain an exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act, or an exclusion from the definition of an investment company, we could, among other things, be required either to (a) substantially change the manner in which we conduct our operations to avoid being required to register as an investment company, (b) effect sales of our assets in a manner that, or at a time when, we would not otherwise choose to do so, or (c) register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, any of which could have an adverse effect on us, our financial results, the sustainability of our business model or the value of our securities.
 
If we or any of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) were required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, the registered entity would become subject to substantial regulation with respect to capital structure (including the ability to use leverage), management, operations, transactions with affiliated persons (as defined in the Investment Company Act), portfolio composition, including restrictions with respect to diversification and industry concentration, compliance with reporting, record keeping, voting, proxy disclosure and other rules and regulations that would significantly change its operation and we would not be able to conduct our business as described in this Annual Report. For example, because affiliate transactions are generally prohibited under the Investment Company Act, we would not be able to enter into certain transactions with any of our affiliates if we are required to register as an investment company, which could have a material adverse effect on our ability to operate our business.

If we were required to register as an investment company but failed to do so, we would be prohibited from engaging in our business, and criminal and civil actions could be brought against us. In addition, our contracts would be unenforceable unless a court required enforcement, and a court could appoint a receiver to take control of us and liquidate our business.

Section 3(a)(1)(A) of the Investment Company Act defines an investment company as any issuer that is or holds itself out as being engaged primarily, or proposes to engage primarily, in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities. Section 3(a)(1)(C) of the Investment Company Act defines an investment company as any issuer which 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 such 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 exception from the definition of investment company for certain privately-offered investment vehicles set forth in Section 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act.

We are organized as a holding company and conduct our businesses primarily through our majority-owned subsidiaries (including any series thereof). We intend to conduct our operations so that we do not come within the definition of an investment company under Section 3(a)(1)(C) of the Investment Company Act because less than 40% of the value of our total assets (exclusive of U.S. government securities and cash items) on an unconsolidated basis will consist of “investment securities.” We will monitor our holdings to ensure continuing and ongoing compliance with this test. In addition, we believe that we will not be considered an investment company under Section 3(a)(1)(A) of the Investment Company Act because we will not engage primarily, hold ourselves out as being engaged primarily, or propose to engage primarily, in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities. Rather, we will be engaged primarily in the business of holding securities of our majority-owned subsidiaries (including any series thereof).


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We expect that certain of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) may rely on the exclusion from the definition of an “investment company” under the Investment Company Act pursuant to Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the Investment Company 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 exclusion, as interpreted by the staff of the SEC, requires that an entity invest at least 55% of its assets in “qualifying real estate assets” and at least 80% of its assets in qualifying real estate assets and “real estate-related assets.”

Although we reserve the right to modify our business methods at any time, as of December 31, 2018, we expect each of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) relying on Section 3(c)(5)(C) to primarily hold assets in one or more of the following categories, which are comprised primarily of “qualifying real estate assets”: commercial mortgage loans, investments in securities secured by first mortgage loans, and investments in selected net leased and other real estate assets. We expect each of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) relying on Section 3(c)(5)(C) to rely on guidance published by the SEC or its staff or on our analyses of such guidance to determine which assets are qualifying real estate assets and real estate-related assets. To the extent that the SEC or its staff publishes new or different guidance with respect to these matters, we may be required to adjust our strategies accordingly. In addition, we may be limited in our ability to make certain investments and these limitations could result in a subsidiary holding assets we might wish to sell or selling assets we might wish to hold.

Any of the Company or our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) may rely on the exemption provided by Section 3(c)(6) of the Investment Company Act to the extent that they primarily engage, directly or through majority-owned subsidiaries (including any series thereof), in the businesses described in Sections 3(c)(3), 3(c)(4) and 3(c)(5) of the Investment Company Act. The SEC staff has issued little interpretive guidance with respect to Section 3(c)(6) and any guidance published by the staff could require us to adjust our strategies accordingly.

In 2011, the SEC solicited public comment on a wide range of issues relating to Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the Investment Company Act, including the nature of the assets that qualify for purposes of the exemption and whether companies that are engaged in the business of acquiring mortgages and mortgage-related instruments should be regulated in a manner similar to investment companies. There can be no assurance that the laws and regulations governing the Investment Company Act status of such companies, including the SEC or its staff providing more specific or different guidance regarding Section 3(c)(5)(C), will not change in a manner that adversely affects our operations.

Qualification for exclusion from the definition of an investment company under the Investment Company Act may limit our ability to make certain investments. In addition, complying with the tests for such exclusion may restrict the time at which we can acquire and sell assets. To the extent that the SEC or its staff provides more specific guidance regarding any of the matters bearing upon such exclusions, we may be required to adjust our strategies accordingly. Any additional guidance from the SEC or its staff could provide additional flexibility to us, or it could further inhibit our ability to pursue the strategies we have chosen. See “Risk factors—Risks related to our Investment Company Act exemption—Maintenance of our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act imposes significant limits on our operations.”

Employees

As of December 31, 2018, we employed 74 full-time persons. All employees are employed by our operating subsidiary, Ladder Capital Finance LLC. None of our employees are represented by a union or subject to a collective bargaining agreement and we have never experienced a work stoppage. We believe that our employee relations are good.

Our Corporate Information

Our principal executive offices are located at 345 Park Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, New York 10154, and our telephone number is (212) 715-3170. We maintain a website on the Internet at http://www.laddercapital.com. The information contained in our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report. We make available on or through our website certain reports and amendments to those reports that we file with or furnish to the SEC in accordance with the Exchange Act. These include our annual reports on Form 10-K, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and our current reports on Form 8-K. We make this information available on our website free of charge as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file the information with, or furnish it to, the SEC.



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Item 1A. Risk Factors
 
The following risk factors and other information included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K should be carefully considered. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones we face. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial also may adversely impact our business. If any of the following risks occur, our business, financial condition, operating results, cash flows and liquidity could be materially adversely affected. The market price of our Class A common stock could decline if one or more of these risks or uncertainties actually occur, causing you to lose all or part of your investment in our Class A common stock. Certain statements in “Risk Factors” are forward-looking statements. See “Information Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” included elsewhere in this Annual Report.

Risks Related to Our Operations

Our business model may not be successful. We may change our investment strategy and financing policy in the future without stockholder consent and any such changes may not be successful.

Our management team is authorized to follow broad investment guidelines that have been approved by our board of directors and has great latitude within those guidelines to determine which assets make proper investments for us. Those investment guidelines, as well as our financing strategy or hedging policies with respect to investments, originations, acquisitions, growth, operations, indebtedness, capitalization and distributions, may be changed at any time without the consent of our stockholders. There can be no assurance that any business model or business plan of ours will prove accurate, that our management team will be able to implement such business model or business plan successfully in the future or that we will achieve our performance objectives. Any business model of ours, including any underlying assumptions and predictions, merely reflect our assessment of the short- and long-term prospects of the business, finance and real estate markets in which we operate and should not be relied upon in determining whether to invest in our Class A common stock.

We may not be able to hire and retain qualified loan originators or grow and maintain our relationships with key loan brokers, and if we are unable to do so, our ability to implement our business and growth strategies could be limited.

We depend on our loan originators to generate borrower clients by, among other things, developing relationships with commercial property owners, real estate agents and brokers, developers and others, which we believe leads to repeat and referral business. Accordingly, we must be able to attract, motivate and retain skilled loan originators. The market for loan originators is highly competitive and may lead to increased costs to hire and retain them. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to attract or retain qualified loan originators. If we cannot attract, motivate or retain a sufficient number of skilled loan originators, at a reasonable cost or at all, our business could be materially and adversely affected. We also depend on our network of loan brokers, who generate a significant portion of our loan originations. While we strive to cultivate long-standing relationships that generate repeat business for us, brokers are free to transact business with other lenders and have done so in the past and will do so in the future. Our competitors also have relationships with some of our brokers and actively compete with us in bidding on loans shopped by these brokers. We also cannot guarantee that we will be able to maintain or develop new relationships with additional brokers.

The allocation of capital among our business lines may vary, which may adversely affect our financial performance.

In executing our business plan, we regularly consider the allocation of capital to our various commercial real estate business lines, including commercial mortgage lending, investments in securities secured by first mortgage loans, and investments in selected net leased and diversified commercial real estate properties. The allocation of capital among such business lines may vary due to market conditions, the expected relative return on equity of each activity, the judgment of our management team, the demand in the marketplace for commercial real estate loans and securities and the availability of specific investment opportunities. We also consider the availability and cost of our likely sources of capital. If we fail to appropriately allocate capital and resources across our business lines or fail to optimize our investment and capital raising opportunities, our financial performance may be adversely affected.


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Our access to the CMBS securitization market and the timing of our securitization activities and other factors may greatly affect our quarterly financial results.

We expect to distribute certain of the first mortgage loans that we originate through securitizations and, in many circumstances, upon completion of a securitization, we will recognize certain non-interest revenues which will be included in total other income on our consolidated statements of income and cease to earn net interest income on the securitized loans. Our quarterly revenue, operating results and profitability have varied substantially from quarter to quarter based on the frequency, pricing, volume and timing of our securitizations. Our securitization activities will be affected by a number of factors, including our loan origination volumes, changes in loan values, quality and performance during the period such loans are on our books and conditions in the securitization and credit markets generally and at the time we seek to launch and complete our securitizations. Although due to changes resulting from the risk retention rules required by the Dodd-Frank Act described elsewhere in this Annual Report, Ladder may potentially be required to defer income over the life of the securitization, thereby reducing such volatility in earnings, as a result of these quarterly variations, quarter-to-quarter comparisons of our operating results may not provide an accurate comparison of our current period results of operations. If securities analysts or investors focus on such comparative quarter-to-quarter performance, our stock price performance may be more volatile than if such persons compared a wider period of results of operations.

We may not be able to maintain our joint ventures and strategic business alliances.

We often rely on other third-party companies for assistance in origination, warehousing, distribution, securitization and other finance-related and loan-related activities. Some of our business may be conducted through non-wholly-owned subsidiaries, joint ventures in which we share control (in whole or in part) and strategic alliances formed by us with other strategic or business partners that we do not control. There can be no assurance that any of these strategic or business partners will continue their relationships with us in the future or that we will be able to pursue our stated strategies with respect to non-wholly-owned subsidiaries, joint ventures, strategic alliances and the markets in which we operate. Our ability to influence our partners in joint ventures or strategic alliances may be limited and non-alignment of interests on various strategic decisions in joint ventures or strategic alliances may adversely impact our business. Furthermore, joint venture or strategic alliance partners may: (i) have economic or business interests or goals that are inconsistent with ours; (ii) take actions contrary to our policies or objectives; (iii) undergo a change of control; (iv) experience financial and other difficulties; or (v) be unable or unwilling to fulfill their obligations under a joint venture or strategic alliance, which may affect our financial conditions or results of operations.

Future joint venture investments could be adversely affected by our lack of sole decision-making authority, our reliance on joint venture partners’ financial condition and liquidity and disputes between us and our joint venture partners.

We may in the future make investments through joint ventures. Such joint venture investments may involve risks not otherwise present when we originate or acquire investments without partners, including the following:
we may not have exclusive control over the investment or the joint venture, which may prevent us from taking actions that are in our best interest;
joint venture agreements often restrict the transfer of a partner’s interest or may otherwise restrict our ability to sell the interest when we desire and/or on advantageous terms;
any future joint venture agreements may contain buy-sell provisions pursuant to which one partner may initiate procedures requiring the other partner to choose between buying the other partner’s interest or selling its interest to that partner;
we may not be in a position to exercise sole decision-making authority regarding the investment or joint venture, which could create the potential risk of creating impasses on decisions, such as with respect to acquisitions or dispositions;
a partner may, at any time, have economic or business interests or goals that are, or that may become, inconsistent with our business interests or goals;
a partner may be in a position to take action contrary to our instructions, requests, policies or objectives, including our policy with respect to maintaining our qualification as a REIT and our exclusion from registration under the Investment Company Act;
a partner may fail to fund its share of required capital contributions or may become bankrupt, which may mean that we and any other remaining partners generally would remain liable for the joint venture’s liabilities;
our relationships with our partners are contractual in nature and may be terminated or dissolved under the terms of the applicable joint venture agreements and, in such event, we may not continue to own or operate the interests or investments underlying such relationship or may need to purchase such interests or investments at a premium to the market price to continue ownership;

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disputes between us and a partner may result in litigation or arbitration that could increase our expenses and prevent our officers and directors from focusing their time and efforts on our business and could result in subjecting the investments owned by the joint venture to additional risk; or
we may, in certain circumstances, be liable for the actions of a partner, and the activities of a partner could adversely affect our ability to continue to qualify as a REIT or maintain our exclusion from registration under the Investment Company Act, even though we do not control the joint venture.

Any of the above may subject us to liabilities in excess of those contemplated and adversely affect the value of our future joint venture investments.
We may face difficulties in obtaining and maintaining required authorizations or licenses to do business.

In order to implement our business strategies, we may be required to obtain, maintain or renew certain licenses and authorizations (including “doing business” authorizations and licenses with respect to loan origination) from certain governmental entities. While we do not anticipate any delays or other complications relating to such licenses and authorizations, there is no assurance that any particular license or authorization will be obtained, maintained or renewed quickly or at all. Any failure of ours to obtain, maintain or renew such authorizations or licenses may adversely affect our business. Any material failure, alone or in aggregate, could lead to a default under certain of our financing arrangements and/or result in the unenforceability of our loan documents.

The accuracy of our financial statements may be materially affected if our estimates, including loan loss reserves, prove to be inaccurate.

Financial statements prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (“GAAP”) require the use of estimates, judgments and assumptions that affect the reported amounts. Different estimates, judgments and assumptions reasonably could be used that would have a material effect on the financial statements, and changes in these estimates, judgments and assumptions are likely to occur from period to period in the future. Significant areas of accounting requiring the application of management’s judgment include, but are not limited to: (i) assessing the adequacy of the allowance for loan losses; (ii) determining the fair value of investment securities; (iii) assessing other than temporary impairments on securities; (iv) allocation of purchase price for acquired real estate; and (v) assessing impairments on real estate held for use or held for sale. These estimates, judgments and assumptions are inherently uncertain, especially in turbulent economic times, and, if they prove to be wrong, then we face the risk that charges to income will be required.

If we fail to maintain an effective system of integrated internal controls, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results.

We depend on our ability to produce accurate and timely financial statements in order to run our business. If we fail to do so, our business could be negatively affected and our independent registered public accounting firm may be unable to attest to the accuracy of our financial statements.

A deficiency in internal control exists when the design or operation of a control does not allow management or employees, in the normal course of performing their assigned functions, to prevent, or detect and correct, misstatements on a timely basis by the Company’s internal controls. A significant deficiency is defined as a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting that is less severe than a material weakness, yet important enough to merit attention by those responsible for oversight of a registrant’s financial reporting. A material weakness is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control, such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the entity’s financial statements will not be prevented or detected and corrected, on a timely basis by the Company’s internal controls.

Although we continuously monitor the design, implementation and operating effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting, there can be no assurance that significant deficiencies or material weaknesses will not occur in the future. If we fail to maintain effective internal controls in the future, it could result in a material misstatement of our financial statements that may not be prevented or detected on a timely basis, which could cause stakeholders to lose confidence in our reported financial information.


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We expect to incur significant expenses and devote substantial management effort toward ensuring compliance with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (the “Sarbanes-Oxley Act”). If we are not able to comply with the requirements of Section 404 applicable to us in a timely manner, or if significant deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting are identified, the market price of our stock could decline and we could be subject to sanctions or investigations by the SEC or other regulatory authorities, which would require additional financial and management resources.

We may be subject to “lender liability” litigation.

A number of judicial decisions have upheld the right of borrowers to sue lending institutions on the basis of various legal theories, collectively termed “lender liability.” Generally, lender liability is founded on the premise that a lender has either violated a duty, whether implied or contractual, of good faith and fair dealing owed to the borrower or has assumed a degree of control over the borrower resulting in the creation of a fiduciary duty owed to the borrower or its other creditors or shareholders. We cannot assure you that such claims will not arise or that we will not be subject to significant liability if a claim of this type were to arise.

Litigation may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We are, from time to time, subject to legal and regulatory requirements applicable to our business and industry. We may be subject to various legal proceedings and these proceedings may range from actions involving a single plaintiff to class action lawsuits. Litigation can be lengthy, expensive and disruptive to our operations and results cannot be predicted with certainty. There may also be adverse publicity associated with litigation, regardless of whether the allegations are valid or whether we are ultimately found not liable. As a result, litigation may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

There can be no assurance that our corporate insurance policies will mitigate all insurable losses, costs or damages to our business.

Based on our history and type of business, we believe that we maintain adequate insurance coverage to cover probable and reasonably estimable liabilities should they arise. However, there can be no assurance that these estimates will prove to be sufficient, nor can there be any assurance that the ultimate outcome of any claim or event will not have a material negative impact on our business prospects, financial position, results of operations or cash flows.

The requirements of being a public company may strain our resources, divert management’s attention and affect our ability to attract and retain qualified board members.

As a public company, we are subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) rules. The requirements of these rules and regulations can be onerous and expensive and make some activities more difficult, time-consuming or costly and increase demand on our systems and resources. The Exchange Act requires, among other things, that we file annual, quarterly and current reports with respect to our business and financial condition. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires, among other things, that we maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures and internal controls for financial reporting. In order to maintain and, if required, improve our disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting to meet this standard, significant resources and management oversight may be required, and management’s attention may be diverted from other business concerns. These rules and regulations could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified independent members of our board of directors. Furthermore, because of our relative inexperience in operating as a public company, we might not be successful in implementing these requirements.


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Cybersecurity threats or other security breaches could compromise sensitive information belonging to us or our employees, borrowers, clients and other counterparties and could harm our business and our reputation and subject us to regulatory scrutiny.

Ladder Capital relies on the efficacy of its cybersecurity policies and processes in order to protect its data assets from cyberattacks and intrusions, including computer viruses, adware, phishing/social engineering, wire fraud, ransomware and unauthorized persons accessing our data assets internally or externally. The secure operation of our IT networks and systems and the proper processing and maintenance of this information are critical to our business operations. The rise of high profile security breaches by hackers, foreign governments, and other malicious actors indicates an increased risk of a security breach or IT disruption. Simultaneously, the state, federal and international regulatory environment related to information security, data collection and use, and privacy has become increasingly rigorous, with new and constantly changing requirements potentially applicable to our business.

We store sensitive data, including our proprietary business information and that of our borrowers, clients and other counterparties, and confidential employee information, in our data centers and on our networks. Despite our security measures, like most companies, our information technology and infrastructure has been and likely will continue to be subject to attacks by hackers, or may be breached due to employee error, malfeasance or other disruptions that could result in unauthorized disclosure or loss of sensitive information. Because the techniques used to obtain unauthorized access to networks, or to sabotage systems, change frequently and generally are not recognized until launched against a target, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or to implement adequate preventative measures against all forms of attack. Furthermore, in the operation of our business we also use third-party vendors that store certain sensitive data, including confidential information about our employees, and these third parties are subject to their own cybersecurity threats. While we conduct due diligence on our vendors, no due diligence is infallible and any security breach of our own or a third-party vendor’s systems could cause us to be non-compliant with applicable laws or regulations, subject us to legal claims, regulatory investigations or other proceedings, and/or fines, disrupt our operations, damage our reputation, subject us to considerable remediation expenses and cause a loss of confidence in our products and services, any of which could adversely affect our business.

Market Risks Related to Real Estate Loans and Securities

We have a concentration of investments in the real estate sector and may have concentrations from time to time in certain property types, locations, tenants and borrowers, which may increase our exposure to the risks of certain economic downturns.

We operate in the commercial real estate sector. Such concentration in one economic sector may increase the volatility of our returns and may also expose us to the risk of economic downturns in this sector to a greater extent than if our portfolio also included other sectors of the economy. Declining real estate values may reduce the level of new mortgage and other real estate-related loan originations since borrowers often use appreciation in the value of their existing properties to support the purchase of or investment in additional properties. Borrowers may also be less able to pay principal and interest on our loans if the value of real estate weakens and/or the interest rates at which loans can be profitably made increases. Further, declining real estate values significantly increase the likelihood that we will incur losses on our loans in the event of default because the value of our collateral may be insufficient to cover our cost on the loan. Any sustained period of increased payment delinquencies, foreclosures or losses could adversely affect both our net interest income from loans in our portfolio as well as our ability to originate/acquire/sell loans, which would materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition, liquidity and business.

In addition, we are not required to observe specific diversification criteria relating to property types, locations, tenants or borrowers. A limited degree of diversification increases risk because the aggregate return of our business may be adversely affected by the unfavorable performance of a single property type, single tenant, single market or even a single investment. To the extent that our portfolio is concentrated in any one region or type of asset, downturns relating generally to such region or type of asset may result in defaults on a number of our assets within a short time period. Additionally, borrower concentration, in which a particular borrower is, or a group of related borrowers are, associated with multiple real properties securing mortgage loans or securities held by us, magnifies the risks presented by the possible poor performance of such borrower(s).


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We operate in a highly competitive market for lending and investment opportunities, which may limit our ability to originate or acquire desirable loans and investments in our target assets.

We operate in a highly competitive market for lending and investment opportunities. A number of entities compete with us to make the types of loans and investments that we seek to make. Our profitability depends, in large part, on our ability to originate or acquire target assets at attractive prices. In originating or acquiring target assets, we compete with a variety of institutional lenders and investors and many other market participants, including specialty finance companies, REITs, commercial banks and thrift institutions, investment banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial institutions. Many competitors are substantially larger and have considerably greater financial, technical, marketing and other resources than we do. Some competitors may have a lower cost of funds and access to funding sources that may not be available to us. Many of our competitors are not subject to the maintenance of an exemption from the Investment Company Act. Furthermore, competition for originations of, and investments in, our target assets may lead to the yield of such assets decreasing, which may further limit our ability to generate desired returns. Also, as a result of this competition, desirable loans and investments in specific types of target assets may be limited in the future and we may not be able to take advantage of attractive lending and investment opportunities from time to time. We can offer no assurance that we will be able to identify and originate loans or make any or all of the types of investments that are described in this Annual Report.

Shifts in consumer patterns and advances in communication and information technology that affect the use of traditional retail, hotel and office space may have an adverse impact on the value of our debt and equity investments.

In recent periods, sales by online retailers such as Amazon have increased, and many retailers operating brick and mortar stores have made online sales a vital piece of their businesses. Some of our debt and equity investments involve exposure to the ongoing operations of brick and mortar retailers. Although many of the retailers operating in the properties underlying our debt and/or equity investments include pharmacies and/or sell groceries and other necessity-based soft goods or provide services, including entertainment and dining options, the shift to online shopping may cause declines in brick and mortar sales generated by certain of tenants at these properties and/or may cause certain of our tenants to reduce the size or number of their retail locations in the future.

Technology has also impacted the use of office space. The office market has seen a shift in the use of space due to the availability of practices such as telecommuting, videoconferencing and renting shared work spaces through platforms such as WeWork and Knotel. These trends have led to more efficient workspace layouts and a decrease in square feet leased per employee. The continuing impact of technology could result in tenant downsizings upon renewal, or in tenants seeking office space outside of the typical central business district (“CBD”). These trends could cause an increase in vacancy rates and a decrease in demand for new supply, and could impact the value of our debt and equity investments.

Technology platforms such as AirBnB and VRBO have provided leisure and business travelers with lodging options outside of the hotel industry. These services effectively have increased the supply of rooms available in many major markets. This additional supply could impact the occupancy rates and ADRs at more traditional hotels.

As a result of the foregoing, the value of our debt and equity investments, and results of operations could be adversely affected.

Our investment guidelines and underwriting guidelines may restrict our ability to compete with others for desirable commercial mortgage loan origination and acquisition opportunities.

We have investment guidelines and underwriting guidelines with respect to commercial mortgage loan origination and acquisition opportunities. Additionally, under our credit facilities, the lenders have the right to review the assets which we are seeking to finance and approve the purchase and financing of such assets in their sole discretion. These investment and underwriting guidelines and lender approvals may restrict us from being able to compete with others for commercial mortgage loan origination and acquisition opportunities and these guidelines may be stricter than the guidelines employed by our competitors. As a result, we may not be able to compete with others for desirable commercial mortgage loan origination and acquisition opportunities. In addition, these investment and underwriting guidelines and approvals impose conditions and limitations on our ability to originate certain of our target assets, including, in particular, restrictions on our ability to originate junior mortgage loans, mezzanine loans and preferred equity investments.


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Our earnings may decrease because of changes in prevailing interest rates.

Our primary interest rate exposures relate to the yield on our assets and the financing cost of our debt, as well as the interest rate swaps that we utilize for hedging purposes. Interest rates are highly sensitive to many factors beyond our control, including but not limited to governmental monetary and tax policies, and domestic and international economic and political considerations. Interest rate fluctuations present a variety of risks, including the risk of a mismatch between asset yields and borrowing rates, variances in the yield curve and fluctuating prepayment rates, and such fluctuations may adversely affect our income and may generate losses.

The Federal Reserve raised rates four times in 2018. Further increases in interest rates could result in us having lower revenue or profitability. Demand for mortgages could be negatively impacted by rising interest rates.

Prepayment rates on mortgage loans cannot be predicted with certainty and prepayments may result in losses to the value of our assets.

The frequency at which prepayments (including voluntary prepayments by the borrowers and liquidations due to defaults and foreclosures) occur on our investments can adversely impact our business, and prepayment rates cannot be predicted with certainty, making it impossible to completely insulate us from prepayment or other such risks. Any adverse effects of prepayments may impact our portfolio in that particular investments, which may experience outright losses in an environment of faster actual or anticipated prepayments or may underperform relative to hedges that the management team may have constructed for such investments (resulting in a loss to our overall portfolio). Additionally, borrowers are more likely to prepay when the prevailing level of interest rates falls, thereby exposing us to the risk that the prepayment proceeds may be reinvested only at a lower interest rate than that borne by the prepaid obligation.

Global capital markets could enter a period of severe disruption and instability and future military conflicts and global unrest could have a material adverse effect on general economic conditions, consumer confidence, and market liquidity. These conditions have historically affected and could again materially and adversely affect debt and equity capital markets in the U.S. and around the world and our business.

Ongoing and future military conflicts and continued global unrest may affect interest rates, among other things. An increase in interest rates may increase our cost of borrowing, leading to a reduction in our earnings. Further, the U.S. and global capital markets experienced extreme volatility and disruption during the economic downturn that began in mid-2007, and the U.S. economy was in a recession for several consecutive calendar quarters during the same period. In 2010, a financial crisis emerged in Europe, triggered by high budget deficits and rising direct and contingent sovereign debt, which created concerns about the ability of certain nations to continue to service their sovereign debt obligations. Risks resulting from such debt crisis and any future debt crisis in Europe or any similar crisis elsewhere could have a detrimental impact on the global economic recovery, sovereign and non-sovereign debt in certain countries and the financial condition of financial institutions generally.

These market and economic disruptions affected, and these and other similar market and economic disruptions and events such as “Brexit” may in the future affect, the U.S. capital markets, which could adversely affect our business and the broader financial and credit markets and reduce the availability of debt and equity capital for the market as a whole and to financial firms, in particular. At various times, these disruptions resulted in, and may in the future result in, a lack of liquidity in parts of the debt capital markets, significant write-offs in the financial services sector and the repricing of credit risk. These conditions may reoccur for a prolonged period of time again or materially worsen in the future, including as a result of U.S. government shutdowns or further downgrades to the U.S. government’s sovereign credit rating or the perceived creditworthiness of the U.S. or other large global economies. Unfavorable economic conditions, including future recessions, also could increase our funding costs, limit our access to the capital markets or result in a decision by lenders not to extend credit to us. We may in the future have difficulty accessing debt and equity capital on attractive terms, or at all, and a severe disruption and instability in the global financial markets or deteriorations in credit and financing conditions may cause us to reduce the volume of loans we originate and/or fund, adversely affect the value of our investments or otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.


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Terrorist attacks and other acts of violence or war may affect the real estate industry generally and our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We cannot predict the severity of the effect that potential future terrorist attacks could have on us. Any future terrorist attacks, the anticipation of any such attacks, the consequences of any military or other response by the United States and its allies, and other armed conflicts could cause consumer confidence and spending to decrease or result in increased volatility in the United States and worldwide financial markets and economy. We may suffer losses as a result of the adverse impact of any future attacks and these losses may adversely impact our performance. A prolonged economic slowdown, a recession or declining real estate values could impair the performance of our assets and harm our financial condition and results of operations, increase our funding costs, limit our access to the capital markets or result in a decision by lenders not to extend credit to us. The economic impact of such events could also adversely affect the credit quality of some of our loans and investments and the property underlying our securities. Losses resulting from these types of events may not be fully insurable.

The events of September 11, 2001 created significant uncertainty regarding the ability of real estate owners of high profile assets to obtain insurance coverage protecting against terrorist attacks at commercially reasonable rates, if at all. With the enactment of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (the “TRIA”) and subsequent extensions, including the enactment of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2015, which extends TRIA through December 31, 2020, insurers must make terrorism insurance available under their property and casualty insurance policies, but this legislation does not regulate the pricing of such insurance. The absence of affordable insurance coverage may adversely affect the general real estate lending market, lending volume and the market’s overall liquidity and may reduce the number of suitable opportunities available to us and the pace at which we are able to acquire assets. If the properties underlying our interests are unable to obtain affordable insurance coverage, the value of our interests could decline, and in the event of an uninsured loss, we could lose all or a portion of our assets.

Risks Related to Our Portfolio

The value of our investments may be adversely affected by many factors that are beyond our control.

Income from, and the value of, our investments may be adversely affected by many factors that are beyond our control, including:

volatility and adverse changes in international, national and local economic and market conditions, including contractions in market liquidity for mortgage loans and mortgage-related assets and tenant bankruptcies;
changes in interest rates, credit spreads, prepayment rates and in the availability, costs and terms of financing;
changes in rates of default or recovery rates;
changes in generally accepted accounting principles;
changes in governmental laws and regulations, fiscal policies and zoning and other ordinances and costs of compliance with laws and regulations;
the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and/or estimates concerning the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which are subject to change based on further analysis and/or IRS guidance;
downturns in the markets for mortgage-backed securities and other asset-backed and structured products, and commercial real estate; and
civil unrest, terrorism, acts of war, nuclear or radiological disasters and natural disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, floods, and other extreme weather and permanent climate changes, which may result in uninsured and underinsured losses.

In addition to other analytical tools, our management team utilizes financial models to evaluate loans and real estate assets, the accuracy and effectiveness of which cannot be guaranteed.

In all cases, financial models are only estimates of future results which are based upon assumptions made at the time that the projections are developed. There can be no assurance that management’s projected results will be obtained and actual results may vary significantly from the projections. General economic and industry-specific conditions, which are not predictable, can have an adverse impact on the reliability of projections.


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The vast majority of the mortgage loans that we originate or purchase, and those underlying the CMBS in which we invest, are non-recourse loans and the assets securing the loans may not be sufficient to protect us from a partial or complete loss if the borrower defaults on the loan.

Except for customary non-recourse carve-outs for certain actions and environmental liability, most commercial mortgage loans, including those underlying the CMBS in which we invest, are effectively non-recourse obligations of the sponsor and borrower, meaning that there is no recourse against the assets of the borrower or sponsor other than the underlying collateral. In the event of any default under a mortgage loan held directly by us, we will bear a risk of loss to the extent of any deficiency between the value of the collateral and the principal and accrued interest of the mortgage loan, which could have a material adverse effect on our cash flow from operations. Even if a mortgage loan is recourse to the borrower (or if a non-recourse carve-out to the borrower applies), in many cases, the borrower’s assets are limited primarily to its interest in the related mortgaged property. Further, although a mortgage loan may provide for limited recourse to a principal or affiliate of the related borrower, there is no assurance of any recovery from such principal or affiliate will be made or that such principal’s or affiliate’s assets would be sufficient to pay any otherwise recoverable claim. In the event of the bankruptcy of a borrower, the loan to such borrower will be deemed to be secured only to the extent of the value of the underlying collateral at the time of bankruptcy (as determined by the bankruptcy court), and the lien securing the loan will be subject to the avoidance powers of the bankruptcy trustee or debtor-in-possession to the extent the lien is unenforceable under state law.

The commercial mortgages and other commercial real estate-related loans, and the commercial mortgage loans underlying the CMBS in which we may invest, are subject to the ability of the commercial property owner to generate net income from operating the property (and not the independent income or assets of the borrower). The volatility of real property could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position and results of operations.
    
Commercial mortgage loans and the commercial mortgage loans underlying the securities in which we may invest are subject to the ability of the commercial property owner to generate net income from operating the property (and not the independent income or assets of the borrower). Any reductions in net operating income (“NOI”) increase the risks of delinquency, foreclosure and default, which could result in losses to us. NOI of an income-producing property can be affected by many factors, including, but not limited to:

the ongoing need for capital improvements, particularly in older structures;
changes in operating expenses;
changes in general or local market conditions;
changes in tenant mix and performance, the occupancy or rental rates of the property or, for a property that requires new leasing activity, a failure to lease the property in accordance with the projected leasing schedule;
competition from comparable property types or properties;
unskilled or inexperienced property management;
limited availability of mortgage funds or fluctuations in interest rates which may render the sale and refinancing of a property difficult;
development projects that experience cost overruns or otherwise fail to perform as projected including, without limitation, failure to complete planned renovations, repairs, or construction;
unanticipated increases in real estate taxes and other operating expenses;
challenges to the borrower’s claim of title to the real property;
environmental considerations;
zoning laws;
other governmental rules and policies;
unanticipated structural defects or costliness of maintaining the property;
uninsured losses, such as possible acts of terrorism;
a decline in the operational performance of a facility on the real property (such facilities may include multifamily rental facilities, office properties, retail facilities, hospitality facilities, healthcare-related facilities, industrial facilities, warehouse facilities, restaurants, mobile home facilities, recreational or resort facilities, arenas or stadiums, religious facilities, parking lot facilities or other facilities); and
severe weather-related damage to the property and/or its operations.

Additional risks may be presented by the type and use of a particular commercial property, including specialized use as a nursing home or hospitality property.


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In instances where the borrower is acting as a landlord on the underlying property, as we do for our selected net leased and other commercial real estate assets, the ability of such borrower to satisfy the debt obligation we hold will depend on the performance and financial health of the underlying tenants, which may be difficult for us to assess or predict. In addition, as the number of tenants with respect to a commercial property decreases or as tenant spaces on a property must be relet, the nonperformance risk of the loan related to such commercial property may increase. Any one or more of the preceding factors could materially impair our ability to recover principal in a foreclosure on the related loan as lender and repay the principal as borrower. A substantial portion of our portfolio may be committed to the origination or purchasing of commercial loans to small and medium-sized, privately owned businesses. Compared to larger, publicly owned firms, such companies generally have limited access to capital and higher funding costs, may be in a weaker financial position and may need more capital to expand or compete. The above financial challenges may make it difficult for such borrowers to make scheduled payments of interest or principal on their loans. Accordingly, advances made to such types of borrowers entail higher risks than advances made to companies who are able to access traditional credit sources.

A portion of our portfolio also may be committed to the origination or purchasing of commercial loans where the borrower is a business with a history of poor operating performance, based on our belief that we can realize value from a loan on the property despite such borrower’s performance history. However, if such borrower were to continue to perform poorly after the origination or purchase of such loan, including due to the above financial challenges, we could be adversely affected.

Certain balance sheet loans may be more illiquid and involve a greater risk of loss than long-term mortgage loans.

We originate and acquire balance sheet loans that provide interim financing to borrowers seeking short-term capital for the acquisition or transition (for example, lease up and/or rehabilitation) of commercial real estate. Such a borrower under an interim loan often has identified a transitional asset that has been under-managed, is located in a recovering market and/or requires rehabilitation or capital improvements in order to improve the value of the asset. If the market in which the asset is located fails to recover according to the borrower’s projections, or if the borrower fails to improve the quality of the asset’s management and/or the value of the asset or fails to execute its business plan, the borrower may not receive a sufficient return on the asset to satisfy the interim loan, and we bear the risk that we may not recover some or all of our initial expenditure. In addition, borrowers usually use the proceeds of a long-term mortgage loan to repay an interim loan. We may therefore be dependent on a borrower’s ability to obtain permanent financing to repay our interim loan, which could depend on the borrower’s ability to execute its business plan, market conditions and other factors.

Further, interim loans may be relatively less liquid than loans against stabilized properties due to their short life, their potential unsuitability for securitization, any unstabilized nature of the underlying real estate and the difficulty of recovery in the event of a borrower’s default. This lack of liquidity may significantly impede our ability to respond to adverse changes in the performance of our interim loan portfolio and may adversely affect the value of the portfolio.

Such “liquidity risk” may be difficult or impossible to hedge against and may also make it difficult to effect a sale of such assets as we may need or desire. As a result, if we are required to liquidate all or a portion of our interim loan portfolio quickly, we may realize significantly less than the value at which such investments were previously recorded, which may fail to maximize the value of the investments or result in a loss.

We may finance first mortgages, which may present greater risks than if we had made first mortgages directly to owners of real estate collateral.

Our portfolio may include first mortgage loan financings which are loans made to holders of commercial real estate first mortgage loans that are secured by commercial real estate. While we have certain rights with respect to the real estate collateral underlying a first mortgage loan, the holder of the commercial real estate first mortgage loans may fail to exercise its rights with respect to a default or other adverse action relating to the underlying real estate collateral or fail to promptly notify us of such an event which would adversely affect our ability to enforce our rights. In addition, in the event of the bankruptcy of the borrower under the first mortgage loan, the ability of the holder of the commercial real estate loan to realize on its collateral could be adversely affected and we may not have full recourse to the assets of the holder of the commercial real estate loan, or the assets of the holder of the commercial real estate loan may not be sufficient to satisfy our first mortgage loan financing. Financings of first mortgage loans might not generate qualifying income for REIT purposes and may be held in a TRS, resulting in a lower after-tax return to Ladder than other financings. Accordingly, we may face greater risks from our first mortgage loan financings than if we had made first mortgage loans directly to owners of real estate collateral.


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We may originate or acquire construction loans, which may expose us to an increased risk of loss.

We may originate or acquire construction loans. If we fail to fund our entire commitment on a construction loan or if a borrower otherwise fails to complete the construction of a project, there could be adverse consequences associated with the loan, including: a loss of the value of the property securing the loan, especially if the borrower is unable to raise funds to complete construction from other sources; a borrower claim against us for failure to perform under the loan documents; increased costs to the borrower that the borrower is unable to pay; a bankruptcy filing by the borrower; and abandonment by the borrower of the collateral for the loan.

We are subject to additional risks associated with loan participations.

Some of our loans may be participation interests or co-lender arrangements in which we share the rights, obligations and benefits of the loan with other lenders. We may need the consent of these parties to exercise our rights under such loans, including rights with respect to amendment of loan documentation, enforcement proceedings in the event of default and the institution of, and control over, foreclosure proceedings. Similarly, a majority of the participants may be able to take actions to which we object but to which we will be bound if our participation interest represents a minority interest. We may be adversely affected by this lack of full control.

Our investments in subordinate loans, subordinate participation interests in loans and subordinate CMBS rank junior to other senior debt and we may be unable to recover our investment in these interests.
 
We may originate or acquire subordinate loans (including mezzanine loans), subordinate participation interests in loans and subordinate rated and/or unrated CMBS (including, without limitation, certain “risk retention” interests required to be retained by certain participants in securitization transactions under rules which took effect in December 2016). In the event a borrower defaults on a loan and lacks sufficient assets to satisfy our loan, we may suffer a loss of principal or interest. In the event a borrower declares bankruptcy, we may not have full recourse to the assets of the borrower or a non-recourse carve-out guarantor, or the assets of the borrower or non-recourse carve-out guarantors may not be sufficient to satisfy the loan and our legal costs. In addition, certain of our loans may be subordinate to other debt of the borrower. If a borrower defaults on a subordinate loan to us or on debt senior to our loan, or in the event of a borrower bankruptcy, our loan will be satisfied only after the senior debt is paid in full. Where debt senior to our loan exists, the presence of intercreditor arrangements may limit our ability to amend loan documents, assign our loans, accept prepayments, exercise remedies and control decisions made in bankruptcy proceedings relating to borrowers.
 
If a borrower defaults on our mezzanine loan, subordinate loan or debt senior to any loan, or in the event of a borrower bankruptcy, our loan will be satisfied only after the senior debt is paid in full. As a result, we may not recover some or all of our initial expenditure. In addition, mezzanine and subordinate loans may have higher loan-to-value ratios than first mortgage loans, resulting in less equity in the property and increasing the risk of loss of principal. Significant losses related to our mezzanine loans or subordinate loans would result in operating losses for us.
 
In general, losses on a mortgaged property securing a mortgage loan included in a securitization will be borne first by the equity holder of the property, then by a cash reserve fund or letter of credit, if any, then by the holder of a mezzanine loan or B-Note, if any, then by the “first loss” subordinated security holder (generally, the “B-Piece” buyer and in some cases by the holder of a risk retention interest) and then by the holder of a higher-rated security. Even when we purchase very senior interests in loans and/or securitizations, in the event of default and the exhaustion of any equity support, reserve fund, letter of credit, mezzanine loans or B-Notes, and any classes of securities junior to those in which we may invest, we may not be able to recover all of our investment in the debt instruments or securities we purchased. In addition, if the underlying mortgage portfolio has been overvalued by the originator, or if the values subsequently decline and, as a result, less collateral is available to satisfy interest and principal payments due on the related mortgage-backed securities, the securities in which we may invest may effectively become the “first loss” position behind the more senior securities, which may result in significant losses to us. The prices of lower credit quality securities are generally less sensitive to interest rate changes than more highly rated investments, but more sensitive to adverse economic downturns or individual issuer developments. A projection of an economic downturn, for example, could cause a decline in the price of lower credit quality securities because the ability of obligors of mortgage loans underlying the mortgage-backed securities to make principal and interest payments may be impaired. In such event, existing credit support in the securitization structure may be insufficient to protect us against loss of our principal in these securities.


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The market value of our investments in CMBS could fluctuate materially as a result of various risks that are out of our control and may result in significant losses.

We currently invest in and may continue to invest in CMBS, a specific type of structured finance security. CMBS are securities backed by obligations (including certificates of participation in obligations) that are principally secured by commercial mortgage loans or interests therein having a multi-family or commercial use, such as shopping malls, other retail space, office buildings, industrial or warehouse properties, hotels, nursing homes and senior living centers. Accordingly, investments in CMBS are subject to the various risks described herein which relate to the pool of underlying assets in which the CMBS represents an interest. The exercise of remedies and successful realization of liquidation proceeds relating to commercial mortgage loans underlying CMBS may be highly dependent on the performance of the servicer or special servicer. There may be a limited number of special servicers available, particularly those which do not have conflicts of interest. We will bear the risk of loss on any CMBS we purchase. Further, the insurance coverage for various types of losses is limited in amount and we would bear losses in excess of the applicable limitations.

We may attempt to underwrite our investments on a “loss-adjusted” basis, which projects a certain level of performance. However, there can be no assurance that this underwriting will accurately predict the timing or magnitude of such losses. To the extent that this underwriting has incorrectly anticipated the timing or magnitude of losses, our business may be adversely affected. Some mortgage loans underlying CMBS may default. Under such circumstances, cash flows of CMBS investments held by us may be adversely affected as any reduction in the mortgage payments or principal losses on liquidation of any mortgage loan may be applied to the class of CMBS relating to such defaulted loans that we hold.

The market value of our CMBS investments could fluctuate materially over time as the result of changes in mortgage spreads, treasury bond interest rates, capital market supply and demand factors, and many other factors that affect high-yield fixed income products. These factors are out of our control, and could influence our ability to obtain short-term financing on the CMBS. The CMBS in which we may invest may have no, or only a limited, trading market. In addition, we may invest in CMBS investments that are not rated by any credit rating agency, and such investments may be less liquid than CMBS that are rated. The financial markets in the past have experienced and could in the future experience a period of volatility and reduced liquidity which may reoccur or continue and reduce the market value of CMBS. Some or all of the CMBS that we hold may be subject to restrictions on transfer and may be considered illiquid.

We have acquired and, in the future, may acquire net leased real estate assets, or make loans to owners of net leased real estate assets (including ourselves), which carry particular risks of loss that may have a material impact on our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.

A net lease requires the tenant to pay, in addition to the fixed rent, some or all of the property expenses that normally would be paid by the property owner. The value of our investments and the income from our investments in net leased properties, if any, will depend upon the ability of the applicable tenant to meet its obligations to maintain the property under the terms of the net lease. If a tenant fails or becomes unable to so maintain a property, the cash flow and/or the value of the property would be adversely affected. In addition, under many net leases the owner of the property retains certain obligations with respect to the property, including among other things, the responsibility for maintenance and repair of the property, to provide adequate parking, maintenance of common areas and compliance with other affirmative covenants in the lease. If we, as the owner, or the borrower, were to fail to meet these obligations, the applicable tenant could abate rent or terminate the applicable lease, which may result in a loss of capital invested in, and anticipated profits from, the property. In addition, we, as the owner, or the borrower may find it difficult to lease certain property to new tenants if that property had been suited to the particular needs of a former tenant.

The expense of operating and owning real property may impact our cash flow from operations.

We have in the past and may in the future make equity investments in real property. Costs associated with real estate investment, such as real estate taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, generally are not reduced even when a property is not fully occupied, rental rates decrease or other circumstances cause a reduction in income from the property. As a result, cash flow from the operations of our properties may be reduced if a tenant does not pay its rent or we are unable to rent out properties on favorable terms. Under those circumstances, we might not be able to enforce our rights as landlord without delays and may incur substantial legal costs. Additionally, new properties that we may acquire or redevelop may not produce significant revenue immediately, and the cash flow from existing operations may be insufficient to pay the operating expenses and principal and interest on debt associated with such properties until they are fully leased.


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Our investments in securities and mortgages issued by agencies or instrumentalities of the U.S. government face risks of prepayments or defaults on U.S. Agency Securities that we own at a premium and of “negative convexity.”

We currently invest in and may continue to invest in securities and mortgages issued by agencies or instrumentalities of the U.S. government, including Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”), Freddie Mac and other government agency mortgages secured by single multifamily properties or skilled nursing facilities. Additionally, we invest in real estate mortgage investment conduit (“REMIC”) securities collateralized by these mortgages. We invest in U.S. Agency Securities, the principal of which is guaranteed implicitly or explicitly by the U.S. government. Therefore, the most significant risks present in U.S. Agency Securities owned by us are first, in prepayments or defaults on U.S. Agency Securities that we own at a premium and second, “negative convexity,” as defined below.

We are exposed to the risk of increased prepayments or defaults by any mortgage or security that we own at a premium, such as any interest-only securities, most single mortgage securities and all construction and permanent loans. Any principal paydown diminishes the amount outstanding in these securities and reduces the yield to us. Before purchasing a loan or security, we judge the likelihood of prepayment based on certain prepayment and default parameters and our own experience in the government agency security market. Different estimates, judgments and assumptions reasonably could be used that would have a material effect on our judgment and, accordingly, result in losses to our business.

Convexity measures the rate of change in a bond’s duration for a given change in interest rates. For bonds with positive convexity, there is an inverse relationship between changes in interest rates and duration. Duration increases when rates decrease and vice versa. “Negative convexity” is the opposite relationship between interest rates and the average expected life of a pool of mortgage loans; when interest rates rise, a mortgage may extend and when interest rates fall, a mortgage may prepay or default. As in any mortgage security, negative convexity is a concern as the yield on mortgage-backed securities is based on the average expected life of the underlying pool of mortgage loans. The actual prepayment experience of such pools may cause the yield we realize to differ from that calculated by us in making the investment, resulting in losses or profits. An unexpected default in a single large property may reduce yield. In each transaction, we attempt to understand the agencies’ underwriting processes in order to assess the risk of default associated with a particular U.S. Agency Security. We also endeavor to diversify our holdings and at periodic points in time, sell our older positions for newer product, which may have less likelihood of default. There is no guarantee that we will be successful in either of these activities. When interest rates are rising, the rate of prepayment tends to decrease, thereby lengthening the actual average life of such pools. We frequently update our extension risk analyses and, if necessary, our hedging to account for this risk. The same is true when interest rates fall and prepayments tend to increase.

Other risks associated with U.S. Agency Securities are illiquidity, re-investment and the risk that a construction loan may not roll into a permanent loan.

We may make equity and preferred equity investments which involve a greater risk of loss than traditional debt financing.

We may invest in equity and preferred equity interests in entities owning real estate. Such investments are subordinate to debt financing and are not secured. Should the issuer default on our investment, in most instances we would only be able to proceed against the entity that issued the equity in accordance with the terms of the security, and not any property owned by the entity. Furthermore, in the event of bankruptcy or foreclosure, we would only be able to recoup our capital after any creditors to the entity are paid. As a result, we may not recover some or all of our capital, which could result in losses.


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Our participation in the market for mortgage loan securitizations may expose us to risks that could result in losses to us.

We have generally participated in the market for mortgage loan securitizations by contributing loans to securitizations led by various large financial institutions and by leading single-asset securitizations on single mortgage loans we originated. We have
completed one multi-asset securitization where a Ladder affiliate served as issuer and may, in the future, take a larger role in multi-asset securitizations of mortgage loans, including as an issuer. We also occasionally, and may in the future, act as a co-manager and/or co-underwriter in the securitizations in which we participate. To date, when we have primarily acted as a mortgage loan seller into, and occasionally as an issuer of securitizations, we have been obligated to assume certain customary liabilities. Specifically, in connection with any particular securitization, we: (i) make certain representations and warranties regarding ourselves and the characteristics of, and origination process for, the mortgage loans that we contribute to the securitization; (ii) undertake to cure, repurchase or replace any mortgage loan that we contribute to the securitization that is affected by a material breach of any such representation or warranty or a material loan document deficiency; (iii) assume, either directly or through the indemnification of third-parties, potential securities law liabilities for disclosure to investors regarding ourselves and the mortgage loans that we contribute to the securitization; and (iv) may, depending upon our role in the securitization, (a) retain some or all of the risk retention interests in the securitization and/or (b) retain responsibility for ensuring compliance with risk retention rules (and may be required to indemnify other participants in the securitization for any violation of such rules, including in circumstances where some or all of the risk retention interests are retained by and/or sold to other parties). When we lead a single-asset or multi-asset securitization as an issuer and/or lead manager, we assume, either directly or through indemnification agreements, additional potential securities law liabilities and third-party liabilities beyond the liabilities we would assume when we act only as a mortgage loan seller into a securitization.

As a result of the dislocation of the credit markets during the last recession, the securitization industry has become subject to additional and changing regulation. For example, pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, various federal agencies have promulgated, or are in the process of promulgating, regulations and rules with respect to various issues that affect securitizations, including: (a) the Risk Retention Rule requiring that either (i) a securitization’s sponsor retain, until the unpaid balance of the bonds or the loans is reduced by a certain amount, a 5% vertical interest in each class of securities issued, (ii) the sponsor or certain Third Party Purchasers retain, until the unpaid balance of the bonds or the loans is reduced by a certain amount (or for Third Party Purchasers, for at least five years), securities in an amount equal to 5% of the credit risk associated with the issued securities in the form of one or more subordinate tranches or (iii) a combination of (i) and (ii); (b) requirements for additional disclosure; (c) requirements for additional review and reporting (including revisions to Regulation AB); (d) for public securitizations, requirements that the CEO of an issuer file with the SEC an individual certificate attesting to certain matters, as described below; and (e) certain restrictions designed to prohibit conflicts of interest. Other regulations have been and may ultimately be adopted.

The risk (with respect to CMBS) must be retained by the sponsor, certain mortgage loan originators and/or, upon satisfaction of certain requirements, a Third Party Purchaser. Significant restrictions exist, and additional restrictions may be added in the future, regarding who may hold risk retention interests, the structure of the entities that hold risk retention interests and when and how such risk retention interests may be transferred or financed. Therefore such risk retention interests will be generally illiquid and may not be easily financed. As a result of the Risk Retention Rule, we may be required to purchase and retain certain interests in a securitization into which we sell mortgage loans and/or when we act as issuer, may be required to sell certain interests in a securitization at prices below levels that such interests have historically yielded and/or may be required to enter into certain arrangements related to risk retention that we have not historically been required to enter into and, accordingly, the Risk Retention Rule may increase our potential liabilities and/or reduce our potential profits in connection with securitization of mortgage loans.

The requirement that the CEO of an issuer of public securities file an individual certificate with the SEC may introduce additional potential liabilities whether we serve as issuer in a securitization or solely as a loan seller or loan originator. The CEO certification includes statements as to the absence of any untrue or omitted material information relating to the mortgage loans and the ability of the mortgage loans to support the payments required to be made under the bonds issued in connection with the securitization in accordance with their terms. The full extent of liability that the CEO may have to the SEC and/or investors on account of the certified statements is difficult to determine at this time. If we serve as issuer in a securitization, we would likely to be obligated to indemnify the CEO of our issuer entity against any liabilities that such individual may incur in connection with such certification. In addition, in securitization transactions in which we serve as only loan seller or an originator that sells loans to a loan seller (and not as an issuer), we would likely be obligated to provide a back-up officer’s certificate from a senior officer as to our mortgage loans as support for the issuer’s CEO certification, and similarly be obligated to indemnify that senior officer against any liabilities that individual may incur in connection with his/her back-up officer’s certification.


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The Risk Retention Rule, CEO certification and other rules and regulations that have been adopted or may be adopted in the future may alter the structure of securitizations and could pose additional risks to or reduce or eliminate the economic benefits of our participation in the securitization market. In addition, such rules and regulations could reduce or eliminate the economic benefits of making certain mortgage loans, reduce or eliminate the economic benefits of securitization or discourage traditional issuers, underwriters, Third Party Purchasers or other participants from participating in future securitizations and affect the availability of securitization platforms into which we can contribute mortgage loans, which may require that we take on additional roles and risks in connection with effectuating securitizations of our mortgage loans.

Historically, when we have served as issuer in connection with a securitization, the offering has been a private offering. In the future, we may elect to serve as issuer of a securitization involving a public offering, which we would conduct pursuant to a registration statement filed with the SEC by our subsidiary Ladder Capital Commercial Mortgage Securities LLC. Maintaining a registration statement and acting as an issuer in connection with securitizations will expose us to potential liability under various securities laws and will impose ongoing reporting and other obligations, many of which are more extensive than the potential liabilities and obligations we incur when we act as issuer in a private offering or when we sell loans into another issuer’s publicly offered securitization. In addition to the CEO certification referenced above, certain individuals associated with the issuer entity would be obligated to sign the registration statement and be exposed to liability under various securities laws. We would likely be obligated to indemnify such individuals.

Prior to any securitization, we generally finance mortgage loans with relatively short-term facilities until a sufficient portfolio is accumulated. We are subject to the risk that we will not be able to originate or acquire sufficient eligible assets to maximize the efficiency of a securitization. We also bear the risk that, upon expiration of a short-term facility, we might not be able to renew such short-term facility or obtain a new short-term facility. Our inability to refinance any short-term facility would also increase our risk because borrowings thereunder would likely be recourse to us or one of our subsidiaries. If we are unable to obtain and renew short-term facilities or to consummate securitizations to finance our assets on a long-term basis, we may be required to seek other forms of potentially less attractive financing or to liquidate assets at an inopportune time or price.

We may sponsor, or purchase the most junior securities of collateralized loan obligations, or CLOs, and such instruments involve significant risks, including that these securities receive distributions from the CLO only if the CLO generates enough income to first pay all the investors holding senior tranches and all CLO expenses.

We have contributed shorter-term loans into CLO transactions in which we retained securities rated below-investment grade. In CLOs, investors purchase specific tranches, or slices, of debt instruments that are secured or backed by a pool of loans. The CLO debt classes have a specific seniority structure and priority of payments. The most junior securities of a CLO are generally retained by the sponsor of the CLO and are usually entitled to all of the income generated by the pool of loans after the payment of debt service on all the more senior classes of debt and the payment of all expenses.  Defaults on the pool of loans therefore first affect the the most junior tranches. The subordinate tranches of CLO debt may also experience a lower recovery and greater risk of loss, including risk of deferral or non-payment of interest than more senior tranches of the CLO debt because they bear the bulk of defaults from the loans held in the CLO and serve to protect the other, more senior tranches from default in all but the most severe circumstances. Often CLOs contain loans that are more transitional than loans contributed to conduit securitizations. Despite the protection provided by the subordinate tranches, even more senior CLO tranches can experience substantial losses due to actual defaults, increased sensitivity to defaults due to collateral default and disappearance of protecting tranches, decline in market value due to market anticipation of defaults and aversion to CLO securities as a class. Further, the transaction documents relating to the issuance of CLO securities may impose eligibility criteria on the assets of the CLO, restrict the ability of the CLO’s sponsor to trade investments and impose certain portfolio-wide asset quality requirements. Finally, the Risk Retention Rule imposes a retention requirement of 5% of the issued debt classes by the sponsor of the CLO (as described above). These criteria, restrictions and requirements may limit the ability of the CLO’s sponsor (or collateral manager) to maximize returns on the CLO securities.

In addition, CLOs are not actively traded and are relatively illiquid investments and volatility in CLO trading market may cause the value of these investments to decline. The market value of CLO securities may be affected by, among other things, changes in the market value of the underlying loans held by the CLO, changes in the distributions on the underlying loans, defaults and recoveries on the underlying loans, capital gains and losses on the underlying losses (or foreclosure assets), prepayments on underlying loan and the availability, prices and interest rate of underlying loans. Furthermore, the leveraged nature of each subordinated tranche may magnify the adverse impact on such class of changes in the value of the loans, changes in the distributions on the loans, defaults and recoveries on the loans, capital gains and losses on the loans (or foreclosure assets), prepayment on loans and availability, price and interest rates of the loans.


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Because of the requirements of the Risk Retention Rule, if we purchase a horizontal subordinate strip of a CLO to satisfy the Risk Retention Rule, we would not be able to dispose of those subordinate interests during the required risk retention period, which may increase our risk of loss.

A CLO may include certain interest coverage tests, overcollateralization coverage tests or other tests that, if not met, may result in a change in the priority of distributions, which may result in the reduction or elimination of distributions to the subordinate debt and equity tranches until the tests have been met or certain senior classes of securities have been paid in full. Accordingly, if we hold subordinate debt interests in a CLO that contains such tests and such tests are not satisfied, we may experience a significant reduction in our cash flow from those interests.

Furthermore, if any CLO that we sponsor or hold interests in fails to meet certain tests relevant to the most senior debt issued and outstanding by the CLO issuer, an event of default may occur under that CLO. If that occurs, (i) if we were serving as manager of the CLO, our ability to manage the CLO may be terminated and (ii) our ability to attempt to cure any defaults in the CLO may be limited, which would increase the likelihood of a reduction or elimination of cash flow and returns to us in the CLOs for an indefinite time.

Any credit ratings assigned to our investments could be downgraded, which could have a material impact on our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.

Some of our investments may be rated by one or more of Moody’s, Fitch, Standard & Poor’s, Realpoint, Dominion Bond Rating Service, Morningstar Credit Ratings, Kroll Bond Ratings or other credit rating agencies. Any credit ratings on our investments are subject to ongoing evaluation by credit rating agencies, and we cannot be assured that any such ratings will not be changed or withdrawn by a credit rating agency in the future if, in its judgment, circumstances warrant. If credit rating agencies assign a lower-than-expected rating or reduce or withdraw, or indicate that they may reduce or withdraw, their ratings of our investments in the future, the value of these investments could significantly decline, which would adversely affect the value of our portfolio and could result in losses upon disposition or the failure of borrowers to satisfy their debt service obligations to us.

The credit ratings currently assigned to our investments may not accurately reflect the risks associated with those investments.

Credit rating agencies rate investments based upon their assessment of the perceived safety of the receipt of principal and interest payments from the issuers of such debt securities. Credit ratings assigned by the credit rating agencies may not fully reflect the true risks of an investment in such securities. Also, credit rating agencies may fail to make timely adjustments to credit ratings based on recently available data or changes in economic outlook or may otherwise fail to make changes in credit ratings in response to subsequent events, so that our investments may in fact be better or worse than the ratings indicate. We try to reduce the impact of the risk that a credit rating may not accurately reflect the risks associated with a particular debt security by not relying solely on credit ratings as the indicator of the quality of an investment. We make our acquisition decisions after factoring in other information, such as the discounted value of a CMBS security’s projected future cash flows, and the value of the real estate collateral underlying the mortgage loans owned by the issuing REMIC trust. However, our assessment of the quality of a CMBS investment may also prove to be inaccurate and we may incur credit losses in excess of our initial expectations.

We could incur losses from investments in non-conforming and non-investment grade-rated loans or securities, which could have a material impact on our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.

Some of our investments may not conform to conventional loan standards applied by traditional lenders and either may not be rated or may be rated as non-investment grade by the credit rating agencies. The non-investment grade ratings for these assets typically result from the overall leverage of the underlying loans, the lack of a strong operating history for the properties underlying the loans, the borrowers’ credit history, the properties’ underlying cash flow or other factors. As a result, these investments will have a higher risk of default and loss than investment grade-rated assets. Any loss that we incur may be significant. There may be no limits on the percentage of unrated or non-investment grade rated assets that we may hold in our portfolio.


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Some of our portfolio investments will be recorded at fair value and there is uncertainty as to the value of these investments. Furthermore, our determinations of fair value may have a material impact on our financial condition and results of operations.

The value of some of our investments may not be readily determinable or may be unreliable. We will value these investments quarterly at fair value, as determined in accordance with Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) Accounting Standards Codification (Topic 820): Fair Value Measurement, or ASC 820. 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 assets existed. Our determinations of fair value may have a material impact on our earnings, in the case of impaired loans and other assets, trading securities and available-for-sale securities that are subject to OTTI, or our accumulated other comprehensive income/(loss) in our shareholders’ equity, in the case of available-for-sale securities that are subject only to temporary impairments.

We utilize an internal model as our primary pricing source to develop prices for our CMBS and U.S. Agency Securities. To confirm our own valuations, we request prices for each of our CMBS and U.S. Agency Securities investments from third-party dealers and pricing services. Third parties that provide pricing services develop estimates of fair value for CMBS and U.S. Agency Securities employ various techniques, including discussion with their internal trading desks and the use of proprietary models and matrix pricing. We do not have access to, and are therefore not able to review in detail, the inputs used by these third parties in developing their fair value estimates. Furthermore, in general, dealers and pricing services heavily disclaim their valuations. Dealers may claim to furnish valuations only as an accommodation and without special compensation, and so they may disclaim any and all liability for any direct, incidental or consequential damages arising out of any inaccuracy or incompleteness in valuations, including any act of negligence or breach of any warranty. Depending on the complexity and illiquidity of an asset, valuations of the same asset can vary substantially from one dealer or pricing service to another. Additionally, our results of operations for a given period could be adversely affected if our determinations regarding the fair value of these investments were materially higher than the values that we ultimately realize upon their disposal.

Our ability to collect upon mortgage loans may be limited by the application of state laws.

Each of our mortgage loans permits us to accelerate the debt upon default by the borrower. The courts of all states will enforce acceleration clauses in the event of a material payment default, subject in some cases to a right of the court to revoke such acceleration and reinstate the mortgage loan if a payment default is cured. The equity courts of any state, however, may refuse to allow the foreclosure of a mortgage, deed of trust, or other security instrument or to permit the acceleration of the indebtedness if the exercise of those remedies would be inequitable or unjust or the circumstances would render the acceleration unconscionable. Thus, a court may refuse to permit foreclosure or acceleration if a default is deemed immaterial or the exercise of those remedies would be unjust or unconscionable or if a material default is cured. Further, our ability to collect the debt may be limited by bankruptcy, insolvency or other debtor relief laws, as further described below.

Further, the ability to collect upon mortgage loans may be limited by the application of state and U.S. federal laws. Several states (including California) have laws that prohibit more than one “judicial action” to enforce a mortgage obligation. Some courts have construed the term “judicial action” broadly.

The borrowers under the loans underlying our investments may be unable to repay their remaining principal balances on their stated maturity dates, which could negatively impact our business results.

Our mortgage loans may be non-amortizing or partially amortizing balloon loans that provide for substantial payments of principal due at their stated maturities. Balloon loans involve a greater risk to the lender than amortizing loans because a borrower’s ability to repay a balloon mortgage loan on its stated maturity date typically will depend upon its ability either to refinance the mortgage loan (although some loans such as those on condominium projects, may be at least partially self- liquidating) or to sell the mortgaged property at a price sufficient to permit repayment. A borrower’s ability to effect a refinancing or sale will be affected by a number of factors. We are not obligated to refinance any of these mortgage loans.


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Third-party diligence reports on mortgaged properties and the properties we own are made as of a point in time and are therefore limited in scope.

Appraisals and engineering and environmental reports, as well as a variety of other third-party reports, are generally obtained with respect to each of the properties we acquire and the mortgaged properties underlying our investments at or about the time of origination. Appraisals are not guarantees of present or future value. One appraiser may reach a different conclusion than the conclusion that would be reached if a different appraiser were appraising that property. Moreover, the values of the properties may have fluctuated significantly since the appraisals were performed. In addition, any third-party report, including any engineering report, environmental report, site inspection or appraisal represents only the analysis of the individual consultant, engineer or inspector preparing such report at the time of such report, and may not reveal all necessary or desirable repairs, maintenance, remediation and capital improvement items.

The owners of, borrowers on, and tenants occupying, the properties which secure our investments may seek the protection afforded by bankruptcy, insolvency and other debtor relief laws, which may create potential for risk of loss to us.

Although commercial real estate lenders typically seek to reduce the risk of borrower bankruptcy through such items as non-recourse carveouts for bankruptcy and special purpose entity/separateness covenants and/or non-consolidation opinions for borrowing entities, the owners of, borrowers on, and tenants occupying, the properties which secure our investments may still seek the protection afforded by bankruptcy, insolvency and other debtor relief laws. One of the protections offered in such proceedings to each of these parties is a stay of legal proceedings, and a stay of enforcement proceedings against collateral for such loans or underlying such securities (including the properties and cash collateral). A stay of foreclosure proceedings could adversely affect our ability to realize on its collateral, and could adversely affect the value of those assets. Other protections in such proceedings to borrowers, owners and tenants include the restructuring or forgiveness of debt, the ability to create super priority liens in favor of certain creditors of the debtor, the potential loss of cash collateral held by the lender if the lender is over-collateralized, and certain well defined claims procedures. Additionally, the numerous risks inherent in the bankruptcy process create a potential risk of loss of our entire investment in any particular investment.

Liability relating to environmental matters may impact the value of properties that we may acquire or the properties underlying our investments.

Liability relating to environmental matters may decrease the value of the underlying properties of our investments and may adversely affect the ability of a person to sell such property or real estate instrument related to the property or borrow using such property as collateral and may adversely affect the security afforded by a property for a mortgage loan. Under various U.S. federal, state and local laws, an owner or operator of real property may become liable for the costs of removal of certain hazardous substances released on, about, under or in its property. Such laws often impose liability without regard to whether the owner or operator knew of, or was responsible for, the release of such hazardous substances. To the extent that an owner of an underlying property becomes liable for removal costs, testing, monitoring, remediation, bodily injury or property damage, the ability of the owner to make debt payments may be reduced, which in turn may adversely affect the value of the relevant mortgage asset related to such property. If we acquire any properties by foreclosure or otherwise, the presence of hazardous substances on a property may adversely affect our ability to sell the property and we may incur substantial remediation costs, thereby harming our financial condition. The discovery of material environmental liabilities attached to such properties could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition. Moreover, some U.S. federal and state laws provide that, in certain situations, a secured lender, such as us, may be liable as an “owner” or “operator” of the real property, regardless of whether the borrower or previous owner caused the environmental damage. Therefore, the presence of hazardous materials on certain property could have an adverse effect on us in our capacity as the owner of such property, as the mortgage lender to the owner of such property, or as the holder of a real estate instrument related to such property.

Insurance on the real estate underlying our loans and investments may not cover all losses, and this shortfall could result in both loss of cash flow from and a decrease in the asset value of the affected property.

The borrower, or we as property owner and/or originating lender, as the case may be, might not purchase enough or the proper types of insurance coverage to cover all losses. Further, there are certain types of losses, generally of a catastrophic nature, such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, terrorism or acts of war that may be uninsurable or not economically insurable. Inflation, changes in building codes and ordinances, environmental considerations and other factors, including terrorism or acts of war, also might make the insurance proceeds insufficient to repair or replace a property if it is damaged or destroyed. Under such circumstances, the insurance proceeds received might not be adequate to restore our economic position with respect to the affected real property. Any uninsured loss could result in both loss of cash flow from and a decrease in the asset value of the affected property.


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Our entitlement to repayment on a loan may be impacted by the doctrine of equitable subordination, which would result in the subordination of our claim to the claims of other creditors of the borrower.

Courts have, in some cases, applied the doctrine of equitable subordination to subordinate the claim of a lending institution against a borrower to claims of other creditors of the borrower, when the lending institution is found to have engaged in unfair, inequitable or fraudulent conduct. The courts have also applied the doctrine of equitable subordination when a lending institution or its affiliates are found to have exerted inappropriate control over a borrower, including control resulting from the ownership of equity interests in a borrower. In certain instances where we own equity in a property, we also may make one or more loans to the owner of such property. Payments on one or more of our loans, particularly a loan to a borrower in which we also hold equity interests, may be subject to claims of equitable subordination that would place our entitlement to repayment of the loan on an equal basis with holders of the borrower’s common equity only after all of the borrower’s obligations relating to its other debt and preferred securities has been satisfied.

If we purchase or originate loans secured by liens on facilities that are subject to a ground lease and such ground lease is terminated unexpectedly, our interests could be adversely affected.

A ground lease is a lease of land, usually on a long-term basis, that does not include buildings or other improvements on the land. Normally any real property improvements made by the lessee during the term of the lease will revert to the owner at the end of the lease term. We may purchase or originate loans secured by liens on facilities that are subject to a ground lease, and, if the ground lease were to terminate unexpectedly, due to the borrower’s default on such ground lease or otherwise, our business could be adversely affected.

For certain of our loans, we may rely on loan agents or other lenders and such agents or other lenders may not act in the manner that we expect.

With respect to some of our loans, we will be neither the agent of the lending group that receives payments under the loan nor the agent of the lending group that controls the collateral for purposes of administering the loan. When we are not the agent for a loan, we may not receive the same financial or operational information as we would receive for loans for which we are the agent and, in many instances, the information on which we must rely may be provided by the agent rather than directly by the borrower. As a result, it may be more difficult for us to track or rate such loans than it is for the loans for which we are the agent. Additionally, we may be prohibited or otherwise restricted from taking actions to enforce the loan or to foreclose upon the collateral securing the loan without the agreement of other lenders holding a specified minimum aggregate percentage, such as a majority or two-thirds of the outstanding principal balance. It is possible that an agent or other lenders for one of such loans may choose not to take the same actions to enforce the loan or to foreclose upon the collateral securing the loan that we would have taken had we been agent for the loan.

We may not be able to control the party who services the mortgage loans included in the CMBS in which we may invest if those loans are in default and, in such cases, our interests could be adversely affected.

With respect to each series of the CMBS in which we may invest, overall control over the special servicing of the related underlying mortgage loans will be held by a “directing certificate-holder” or a “controlling class representative,” which is appointed by the holders of the most subordinate class of CMBS in such series. We may not have the right to appoint the directing certificate-holder or controlling class representative. In connection with the servicing of the specially serviced mortgage loans, the related special servicer may, at the direction of the directing certificate-holder or controlling class representative, take actions with respect to the specially serviced mortgage loans that could adversely affect our interests. However, the special servicer is not permitted to take actions that are prohibited by law or violate the applicable servicing standard or the terms of the mortgage loan documents.


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We may be required to make determinations of a borrower’s creditworthiness based on incomplete information or information that we cannot verify, which may cause us to purchase or originate loans that we otherwise would not have purchased or originated and, as a result, may negatively impact our business or reputation.

The commercial real estate lending business depends on the creditworthiness of borrowers, which we must judge. In making such judgment, we will depend on information obtained from non-public sources and the borrowers in making many decisions related to our portfolio, and such information may be difficult to obtain or may be inaccurate. As a result, we may be required to make decisions based on incomplete information or information that is impossible or impracticable to verify. A determination as to the creditworthiness of a prospective borrower is based on a wide-range of information. Even if we are provided with full and accurate disclosure of all material information concerning a borrower, members of the management team may misinterpret or incorrectly analyze this information, which may cause us to purchase or originate loans that we otherwise
would not have purchased or originated and, as a result, may negatively impact our business or the borrower could still defraud us after origination leading to a loss and negative publicity.

Our reserves for loan losses may prove inadequate, which could have a material adverse effect on us.

We maintain and regularly evaluate financial reserves to protect against potential future losses. Our reserves reflect management’s judgment of the probability and severity of losses. We cannot be certain that our judgment will prove to be correct and that reserves will be adequate over time to protect against potential future losses because of unanticipated adverse changes in the economy or events adversely affecting specific assets, borrowers, industries in which our borrowers operate or markets in which our borrowers or their properties are located. We must evaluate existing conditions on our debt investments to make determinations to record loan loss reserves on these specific investments. If our reserves for credit losses prove inadequate, we could suffer losses which would have a material adverse effect on our financial performance.

If the loans that we originate or purchase do not comply with applicable laws, we may be subject to penalties.

Loans that we originate or purchase may be directly or indirectly subject to U.S. laws. Real estate lenders and borrowers may be responsible for compliance with a wide range of law intended to protect the public interest, including, without limitation, the Truth in Lending, Equal Credit Opportunity, Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities Acts and local zoning laws (including, but not limited, to zoning laws that allow permitted non-conforming uses). If we or any other person fail to comply with such laws in relation to a loan that we have purchased or originated, legal penalties may be imposed, and our business may be adversely affected as a result. Additionally, jurisdictions with “one action,” “security first” and/or “antideficiency rules” may limit our ability or the ability of a special servicer of a CMBS issuance to foreclose on a real property or to realize on obligations secured by a real property. In the future, new laws may be enacted or imposed by U.S. federal, state or local governmental entities, and such laws may have an adverse effect on our business.

We are subject to various risks relating to non-U.S. securities and loans that may make them more risky than our investments in U.S.-based securities and loans.

Investments in securities or loans of non-U.S. issuers or borrowers or on non-U.S. properties and securities denominated or whose prices are quoted in non-U.S. currencies pose, to the extent not hedged, currency exchange risks (including blockage, devaluation and nonexchangeability), as well as a range of other potential risks which could include expropriation, confiscatory taxation, withholding or other taxes on interest, dividends, capital gain or other income, political or social instability, illiquidity, price volatility, market manipulation and the burdens of complying with international licensing and regulatory requirements and prohibitions that differ between jurisdictions. In addition, less information may be available regarding non-U.S. properties or securities of non-U.S. issuers or borrowers and non-U.S. issuers or borrowers may not be subject to accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards and requirements comparable to or as uniform as those of U.S. issuers. Transaction costs of investing in non-U.S. securities or loan markets are generally higher than in the United States, and there may be less government supervision and regulation of exchanges, brokers and issuers than there is in the United States. We might have greater difficulty taking appropriate legal action in non-U.S. courts and non-U.S. markets also have different clearance and settlement procedures which in some markets have at times failed to keep pace with the volume of transactions, thereby creating substantial delays and settlement failures that could adversely affect our performance.


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Risks Related to Our Indebtedness

Our business is highly leveraged, which could lead to greater losses than if we were not as leveraged.

We do and, in the future, intend to use financial leverage in executing our business plan. Such borrowings may take the form of “financing facilities” such as bank credit facilities, credit facilities from government agencies (including the FHLB), repurchase agreements and warehouse lines of credit, which are secured revolving lines of credit that we utilize to warehouse portfolios or real estate instruments until we exit them through securitization. We do and, in the future, intend to enter into securitization and other long-term financing transactions to use the proceeds from such transactions to reduce the outstanding balances under these financing facilities. However, such agreements may include a recourse component. Further, any financing facilities that we currently have or may use in the future to finance our assets may require us to provide additional collateral or pay down debt if the market value of our assets pledged or sold to the provider of the credit facility or the repurchase agreement counterparty decline in value. In addition, our borrowings are generally based on floating interest rates, the fluctuation of which could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Our use of leverage in a market that moves adversely to our business interests could result in a substantial loss to us, which would be greater than if we were not leveraged.

There can be no assurance that we will be able to utilize financing arrangements in the future on favorable terms, or at all.

There is no assurance that we will be able to obtain, maintain or renew our financing facilities on terms or advance rates favorable to us or at all. Furthermore, any financing facility that we enter into will be subject to conditions and restrictive covenants relating to our operations, which may inhibit our ability to grow our business and increase revenues. To the extent we breach a covenant or cannot satisfy a condition, such facility may not be available to us, or may be required to be repaid in full or in part, which could limit our ability to pursue our business strategies. Further, such borrowings may limit the length of time during which any given asset may be used as eligible collateral.

Additionally, if we are unable to securitize our loans to replenish a warehouse line of credit, we may be required to seek other forms of potentially less attractive financing or otherwise to liquidate our assets. Furthermore, some of our warehouse lines of credit contain cross-default provisions. If a default occurs under one of these warehouse lines of credit and the lenders terminate one or more of these agreements, we may need to enter into replacement agreements with different lenders. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in entering into such replacement agreements on the same terms as the terminated warehouse line of credit.

We may issue more unsecured corporate bonds in the future depending on the financing requirements of our business and market conditions. Our failure to maintain the credit ratings on our debt securities could negatively affect our ability to access capital and could increase our interest expense. The credit rating agencies periodically review our capital structure and the quality and stability of our earnings. Deterioration in our capital structure or the quality and stability of our earnings could result in a downgrade of the credit ratings on our Notes and other debt securities. Any negative ratings actions could constrain the capital available to us and could limit our access to funding for our operations. We are dependent upon our ability to access capital at rates and on terms we determine to be attractive. If our ability to access capital becomes constrained, our interest costs could increase, which could have material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.

The effective subordination of our Notes, or other similar debt securities that we may issue in the future, may limit our ability to meet all of our debt service obligations.
 
Our Notes are unsecured and unsubordinated obligations and rank equally in right of payment with each other and with all of our unsecured and unsubordinated indebtedness. However, our Notes are effectively subordinated in right of payment to all of our secured indebtedness to the extent of the value of the collateral securing such indebtedness. As of December 31, 2018, we had $3.3 billion of secured consolidated indebtedness outstanding. While the indentures governing our Notes limit our ability to incur secured indebtedness in the future, they do not prohibit us from incurring such indebtedness if we and our subsidiaries are in compliance with certain financial ratios and other requirements at the time of incurrence. In the event of a bankruptcy, liquidation, dissolution, reorganization, or similar proceeding with respect to us, the holders of any secured indebtedness will be entitled to proceed directly against the collateral that secures such indebtedness. Therefore, the collateral will not be available for satisfaction of any amounts owed under our unsecured indebtedness, including our Notes or similar debt securities that we may issue in the future, until such secured indebtedness is satisfied in full.
 

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Our Notes are also effectively subordinated to all liabilities, whether secured or unsecured. In the event of a bankruptcy, liquidation, dissolution, reorganization, or similar proceeding with respect to any of our subsidiaries, we (as a common equity owner of such subsidiary), and therefore holders of our debt (including our Notes or similar debt securities that we may issue in the future), will be subject to the prior claims of such subsidiary’s creditors, including trade creditors and preferred equity holders. As of December 31, 2018, our subsidiaries had approximately $4.6 billion of indebtedness and other liabilities outstanding and no preferred equity.
 
The indentures governing our Notes contains restrictive covenants that may limit our ability to expand or fully pursue our business strategies.
 
The indentures governing our Notes contain financial and operating covenants that may limit our ability to take specific actions, even if we believe them to be in our best interest and require us to, among other things, maintain at all times a specified ratio of indebtedness to equity and a certain level of unencumbered assets. These covenants may restrict our ability to expand or fully pursue our business strategies. Our ability to comply with these and other provisions of our debt agreements may be affected by changes in our operating and financial performance, changes in general business and economic conditions, adverse regulatory developments, or other events.

Our use of leverage may create a mismatch between the duration of financing and the life of the investments made using the proceeds of such financing.

We generally intend to structure our leverage such that we minimize the differences between the term of our investments and the leverage we use to finance such an investment. However, under certain circumstances, we may determine not to do so or we may be unable to do so. In the event that our leverage is for a shorter term than the financed investment, we may not be able to extend or find appropriate replacement leverage, which would have an adverse impact on our liquidity and our returns. In the event that our leverage is for a longer term than the financed investment, we may not be able to repay such leverage or replace the financed investment with an optimal substitute or at all, which would negatively impact our desired leveraged returns.

We generally attempt to structure our leverage such that we minimize the differences between the index of our investments and the index of our leverage (i.e., financing floating rate investments with floating rate leverage and fixed rate investments with fixed rate leverage). If such a product is not available to us from our lenders on reasonable terms, we may use hedging instruments to effectively create such a match. For example, in the case of future fixed rate investments, we may finance such an investment with floating rate leverage, but effectively convert all or a portion of the attendant leverage to fixed rate using hedging strategies.

Our attempts to mitigate such risk are subject to factors outside our control, such as the availability of favorable financing and hedging options, which is subject to a variety of factors, of which duration and term-matching are only two. The risks of a duration mismatch are magnified by the potential for the extension of loans in order to maximize the likelihood and magnitude of their recovery value in the event the loans experience credit or performance challenges. Employment of this asset management practice would effectively extend the duration of our investments, while our liabilities have set maturity dates.

The utilization of any of our repurchase and warehouse facilities and other financing arrangements is subject to the pre- approval of the lender, which we may be unable to obtain.

In order to borrow funds under a repurchase or warehouse agreement or other financing arrangement, the lender has the right to review the potential assets for which we are seeking financing and approve such asset in its sole discretion. Accordingly, we may be unable to obtain the consent of a lender to finance an investment and alternate sources of financing for such asset may not exist.


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Our use of repurchase agreements to finance our securities and/or loans may give our lenders greater rights in the event that either we or a lender files for bankruptcy, including the right to repudiate our repurchase agreements, which could limit or delay our claims.

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, to foreclose on the collateral agreement without delay and to pursue claims for recourse against us. 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 claim. 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 securities 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. Therefore, our use of repurchase agreements to finance our portfolio assets exposes our pledged assets to risk in the event of a bankruptcy filing by either a lender or ourselves.

If a counterparty to our repurchase transactions defaults on its obligation to resell the underlying security and/or loans to us at the end of the transaction term, or if the value of the underlying security and/or loans has declined as of the end of that term, or if we default on our obligations under the repurchase agreement, we will lose money on our repurchase transactions.

When we engage in repurchase transactions, we generally sell securities and/or loans to lenders (i.e., repurchase agreement counterparties) in return for cash from the lenders. The lenders then are obligated to resell the same securities and/or loans to us at the end of the term of the transaction. In a repurchase agreement, the cash we receive from a lender when we initially sell the securities and/or loans to such lender is less than the value of the securities and/or loans sold. If the lender defaults on its obligation to resell the same securities and/or loans to us under the terms of a repurchase agreement, we will incur a loss on the transaction equal to the difference between the value of the securities and/or loans sold and the cash we received from the lender (assuming there was no change in the value of the securities and/or loans). We also would lose money on a repurchase transaction if the value of the underlying securities and/or loans has declined as of the end of the transaction term, as we would have to repurchase the securities and/or loans for their initial value but would receive securities and/or loans worth less than that amount. Further, if we default on one of our obligations under a repurchase transaction, the lender will be able to terminate the transaction and cease entering into any other repurchase transactions with us. Our repurchase agreements generally contain cross-default provisions, so that if a default occurs under any one agreement, the lenders under our other agreements also could declare a default. If a default occurs under any of our repurchase agreements and the lenders terminate one or more of their 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. Any losses that we incur on our repurchase transactions could adversely affect our earnings.

We may be subject to repurchases of loans or indemnification on loans and real estate that we have sold if certain representations or warranties in those sales are breached.

If loans that we sell or securitize do not comply with representations and warranties that we make about the loans, the borrowers, or the underlying properties, we may be required to repurchase such loans (including from a trust vehicle used to facilitate a structured financing of the assets through a securitization) or replace them with substitute loans. Additionally, in the case of loans and real estate that we have sold, we may be required to indemnify persons for losses or expenses incurred as a result of a breach of a representation or warranty. Repurchased loans typically will require a significant allocation of working capital to be carried on our books, and our ability to borrow against such assets may be limited. Any significant repurchases or indemnification payments could adversely affect our business.

Despite our substantial outstanding indebtedness, we may still incur significantly more indebtedness in the future, which would exacerbate any or all of the risks described herein.
 
We may incur substantial additional indebtedness in the future. Although the agreements governing our indebtedness do limit our ability to incur additional indebtedness, these restrictions are subject to a number of qualifications and exceptions and, under certain circumstances, debt incurred in compliance with these restrictions could be substantial. To the extent that we incur substantial additional indebtedness in the future, the risks associated with our substantial leverage described herein, including our inability to meet all of our debt service obligations, would be exacerbated.

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We cannot predict the effect of changes to, or the transition away from, LIBOR on Ladder’s assets and liabilities.

Ladder’s floating rate mortgage loans, floating rate securities investments, hedging instruments and certain floating rate indebtedness have interest rates tied to LIBOR for one-month Eurodollar deposits or other established interest indices. Regulators and law enforcement agencies from a number of governments, including entities in the United States, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom, have been conducting civil and criminal investigations into whether the banks that contributed to the British Bankers’ Association (the “BBA”) in connection with the calculation of daily LIBOR may have underreported or otherwise manipulated or attempted to manipulate LIBOR. Several financial institutions have reached settlements with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice Fraud Section and the United Kingdom Financial Services Authority in connection with investigations by such authorities into submissions made by such financial institutions to the bodies that set LIBOR and other interbank offered rates. In such settlements, such financial institutions admitted to submitting rates to the BBA that were lower than the actual rates at which such financial institutions could borrow funds from other banks. Additional investigations remain ongoing with respect to other major banks and no assurance can be made that there will not be further admissions or findings of rate setting manipulation or that improper manipulation of LIBOR or other similar inter-bank lending rates will not occur in the future.

Based on a review conducted by the Financial Conduct Authority of the United Kingdom (the “FCA”) and a consultation conducted by the European Commission, proposals have been made for governance and institutional reform, regulation, technical changes and contingency planning. In particular: (a) new legislation has been enacted in the United Kingdom pursuant to which LIBOR submissions and administration are now “regulated activities” and manipulation of LIBOR has been brought within the scope of the market abuse regime; (b) legislation has been proposed which, if implemented, would, among other things, alter the manner in which LIBOR is determined, compel more banks to provide LIBOR submissions, and require these submissions to be based on actual transaction data; and (c) LIBOR rates for certain currencies and maturities are no longer published daily. In addition, pursuant to authorization from the FCA, ICE Benchmark Administration Limited (formerly NYSE Euronext Rate Administration Limited) (the “IBA”) took over the administration of LIBOR from the BBA on February 1, 2014. Any new administrator of LIBOR may make methodological changes to the way in which LIBOR is calculated or may alter, discontinue or suspend calculation or dissemination of LIBOR.

In a speech on July 27, 2017, Andrew Bailey, the Chief Executive of the FCA, announced the FCA’s intention to cease sustaining LIBOR after 2021. The FCA has statutory powers to require panel banks to contribute to LIBOR where necessary. The FCA has decided not to ask, or to require, that panel banks continue to submit contributions to LIBOR beyond the end of 2021. The FCA has indicated that it expects that the current panel banks will voluntarily sustain LIBOR until the end of 2021. The FCA’s intention is that after 2021, it will no longer be necessary for the FCA to ask, or to require, banks to submit contributions to LIBOR. The FCA does not intend to sustain LIBOR through using its influence or legal powers beyond that date. It is possible that the IBA and the panel banks could continue to produce LIBOR on the current basis after 2021, if they are willing and able to do so, but it is not clear LIBOR will survive in its current form, or at all.

We cannot predict the effect of the FCA’s decision not to sustain LIBOR, or, if changes are ultimately made to LIBOR, the effect of those changes on Ladder’s assets and liabilities. We cannot predict what alternative index would be chosen by our lenders, should this occur. The uncertainty as to the nature of, and methodology for calculating and administering, any replacement reference rate, the uncertainty regarding interest rate calculations prior to the establishment of such replacement rate, whether the replacement rate will gain widespread market acceptance and the potential need to amend existing documentation present additional risks.

There is currently no definitive information regarding the future utilization of LIBOR or of any particular replacement rate. We may need to amend our financing agreements that rely on LIBOR to determine interest rates based on a replacement rate. As such, the potential effect of any such event on our cost of funds and net income cannot yet be determined and any changes to benchmark interest rates could increase our financing and hedging costs, which could impact our results of operations, cash flows and the market value of our investments. In addition, the elimination of LIBOR could result in mismatches between the interest rate of our investments and the interest rate of our financing.


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Risks Related to Regulatory and Compliance Matters

One of our subsidiaries is registered as a broker-dealer and is subject to various broker-dealer regulations. Violations of these regulations could result in revocation of broker-dealer licenses, fines or other disciplinary action.

We have a subsidiary, LCS, which is registered as a broker-dealer with the SEC and in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and is a member of FINRA. This subsidiary, which from time to time serves as a manager (or co-manager) of the CMBS securitizations to which an affiliate contributes collateral as loan seller, is subject to regulations that cover all aspects of its business, including sales methods, trade practices, use and safekeeping of clients’ funds and securities, the capital structure of the subsidiary, recordkeeping, the financing of clients’ purchases and the conduct of directors, officers and employees. The SEC and FINRA have also imposed both conduct-based and disclosure-based requirements with respect to research reports. Violation of these regulations can result in the revocation of broker-dealer licenses (which could result in our having to hire new licensed investment professionals before continuing certain operations), the imposition of censure or fines and the suspension or expulsion of the subsidiary, its officers or employees from FINRA. In addition, LCS is subject to routine periodic examination by the staff of FINRA.

As a registered broker-dealer and member of a self-regulatory organization, LCS is subject to the SEC’s uniform net capital rule. Rule 15c3-1 of the Exchange Act specifies the minimum level of net capital a broker-dealer must maintain and also requires that a significant part of a broker-dealer’s assets be kept in relatively liquid form. The SEC and FINRA impose rules that require notification when net capital falls below certain predefined criteria, limit the ratio of subordinated debt to equity in the regulatory capital composition of a broker-dealer and constrain the ability of a broker-dealer to expand its business under certain circumstances. Additionally, the SEC’s uniform net capital rule imposes certain requirements that may have the effect of prohibiting a broker-dealer from distributing or withdrawing capital and requiring prior notice to the SEC for certain withdrawals of capital.

The Dodd-Frank Act imposes additional regulation by the SEC, the CFTC and LCS’ other regulators. The legislation calls for the imposition of expanded standards of care by market participants in dealing with clients and customers, including by providing the SEC with authority to adopt rules establishing fiduciary duties for broker-dealers and directing the SEC to examine and improve sales practices and disclosure by broker-dealers and investment advisers. LCS is also affected by rules adopted by U.S. federal agencies pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act that require that any person who organizes or initiates an asset-backed security transaction to retain a portion (at least 5%) of any credit risk that the person conveys to a third party. Securitizations will also be affected by rules prohibiting securitization participants’ engaging in any transaction that would involve or result in any material conflict of interest with an investor in a securitization transaction. The rules exempt bona fide market-making activities and risk-mitigating hedging activities in connection with securitization activities from the general prohibition.

If our subsidiary that is regulated as a registered investment adviser is unable to meet the requirements of the SEC or fails to comply with certain U.S. federal and state securities laws and regulations, it may face termination of its investment adviser registration, fines or other disciplinary action.

Our subsidiary, LCAM, is regulated by the SEC as a registered investment adviser. Registered investment advisers are subject to the requirements and regulations of the Advisers Act. Such requirements relate to, among other things, fiduciary duties to advisory clients, maintaining an effective compliance program, solicitation agreements, conflicts of interest, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, disclosure requirements, limitations on agency cross and principal transactions between an advisor and advisory clients and general anti-fraud prohibitions. LCAM currently is an investment adviser to a mutual fund registered under the Investment Company Act, which subjects LCAM to regulation under the Investment Company Act, including with respect to the fees our subsidiary earns from the fund and the ability of the mutual fund to enter into principal transactions or joint transactions with us and our affiliates. Non-compliance with the Advisers Act, the Investment Company Act or other U.S. federal and state securities laws and regulations could result in investigations, sanctions, disgorgement, fines and reputational damage.


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If our subsidiary that is regulated as a registered investment adviser is unable to accumulate assets under management or successfully negotiate the terms of its management fees, our results of operations could be negatively impacted.

Our asset management business depends in large part on our ability to raise capital from third-party investors. If we are unable to raise capital from third-party investors, we would be unable to collect management fees or deploy their capital into investments and potentially receive additional fees and compensation, which would materially reduce our revenue and cash flow from our asset management business and adversely affect our financial condition. Regulations adopted and anticipated to be adopted by the Department of Labor may create compliance and operational challenges for companies that distribute investment products and may make it more difficult for our investment adviser subsidiary to raise capital for clients that it manages.

In connection with creating new investment products, we negotiate terms with potential investors. The outcome of such negotiations could result in our agreement to terms that are materially less favorable to us than the terms of other accounts or vehicles one of our investment adviser subsidiaries has advised. Such terms could restrict our subsidiaries’ ability to advise accounts or vehicles with investment objectives or strategies that compete with existing accounts or vehicles, reduce fee revenues we earn, reduce the percentage of profits on third-party capital that we share in or add expenses and obligations for us in managing the accounts or vehicles or increase our potential liabilities, all of which could ultimately reduce our profitability.

The advisory contracts our investment adviser subsidiary enters into with clients provide investors or, in some cases, the independent directors of the clients with significant latitude to terminate such contracts, withdraw funds or liquidate funds by simple majority vote with limited notice or penalty or to remove our subsidiary as a fund’s investment adviser (or equivalent). The investment advisory agreement with our registered investment company client is required, after an initial two year term, to be renewed and approved annually by the fund’s boards of directors, a majority of whom are independent from the Company.

The historical returns attributable to the accounts and investment vehicles currently or formerly managed by our asset management business are not indicative of the future results of the accounts and investment vehicles managed by this business, our future results or the performance of our Class A common stock.

The historical and potential future returns of the accounts and investment vehicles managed by our asset management business are not directly linked to returns on our business. Therefore, any positive performance of the accounts and investment vehicles that we manage will not necessarily result in positive returns on an investment in our common equity. However, poor performance of the accounts and investment vehicles that we manage would cause a decline in our revenue from such accounts and investment vehicles, and would therefore have a negative effect on our performance.

We cannot be certain that consents required for assignments of our investment management agreements will be obtained if a change of control occurs at the Company, which may result in the termination of these agreements and a corresponding loss of revenue.

The Advisers Act requires that any investment management agreements be terminated upon an “assignment” without investor consent. Such “assignment” may be deemed to occur in the event such adviser experiences a direct or indirect change of control (at the Company level). The Investment Company Act has a similar requirement, except that a majority of the fund’s independent directors also must consent. Termination of these agreements would cause us to lose the fees we earn from such account or fund.

If our subsidiary that operates as a captive insurance company fails to comply with insurance laws or is no longer a member of the FHLB, our sources of financing may be limited, which may have an adverse financial impact on the captive and us.

We maintain a captive insurance company to provide coverage previously self-insured by us, including nuclear, biological or chemical coverage, excess property coverage and excess errors and omissions coverage. The captive is regulated by the State of Michigan and is subject to regulations that cover all aspects of its business, including a requirement to maintain a certain minimum net capital. Violation of these regulations can result in revocation of its authorization to do business as a captive insurer or result in censures or fines. The captive could also be found to be in violation of the insurance laws of states other than Michigan (i.e., states where insureds are located), in which case, fines and penalties could apply from those states. Under certain circumstances, regulatory actions (such as new rulemakings) impacting the captive could result in limitations on the ability of the captive to borrow from the FHLB, or termination of its membership in the FHLB, and thereby impact the FHLB’s availability as a source of financing for our operations.


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The captive is a member of the FHLB, and as such, is eligible to borrow funds, on a fully collateralized basis, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the FHLB’s Advances, Pledge and Security Agreement and is subject to the lending policies of the FHLB as established from time to time. As a member, the captive is required to purchase shares of FHLB stock based on the amount of funds currently borrowed. The organization of the captive and its membership in the FHLB is viewed as a risk financing and investment vehicle of Ladder. Like any other investment, the captive’s participation in the FHLB involves some risk of loss and/or access to assets of the captive, both with respect to the shares of FHLB stock and the assets provided by the captive as collateral for its borrowings. Furthermore, if the captive’s membership in the FHLB is terminated, then it may have an adverse financial impact on the captive and us.

The FHFA has revised its regulation on FHLB membership, which, without further modification, will ultimately result in the inability of our captive insurance company to borrow new advances from, or be a member of, the FHLB no later than February 19, 2021.
On January 20, 2016, the FHFA, regulator of the FHLB, published a final rule amending its regulation on FHLB membership. The final rule was effective February 19, 2016 and requires that Tuebor’s FHLB membership be terminated by the FHLB no later than February 19, 2021. According to the final rule, during this five-year transition period, the FHLB may continue to make new advances to Tuebor so long as they do not exceed the lesser of forty percent of Tuebor’s total assets, and they do not have a maturity of later than February 19, 2021. Existing advances that mature after the termination of Tuebor’s membership are permitted to remain in place until maturity of such advances. On December 6, 2017, Tuebor’s advance limit was updated by the FHLB to the lowest of a Set Dollar Limit ($2.0 billion), 40% of Tuebor’s total assets or 150% of the Company’s total equity. Tuebor’s outstanding advances from the FHLB as of December 31, 2018 were less than forty percent of Tuebor’s total assets and less than 150% of the Company’s total equity at that date. Beginning April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, the Set Dollar Limit will be $1.5 billion. Beginning January 1, 2021 through February 19, 2021, the Set Dollar Limit will be $750.0 million. Tuebor is well-positioned to meet its obligations and pay down its advances in accordance with the scheduled reduction in the Set Dollar Limit, which remains subject to revision by the FHLB or as a result of any future changes in applicable regulations.
FHLB advances amounted to 28.9% of the Company’s outstanding debt obligations as of December 31, 2018.  The Company does not anticipate that the FHFA’s final regulation will materially impact its operations as it will continue to access FHLB advances during the five-year transition period and it has multiple, diverse funding sources for financing its portfolio in the future.  In the latter stages of the five-year transition period, the Company expects to adjust its financing activities by gradually making greater use of alternative sources of funding of types currently used by the Company including secured and unsecured borrowings from banks and other counterparties, the issuance of corporate bonds and equity, and the securitization or sale of assets. Future moves to alternative funding sources could result in higher or lower advance rates from secured funding sources but also the incurrence of higher funding and operating costs than would have been incurred had FHLB funding continued to be available.  In addition, the Company may find it more difficult to obtain committed secured funding for multiple year terms as it has been able to obtain from the FHLB. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations-Liquidity and capital resources.”
The five-year transition period allows time for events to occur that may impact Tuebor’s long-term membership in the FHLB, including further regulatory changes, the enactment of legislation, or the filing of litigation challenging the validity of the final rule. During this period, a combination of these external events and/or Tuebor’s own actions could result in the emergence of feasible alternative approaches for it to retain its FHLB membership.
There is no assurance that the FHFA or the FHLB may not take actions that could adversely impact Tuebor’s membership in the FHLB and continuing access to new or existing advances prior to February 19, 2021.
Regulatory changes in the United States and regulatory compliance failures could adversely affect our reputation, business and operations.

Potential regulatory action poses a significant risk to our business. Certain of our subsidiaries’ businesses are subject to extensive regulation in the United States and may rely on exemptions from various requirements of the Securities Act, the Exchange Act, the Investment Company Act and ERISA. These exemptions are sometimes highly complex and may in certain circumstances depend on compliance by third parties who we do not control. If for any reason these exemptions were to be revoked or challenged or otherwise become unavailable to us, we could be subject to regulatory action or third-party claims, and our business could be materially and adversely affected.


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Further, each of the regulatory bodies with jurisdiction over one or more of our subsidiaries has regulatory powers dealing with many aspects of financial services, including the authority to grant, and in specific circumstances to cancel, permissions to carry on particular activities, which may negatively affect our business.

In addition, we are subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other applicable securities rules and regulations. Compliance with these rules and regulations may increase our legal and financial compliance costs, make some activities more difficult, time-consuming or costly and increase demand on our systems and resources. We may also be involved in trading activities which implicate a broad number of United States securities law regimes, including laws governing trading on inside information, market manipulation and a broad number of technical trading requirements that implicate fundamental market regulation policies. Violation of these laws could result in severe restrictions on our activities and damage to our reputation.

Compliance with any new laws or regulations could make compliance more difficult and expensive, affect the manner in which we conduct our business and adversely affect our profitability.

Employee misconduct could harm us by impairing our ability to attract and retain clients and subjecting us to significant legal liability and reputational harm.

There is a risk that our employees could engage in misconduct that adversely affects our business. We are subject to a number of obligations and standards arising from our regulated businesses and our authority over the assets managed by our asset management business. The violation of these obligations and standards by any of our employees would adversely affect our clients and us. If our employees were improperly to use or disclose confidential information obtained during discussions regarding a potential investment, we could suffer serious harm to our reputation, financial position and current and future business relationships. It is not always possible to detect or deter employee misconduct, and the extensive precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in all cases. If one of our employees were to engage in misconduct or were to be accused of such misconduct, our business and our reputation could be adversely affected.

Accounting and tax rules for certain of our transactions are highly complex and involve significant judgment and assumptions. Changes in accounting interpretations or assumptions could impact our consolidated financial statements.

Accounting and tax rules for transfers of financial assets, securitization transactions, consolidation of variable interest entities, or (“VIEs”), and other aspects of our anticipated operations are highly complex and involve significant judgment and assumptions. These complexities could lead to a delay in preparation of financial information and the delivery of this information to our shareholders. Changes in accounting interpretations or assumptions could impact our consolidated financial statements, result in a need to restate our financial results and affect our ability to timely prepare our consolidated financial statements. Our inability to timely prepare our consolidated financial statements in the future would likely adversely affect our security prices significantly.

Risks Related to Our Investment Company Act Exemption

Maintenance of our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act imposes significant limits on our operations. The value of our securities, including our Class A common stock, may be adversely affected if we are required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.

We intend to conduct our operations so that neither we nor any of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) are required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.

If we or any of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) fail to qualify for and maintain an exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act, or an exclusion from the definition of an investment company, we could, among other things, be required either to: (i) substantially change the manner in which we conduct our operations to avoid being required to register as an investment company; (ii) effect sales of our assets in a manner that, or at a time when, we would not otherwise choose to do so; or (iii) register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, any of which could have an adverse effect on us, our financial results, the sustainability of our business model, the value of our securities (including the Notes) or our ability to satisfy our obligations in respect of the Notes.


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If we or any of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) were required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, the registered entity would become subject to substantial regulation with respect to capital structure (including the ability to use leverage), management, operations, transactions with affiliated persons (as defined in the Investment Company Act), portfolio composition, including restrictions with respect to diversification and industry concentration, compliance with reporting, record keeping, voting, proxy disclosure and other rules and regulations that would significantly change its operations and we would not be able to conduct our business as described herein. For example, because affiliate transactions are generally prohibited under the Investment Company Act, we would not be able to enter into certain transactions with any of our affiliates if we are required to register as an investment company, which could have a material adverse effect on our ability to operate our business.

If we were required to register ourselves as an investment company but failed to do so, we would be prohibited from engaging in our business, and criminal and civil actions could be brought against us. In addition, our contracts would be unenforceable unless a court required enforcement, and a court could appoint a receiver to take control of us and liquidate our business.

We believe we are not an investment company under Section 3(a)(1)(A) of the Investment Company Act because we do not engage primarily, or hold ourselves out as being engaged primarily, and do not propose to engage primarily, in the business of investing, reinvesting or trading in securities. However, under Section 3(a)(1)(C) of the Investment Company Act, because we are a holding company that will conduct its businesses primarily through majority-owned subsidiaries (including any series thereof), the securities issued by these subsidiaries (including any series thereof) that are excepted from the definition of “investment company” under Section 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act, together with any other investment securities we may own, may not have a combined value in excess of 40% of the value of our adjusted total assets (exclusive of government securities and cash items) on an unconsolidated basis (the “40% test”). This requirement limits the types of businesses in which we may engage through our subsidiaries (including any series thereof). In addition, the assets we and our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) may originate or acquire are limited by the provisions of the Investment Company Act and the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder, which may adversely affect our business.

We expect that certain of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) may rely on the exclusion from the definition of “investment company” under the Investment Company Act pursuant to Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the Investment Company 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 exclusion, as interpreted by the staff of the SEC, requires that an entity invest at least 55% of its assets in qualifying real estate assets and at least 80% of its assets in qualifying real estate assets and real estate-related assets. We expect each of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) relying on Section 3(c)(5)(C) to rely on guidance published by the SEC staff or on our analyses of such guidance to determine which assets are qualifying real estate assets and real estate-related assets. However, the SEC’s guidance was issued in accordance with factual situations that may be substantially different from the factual situations we may face. We have not received, nor have we sought, a no-action letter from the SEC regarding how our investment strategy fits within the exclusions from the definition of an “investment company” under the Investment Company Act that we and our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) are relying on. No assurance can be given that the SEC staff will occur with the classification of each of our subsidiaries’ assets. The SEC staff may, in the future, issue further guidance that may require us to re-classify our assets for purposes of qualifying for an exclusion from the definition of an “investment company” under the Investment Company Act. If we are required to re-classify our assets, certain of our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) may no longer be in compliance with the exclusion from the definition of an “investment company” provided by Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the Investment Company Act, and, in turn, we may not satisfy the requirements to avoid falling within the definition of an “investment company” provided by Section 3(a)(1)(C). To the extent that the SEC staff publishes new or different guidance or disagrees with our analysis with respect to any assets of our subsidiaries we have determined to be qualifying real estate assets or real estate-related assets, we may be required to adjust our strategy accordingly. In addition, we may be limited in our ability to make certain investments and these limitations could result in a subsidiary holding assets we might wish to sell or selling assets we might wish to hold.

Any of the Company or our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) may rely on the exemption provided by Section 3(c)(6) of the Investment Company Act to the extent that they primarily engage, directly or through majority-owned subsidiaries (including any series thereof), in the businesses described in Sections 3(c)(3), 3(c)(4) and 3(c)(5) of the Investment Company Act. The SEC staff has issued little interpretive guidance with respect to Section 3(c)(6) and any guidance published by the staff could require us to adjust our strategy accordingly.


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We determine whether an entity (including any series thereof) is one of our majority-owned subsidiaries. The Investment Company Act defines a majority-owned subsidiary of a person as a company 50% or more of the outstanding voting securities of which are owned by such person, or by another company which is a majority-owned subsidiary of such person. The Investment Company Act further defines voting securities as any security presently entitling the owner or holder thereof to vote for the election of directors of a company. We treat companies in which we own at least a majority of the outstanding voting securities as majority-owned subsidiaries for purposes of the 40% test. We have not requested the SEC to approve our treatment of any company as a majority-owned subsidiary and the SEC has not done so. If the SEC were to disagree with our treatment of one or more companies as majority-owned subsidiaries, we would need to adjust our strategy and our assets in order to continue to pass the 40% test. Any such adjustment in our strategy could have a material adverse effect on us.

There can be no assurance that the laws and regulations governing the Investment Company Act exemptions and exclusions described above will not change in a manner that adversely affects our operations, including the SEC or its staff providing more specific or different guidance regarding Section 3(c)(5)(C), including the nature of the assets that qualify for purposes of the exclusion and whether companies that are engaged in the business of acquiring mortgages and mortgage-related instruments should be regulated in a manner similar to investment companies. If we or our subsidiaries (including any series thereof) fail to maintain an exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act, we could, among other things, be required to: (i) change the manner in which we conduct our operations to avoid being required to register as an investment company; (ii) effect sales of our assets in a manner that, or at a time when, we would not otherwise choose to do so; or (iii) register as an investment company, any of which could negatively affect our financial results, the sustainability of our business model, or the value of our securities. In addition, if we or any of our subsidiaries were required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, the registered entity would become subject to substantial regulation with respect to capital structure (including the ability to use leverage), management, operations, transactions with affiliated persons (as defined in the Investment Company Act), portfolio composition, including restrictions with respect to diversification and industry concentration, compliance with reporting, record keeping, voting, proxy disclosure and other rules and regulations that would significantly change our operations.

Risks Related to Conflicts of Interest

Our officers and directors may be involved in other businesses related to the commercial real estate industry and potential conflicts of interests may arise if we invest in commercial real estate instruments or properties affiliated with such businesses.

Our officers or directors may be involved in other businesses related to the commercial real estate industry, and we may wish to invest in commercial real estate instruments or properties affiliated with such persons. Potential conflicts of interest may exist in such situations, and as a result, the benefits to our business of such investments may be limited. Although we do have a policy governing approval of certain related party transactions by the board of directors, we do not expressly prohibit our directors, officers, security holders or affiliates from having a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any transaction in which we have an interest or engaging for their own account in business activities of the types that we conduct.

Certain of our entities may make loans to other of our entities on other-than-arms’-length terms.

Certain of our entities have in the past and may in the future make loans to other of our entities. Such loans may be made on other-than-arms’-length terms, and as a result, we could be deemed to be subject to an inherent conflict of interest in the event that the interest rates and related fees of such loans differ from those rates and fees then available in the marketplace. We expect that such loans will not give rise to a conflict of interest because such loans generally will be made at rates, and subject to fees, lower than those available in the marketplace; however, we will attempt to resolve any conflicts of interest that arise in a fair and equitable manner.


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The Company and certain of its affiliates, including the Ladder Select Bond Fund (“LSBIX”), may compete to acquire the Company’s target assets, which are allocated in accordance with the allocation policy established by LCAM, but which may present various conflicts of interest that restrict our ability to pursue certain investment opportunities or take other actions that are beneficial to our business and result in decisions that are not in the best interests of our stockholders.
 
LCAM and Ladder acquire for themselves or accounts they manage, as the case may be, assets that they determine, in their reasonable and good faith judgment, are appropriate based on account objectives, policies and strategies, and other relevant factors. From time to time, Ladder may seek to purchase for its proprietary account the same or similar assets that LCAM seeks to purchase for LSBIX, which is currently limited to commercial real estate-related securities, or for other accounts that may be managed by LCAM in the future.

Because many of our targeted assets are typically available only in specified quantities and because many of our targeted assets are also targeted assets for LSBIX and may be targeted assets for other accounts LCAM may manage in the future, neither Ladder nor LCAM may be able to buy as much of any given asset as required to satisfy the needs of Ladder, LSBIX and any other account LCAM may manage in the future. In these cases, the allocation policy adopted by LCAM will require the allocation of such assets among us and accounts managed by LCAM in a manner consistent with LCAM’s fiduciary duty and in accordance with applicable law and regulatory interpretations. 

In making such allocations, LCAM seeks to allocate investment opportunities in a fair and equitable manner over time. In making such allocations, LCAM may allocate an investment opportunity that is appropriate for us and accounts managed by LCAM in a manner that excludes us or results in a disproportionate allocation based on factors or criteria applicable under the allocation policy. We and accounts managed by LCAM also may purchase different classes of securities in the same issuer and a conflict of interest could arise between the holders of the different classes of securities if the issuer were to develop insolvency concerns. In addition, conflicts of interest may exist in the valuation of our investments and the allocation of fees and costs among us and accounts managed by LCAM.

There is no guarantee that the policies and procedures adopted by us, the terms and conditions of an investment management agreements or the policies and procedures adopted by LCAM, Ladder and our affiliates, will enable us to identify, adequately address or mitigate these conflicts of interest. To the extent we fail to appropriately address any such conflicts, it could negatively impact our reputation and ability to raise additional capital, LCAM’s ability to manage additional accounts or result in potential litigation or regulatory action against us or LCAM.

Our engagement in transactions with, and investment in, certain securitization vehicles under which we also serve as collateral manager, directing holder and/or special servicer may present conflicts of interest.

We have engaged in transactions with, and invested in, certain of the securitization vehicles under which we also serve as collateral manager, directing holder and/or special servicer, and/or may do so in the future. We have previously, and may in the future, purchase investments in these vehicles that are senior or junior to, or have rights and interests different from or adverse to, other investors or credit support providers in the debt or other securities of such securitization vehicles. Our interests in such transactions and investments may conflict with the interests of such other investors or credit support providers at the time of origination or in the event of a default or restructuring of a securitization vehicle or underlying assets.

We may have conflicts of interest in exercising our rights as holder of subordinated classes of CMBS and in owning the entity that also acts as or directs the special servicer for such transactions. It is possible that we, acting as the directing holder for a CMBS or CLO transaction, may direct special servicer actions that conflict with the interests of certain other classes of the CMBS or CLO issued in that transaction.

Although we seek to make decisions with respect to our securitization vehicles in a manner that we believe is fair and consistent with the operative legal documents governing these vehicles, perceived or actual conflicts may create dissatisfaction among the other investors in such vehicles and may give rise to litigation or regulatory enforcement actions. Regulatory scrutiny of, or litigation in connection with, such conflicts of interest could materially adversely affect our ability to manage or generate income or cash flow from our securitizations business, cause harm to our reputation and adversely affect our ability to attract investors for future vehicles. Appropriately dealing with conflicts of interest is complex and our reputation could be damaged if we fail to deal appropriately with one or more perceived or actual conflicts of interest.


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We hold CMBS and the master servicer, special servicer or sub-servicer or their affiliates may have relationships with borrowers under related mortgage loans and such relationships may impact the value of such CMBS.

In instances where we hold CMBS, the master servicer, special servicer or sub-servicer or any of their respective affiliates may have interests in, or other financial relationships with, borrowers under related mortgage loans. Such relationships may create conflicts of interest that negatively impact the value of such CMBS.

Risks Related to Hedging

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 operations. Under these provisions, any income that we generate from transactions intended to hedge our interest rate risk will be excluded from gross income for purposes of the REIT 75% and 95% gross income tests if the instrument hedges interest rate risk on liabilities used to carry or acquire real estate assets, and such instrument is properly identified under applicable U.S. Department of the Treasury (the “Treasury”) regulations. Income from hedging transactions that do not meet these requirements will generally constitute nonqualifying income for purposes of both the REIT 75% and 95% gross income tests. As a result of these rules, we may have to limit our use of hedging techniques that might otherwise be advantageous or implement those hedges through a TRS. This could increase the cost of our hedging activities because our TRSs would be subject to tax on gains or expose us to greater risks associated with changes in interest rates than we would otherwise want to bear. In addition, hedging-related losses in our TRSs will generally not provide any tax benefit, except for being carried forward against future taxable income in the TRSs.

We may enter into hedging transactions that could expose us to contingent liabilities in the future and adversely impact our financial condition.

Part of our strategy will involve entering into hedging transactions that could require us to fund cash payments in certain circumstances (such as the early termination of the hedging instrument caused by an event of default or other early termination event, or the decision by a counterparty to request margin transfers it is contractually owed under the terms of the hedging agreement). These potential payments will be contingent liabilities and therefore may not appear in our financial statements. The amount due would be equal to the unrealized loss of the open positions with the respective counterparty and could also include other fees and charges. These economic losses will be reflected in our results of operations, and our ability to fund these obligations will depend on the liquidity of our assets and access to capital at the time, and the need to fund these obligations could adversely impact our financial condition.

Hedging against interest rate exposure may adversely affect our earnings.

We intend to pursue various hedging strategies to seek to reduce our exposure to adverse changes in interest rates. Our hedging activity will vary in scope based on the level and volatility of interest rates, the type of assets held, compliance with REIT rules, and other changing market conditions. Interest rate hedging may fail to protect or could adversely affect our business because, among other things:

interest rate hedging can be expensive, particularly during periods of rising and volatile interest rates;
available interest rate hedges may not correspond directly with the interest rate risk for which protection is sought;
due to a credit loss or other factors, the duration of the hedge may not match the duration of the related liability;
applicable law may require mandatory margining or clearing of certain interest rate hedges we may wish to use, which may raise costs;
the credit quality of the hedging counterparty owing money on the hedge may be downgraded to such an extent that it impairs our ability to sell or assign the hedging transaction; and
the hedging counterparty owing money in the hedging transaction may default on its obligation to pay.

In addition, we may fail to recalculate, readjust and execute hedges in an efficient manner.

Any hedging activity in which we engage may materially and adversely affect our results of operations and cash flows. Therefore, while we may enter into such transactions seeking to reduce interest rate risks, unanticipated changes in interest rates may result in poorer overall investment performance than if we had not engaged in any such hedging transactions. In addition, the degree of correlation between price movements of the instruments used in a hedging strategy and price movements in the portfolio positions or liabilities being hedged may vary materially. For a variety of reasons, we may not seek to establish a perfect correlation between such hedging instruments and the portfolio positions or liabilities being hedged. Any such imperfect correlation may prevent us from achieving the intended hedge and expose us to risk of loss.

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A liquid secondary market may not exist for certain hedging instruments and they therefore may involve risks and costs that could result in material losses.

The enforceability of certain rights under agreements underlying certain hedging transactions may depend on compliance with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements under U.S. law and, depending on the identity of the counterparty, applicable international requirements. The business failure of a hedging counterparty will most likely result in its default, resulting in the loss of unrealized profits and forcing us to cover our commitments, if any, at the then current market price. A liquid secondary market may not exist for these hedging instruments, and we may be required to maintain a position until exercise or expiration, which could result in material losses.

We may enter into hedging transactions that are subject to mandatory clearing and/or margin requirements.

Part of our strategy will involve entering into hedging transactions that may be subject to mandatory clearing under the Dodd-Frank Act and relevant Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) regulations and therefore subject to associated margin requirements imposed by the applicable clearinghouse. The amount of margin we may be required to post on cleared transactions would be subject to the rules of the relevant clearinghouse, which may provide the clearinghouse with discretion to increase those requirements. In addition, clearing intermediaries who clear our trades with a clearinghouse may have contractual rights to increase the margin requirements we are required to provide above clearinghouse minimums.
With respect to uncleared swaps that could be needed to execute our hedging strategy, regulations that have been adopted in the U.S. (under the Dodd-Frank Act) impose mandatory margin requirements. Similar rules have been adopted in Europe and other jurisdictions where our dealer counterparties may be located. These rules impose obligations on many derivatives market participants to collect and post “variation margin” in connection with over-the-counter derivatives and, on a smaller group of market participants, to also collect and post “initial margin.” The impact on us depends on the impact on prices in the interdealer hedging market (which may affect the pricing we can obtain from dealers) and whether one or both of these margin requirements apply to our derivatives counterparties when transacting with us. The rules began to go into effect in the interdealer market in September 2016 and variation margin requirements in the broader market went into effect in the U.S. in March 2017. Initial margin requirements are phasing in over several years. The rules are intended to provide that the margin requirements for parties subject to “initial margin” requirements are higher than the margin requirements for similar cleared derivatives. It is possible that, if and when these initial margin requirements are fully phased in, we could be subject to a requirement to post significant additional amounts of margin on uncleared swaps. If we become subject to these requirements, it could significantly increase the costs of engaging in uncleared swaps as part of our heading strategies.
Our ability to fund these obligations will depend on the liquidity of our assets and access to capital at the time, and the need to fund these obligations could adversely impact our financial condition. In addition, the failure to satisfy a margin call may result in the liquidation of all or a portion of the relevant hedge transactions.
Changes in the regulatory environment for derivatives could adversely affect our hedging activities.

The Dodd-Frank Act and relevant regulations thereunder regulate derivative transactions with a material U.S. nexus, which covers certain hedging instruments we may use in our risk management activities. Similarly, governments and regulators in other G-20 countries have committed to increased regulation of derivative transactions and are in various stages of implementing regulations similar to those that have either been adopted or proposed in the U.S. Depending on where our derivatives providers are located, these other regulations may apply instead of, or in addition to, regulations under the Dodd-Frank Act. The regulations that have been adopted to date include significant new provisions regarding conduct, documentation, risk management and reporting when transacting in derivatives (including mandatory clearing and margin requirements), and the full impact of those provisions continues to change as additional restrictions are adopted and existing regulations are modified.

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Additional non-U.S. regulations governing derivative transactions and market participants are also expected, particularly in Europe and Asia. In the U.S., the situation is less certain as the Dodd-Frank Act requires U.S. regulators to finalize certain regulations that have not yet been adopted; however, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have indicated that they intend to roll back some of the regulations previously adopted. Additional regulations and changes to existing regulations could increase the short- and long-term operational and transactional cost of derivatives contracts and also affect the number and/or creditworthiness of available hedge counterparties. Reductions or revisions to regulations previously adopted in the U.S. also may impose short-term adjustment costs. To the extent that we may enter hedging transactions with European regulated entities (“EU counterparties”), we expect that the new compliance requirements of such EU counterparties may affect our own operational and compliance costs. Since January 2018, European regulations such as the Second EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Directive 2014/65/EU) (“MiFID 2”) and the European Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 600/2014) (“MiFIR”) have imposed additional rules on conduct of business, pre- and post-trade transparency, transaction reporting and mandatory trading (amongst other areas relating to financial services). The EU counterparties’ pricing, costs and charges may change as a result of MiFID 2 and MiFIR, thus impacting our derivatives positions with EU counterparties.

Risks Related to Our Organization and Structure

Our only material asset is our interest in each Series of LCFH and we are accordingly dependent upon distributions from such Series of LCFH to pay dividends, taxes and other expenses.

We are a holding company and have no material assets other than our direct and indirect ownership of Series REIT limited partnership units (“Series REIT LP Units”) and Series TRS limited partnership units (“Series TRS LP Units” and, collectively with Series REIT LP Units, “Series Units”) of LCFH. Series TRS LP Units are exchangeable for the same number of limited liability company interests of LC TRS I LLC (“LC TRS I Shares”), which is a limited liability company that is a TRS as well as the general partner of Series TRS. We have no independent means of generating revenue. We expect each Series of LCFH to make distributions to its unitholders in an amount sufficient to cover all applicable taxes payable by them determined according to assumed rates, payments owing under the tax receivable agreement with the Continuing LCFH Limited Partners (the “Tax Receivable Agreement” or “TRA”), and to cover dividends declared by us. To the extent that we need funds, and LCFH is restricted from making such distributions under applicable law or regulation, or is otherwise unable to provide such funds, it could materially adversely affect our liquidity and financial condition. Please see Note 1 to our consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018 included elsewhere in this Annual Report for a description of our capital structure.

We may be required to pay certain existing unitholders of LCFH Series TRS for certain tax benefits we may claim arising in connection with future exchanges of Series TRS LP Units under the Third Amended and Restated Limited Liability Limited Partnership Agreement of LCFH, as amended (the “LLLP Agreement”), which payments could be substantial.

The Continuing LCFH Limited Partners may from time to time exchange an equal number of Series REIT LP Units, LC TRS I Shares (or Series TRS LP Units in lieu of such LC TRS I Shares) and shares of our Class B common stock for shares of our Class A common stock on a one-for-one basis (as described in more detail in “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions and Director Independence—Amended and Restated Limited Liability Limited Partnership Agreement.” As a result of these additional exchanges we will become entitled to certain tax basis adjustments reflecting the difference between the price we pay to acquire Series Units and the proportionate share of LCFH Series TRS’s tax basis allocable to such units at the time of the exchange. As a result, the amount of tax that we would otherwise be required to pay in the future may be reduced by the increase (for tax purposes) in depreciation and amortization deductions attributable to our interests in LCFH Series TRS, although the U.S. IRS may challenge all or part of that tax basis adjustment, and a court could sustain such a challenge. The expected benefits for prior conversions which have not yet been realized have been reduced as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which reduced the corporate federal income tax rate in periods subsequent to 2017. The Company adjusted the expected deferred tax benefits and related payable in 2017 to reflect the impact of this change.


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The Tax Receivable Agreement provides for the payment by us to certain of the Continuing LCFH Limited Partners of 85% of the amount of cash savings, if any, in U.S. federal, state and local tax that we realize as a result of: (i) the tax basis adjustments referred to above; (ii) any incremental tax basis adjustments attributable to payments made pursuant to the Tax Receivable Agreement; and (iii) any deemed interest deductions arising from payments made by us pursuant to the Tax Receivable Agreement. While the actual amount of the adjusted tax basis, as well as the amount and timing of any payments under this agreement will vary depending upon a number of factors, including the basis of our proportionate share of LCFH Series TRS’s assets on the dates of exchanges, the timing of exchanges, the price of shares of our Class A common stock at the time of each exchange, the extent to which such exchanges are taxable, the deductions and other adjustments to taxable income to which LCFH Series TRS is entitled, and the amount and timing of our income, we expect that during the anticipated term of the Tax Receivable Agreement, the payments that we may make to the Continuing LCFH Limited Partners could be substantial. Payments under the Tax Receivable Agreement will give rise to additional tax benefits and therefore to additional potential payments under the Tax Receivable Agreement. In addition, the Tax Receivable Agreement provides for interest accrued from the due date (without extensions) of the corresponding tax return for the taxable year with respect to which the payment obligation arises to the date of payment under the agreement. LC TRS I LLC will have the right to terminate the Tax Receivable Agreement by making payments to the Continuing LCFH Limited Partners calculated by reference to the present value of all future payments that of the Continuing LCFH Limited Partners would have been entitled to receive under the Tax Receivable Agreement using certain valuation assumptions, including assumptions that any Series TRS LP Units and shares of our Class B common stock that have not been exchanged are deemed exchanged for the market value of our Class A common stock at the time of termination and that LC TRS I LLC will have sufficient taxable income in each future taxable year to fully realize all potential tax savings.

There may be a negative effect on our liquidity if, as a result of timing discrepancies or otherwise, (i) the payments under the Tax Receivable Agreement exceed the actual benefits we realize in respect of the tax attributes subject to the tax receivable agreement, and/or (ii) distributions to LC TRS I LLC by LCFH Series TRS are not sufficient to permit us to make payments under the Tax Receivable Agreement after it has paid its taxes and other obligations. For example, were the IRS to challenge a tax basis adjustment, or other deductions or adjustments to taxable income of LCFH Series TRS, the existing unitholders of LCFH Series TRS will not reimburse us for any payments that may previously have been made under the Tax Receivable Agreement, except that excess payments made to an existing unitholder will be netted against payments otherwise to be made, if any, after our determination of such excess. As a result, in certain circumstances we could make payments to the existing unitholders of LCFH Series TRS under the Tax Receivable Agreement in excess of our ultimate cash tax savings. In addition, the payments under the Tax Receivable Agreement are not conditioned upon any recipient’s continued ownership of interests in us or LCFH Series TRS. A Continuing LCFH Limited Partner that exchanges its Series REIT LP Units, LC TRS I Shares (or Series TRS LP Units in lieu of such LC TRS I Shares) and shares of our Class B common stock for our Class A common stock will receive payments under the Tax Receivable Agreement until such time that it validly assigns or otherwise transfers its right to receive such payments.

In certain cases, payments under the Tax Receivable Agreement may be accelerated and/or significantly exceed the actual benefits we realize in respect of the tax attributes subject to the Tax Receivable Agreement.

The Tax Receivable Agreement provides that upon certain changes of control, or if, at any time, we elect an early termination of the Tax Receivable Agreement, the amount of our (or our successor’s) payment obligations with respect to exchanged or acquired Series TRS LP Units (whether exchanged or acquired before or after such transaction) will be determined based on certain assumptions. These assumptions include the assumption that we (or our successor) will have sufficient taxable income to fully utilize the deductions arising from the increased tax deductions and tax basis and other benefits related to entering into the Tax Receivable Agreement. Moreover, in the event we elect an early termination of the Tax Receivable Agreement, we would be required to make an immediate payment equal to the present value (at a discount rate equal to LIBOR plus basis points) of the anticipated future tax benefits (based on the foregoing assumptions). Accordingly, if we so elect, payments under the Tax Receivable Agreement may be made years in advance of the actual realization, if any, of the anticipated future tax benefits and may be significantly greater than the actual benefits we realize in respect of the tax attributes subject to the Tax Receivable Agreement. In these situations, our obligations under the Tax Receivable Agreement could have a substantial negative impact on our liquidity. We may not be able to finance our obligations under the Tax Receivable Agreement and our existing indebtedness may limit our subsidiaries’ ability to make distributions to us to pay these obligations.


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Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents and Delaware law could delay or prevent a change in control.

Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated by-laws may delay or prevent a merger or acquisition that a shareholder may consider favorable by permitting our board of directors to issue one or more series of preferred stock, requiring advance notice for shareholder proposals and nominations, and placing limitations on convening shareholder meetings. In addition, we are subject to provisions of the Delaware General Corporate Law (the “DGCL”) that restrict certain business combinations with interested shareholders. These provisions may also discourage acquisition proposals or delay or prevent a change in control, which could harm our stock price.
Our charter contains REIT-related restrictions on the ownership of, and ability to transfer our Class A common stock.

Among other things, our charter provides that, subject to the exceptions and the constructive ownership rules described herein, no person may own, or be deemed to own, in excess of (i) 9.8% in value of the outstanding shares of all classes or series of Ladder capital stock or (ii) 9.8% in value or number (whichever is more restrictive) of the outstanding shares of any class of Ladder common stock.

In addition, the charter prohibits (i) any person from transferring shares of Ladder capital stock if such transfer would result in shares of Ladder capital stock being beneficially owned by fewer than 100 persons, and (ii) any person from beneficially or constructively owning shares of Ladder capital stock if such ownership would result in Ladder failing to qualify as a REIT.

These ownership limitations and transfer restrictions could have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a takeover or other transaction in which shareholders might receive a premium for their shares of Ladder capital stock over the then prevailing market price or which shareholders might believe to be otherwise in their best interest.

Certain existing shareholders that currently hold in excess of 9.8% of the value of the outstanding shares of any class or series of Ladder capital stock are exempt from the ownership limitations in our charter.

The amendment and restatement of our certificate of incorporation effective as of February 27, 2015 (the “Charter Amendment”), among other things, eliminated the previous transfer restrictions on our Class B common stock, effectively “decoupling” the voting rights of the Class B common stock from the economic rights of the Series Units.

The Charter Amendment eliminated the transfer restrictions on the shares of Class B common stock that were imposed by our amended and restated certificate of incorporation in order to facilitate compliance with the REIT requirements. As a result, holders of Class B common stock are no longer required to hold their Class B common stock together with their Series Units. The Charter Amendment effectively “decoupled” the voting rights of the Class B common stock from the economic rights of the Series Units and as a result, shareholders are able to purchase or retain shares of Class B common stock and the corresponding voting rights without having any economic stake in the Company or the matters to be voted on. The interests of any such shareholders may not coincide with our interests or those of our other shareholders. The holders of Series Units may from time to time cause us to exchange an equal number of Series REIT LP Units, LC TRS I Shares (or Series TRS LP Units in lieu of such LC TRS I Shares) and shares of our Class B common stock for shares of our Class A common stock on a one-for-one basis. Holders of Series Units who sell all or any portion of their Class B common stock would no longer be able to exchange their Series REIT LP Units and LC TRS I Shares (or Series TRS LP Units in lieu of such LC TRS I Shares) for a corresponding number of shares of our Class A common stock.


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Risks Related to Our Class A Common Stock

The market price and trading volume of our Class A common stock may be volatile, which could result in rapid and substantial losses for our shareholders.
The market price of our Class A common stock may be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations. In addition, the trading volume in our Class A common stock may fluctuate and cause significant price variations to occur. If the market price of our Class A common stock declines significantly, you may be unable to sell your Class A common stock at or above your purchase price, if at all. We cannot assure you that the market price of our Class A common stock will not fluctuate or decline significantly in the future. Some of the factors that could negatively affect the price of our Class A common stock or result in fluctuations in the price or trading volume of our Class A common stock include: variations in our quarterly operating results; failure to meet our earnings estimates; publication of research reports about us or the investment management industry or the failure of securities analysts to cover our Class A common stock after the offering; additions or departures of our executive officers and other key management personnel; adverse market reaction to any indebtedness we may incur or securities we may issue in the future; actions by shareholders; changes in market valuations of similar companies; speculation in the press or investment community; changes or proposed changes in laws or regulations or differing interpretations thereof affecting our business or enforcement of these laws and regulations, or announcements relating to these matters; adverse publicity about the financial advisory industry generally or individual scandals, specifically; and general market and economic conditions. In addition, our Board Authorization Policy, adopted by the board of directors on October 30, 2014, authorizes the Company to make up to $50.0 million in repurchases of our Class A common stock from time to time without further approval.  The existence of this authorization and any repurchases pursuant thereto could affect our stock price and increase stock price volatility and could potentially reduce the market liquidity for our Class A common stock. Additionally, we are permitted to and could discontinue Class A common stock repurchases at any time and any such discontinuation could cause the market price of our Class A common stock to decline.
Our Class A common stock price may decline due to the large number of shares eligible for future sale and for exchange into Class A common stock.
The market price of our Class A common stock could decline as a result of sales of a large number of shares of our Class A common stock or an exchange of a large number of Series REIT LP Units, LC TRS I Shares (or Series TRS LP Units in lieu of such LC TRS I Shares) and shares of our Class B common stock into Class A common stock, or the perception that such sales or exchanges could occur. These sales, or the possibility that these sales may occur, also might make it more difficult for us to sell equity securities in the future at a time and price that we deem appropriate.
Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation authorizes us to issue additional shares of Class A common stock and options, rights, warrants and appreciation rights relating to Class A common stock for the consideration and on the terms and conditions established by our board of directors in its sole discretion. In accordance with the DGCL and the provisions of our certificate of incorporation, we may also issue preferred stock that has designations, preferences, rights, powers and duties that are different from, and may be senior to, those applicable to shares of Class A common stock. Similarly, the LLLP Agreement permits Series REIT and Series TRS to issue an unlimited number of additional Series Units with designations, preferences, rights, powers and duties that are different from, and may be senior to, those applicable to the Series Units, and which may be exchangeable for shares of our Class A common stock.
Holders of Class A common stock may be diluted by the future issuance of additional Class A common stock in connection with our incentive plans, acquisitions or otherwise.
Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation authorizes us to issue shares of Class A common stock and options, rights, warrants and appreciation rights relating to Class A common stock for the consideration and on the terms and conditions established by our board of directors in its sole discretion, whether in connection with acquisitions or otherwise. Any Class A common stock that we issue, including under our 2014 Omnibus Incentive Plan or other equity incentive plans that we may adopt in the future, would dilute the percentage ownership held by the investors who purchase Class A common stock in the offering.

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Risks Related to Our Taxation as a REIT

We have limited experience operating a REIT and we cannot assure you that our past experience will be sufficient to successfully manage our business as a REIT.

We have limited experience operating a REIT. The REIT provisions of the Code are complex, and any failure to comply with those provisions in a timely manner could prevent us or certain of our subsidiaries from qualifying as REITs or could force us to pay unexpected taxes and penalties. As a result, we cannot assure you that we will be able to successfully manage our business as a REIT, which would substantially reduce our earnings. In the event of a failure to qualify as a REIT, our net income could be reduced.

If we fail to qualify as a REIT, we will be subject to tax as a regular corporation and could face a substantial tax liability, which would reduce the amount of cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

We operate and intend to continue operating in a manner that will allow us to qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes commencing with our taxable year ending December 31, 2015. Although we have not requested and we do not intend to request a ruling from the IRS as to our REIT qualification, in connection with various corporate initiatives we have received opinions from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP with respect to our qualification as a REIT. Investors should be aware, however, that opinions of counsel are not binding on the IRS or any court. The opinions of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP represent only the view of our counsel based on our counsel’s review and analysis of existing law and on certain representations as to factual matters and covenants made by us, including representations relating to the values of our assets and the sources of our income. The opinions were expressed as of the date issued and does not cover subsequent periods. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP have no obligation to advise us or the holders of our common stock of any subsequent change in the matters stated, represented or assumed, or of any subsequent change in applicable law. Furthermore, both the validity of the opinions of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and our qualification as a REIT depend on our satisfaction of certain asset, income, organizational, distribution, shareholder ownership and other requirements on a continuing basis, the results of which are not monitored by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Our ability to satisfy the asset tests depends upon our analysis of the characterization and fair market values of our assets, some of which are not susceptible to a precise determination, and for which we will not obtain independent appraisals. Our compliance with the annual REIT income and quarterly asset requirements also depends upon our ability to successfully manage the composition of our income and assets on an ongoing basis. Moreover, the proper classification of an instrument as debt or equity for U.S. federal income tax purposes may be uncertain in some circumstances, which could affect the application of the REIT qualification requirements as described below. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that the IRS will not contend that our interests in subsidiaries or in securities of other issuers will not cause a violation of the REIT requirements.

If we were to fail to qualify as a REIT in any taxable year, and we do not qualify for certain statutory relief provisions, we would be subject to U.S. federal income tax, including any applicable alternative minimum tax, on our taxable income at regular corporate rates, and dividends paid to our shareholders would not be deductible by us in computing our taxable income. Any resulting corporate tax liability could be substantial and would reduce the amount of cash available for distribution to our shareholders, which in turn could have an adverse impact on the value of our common stock. Unless we were entitled to relief under certain provisions of the Code, we also would be disqualified from taxation as a REIT for the four taxable years following the year in which we failed to qualify as a REIT.

Certain of our subsidiaries have also elected to be taxed as a REIT under the Code and are, therefore, subject to the same risks in the event that they fail to qualify as a REIT in any taxable year. If any of these subsidiaries were to fail to qualify as a REIT, then we might also fail to qualify as a REIT.


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Our ownership of and relationship with TRSs is limited, and a failure to comply with the limits would jeopardize our REIT qualification, and our transactions with our TRSs may result in the application of a 100% excise tax if such transactions are not conducted on arm’s-length terms.

A REIT may own up to 100% of the stock of one or more TRSs. A TRS may earn income that would not be REIT-qualifying income if earned directly by a REIT. Both the subsidiary and the REIT must jointly elect to treat the subsidiary as a TRS. Overall, no more than 20% of the value of a REIT’s assets may consist of stock and securities of one or more TRSs. A domestic TRS will pay U.S. federal, state and local income tax at regular corporate rates on any income that it earns. In addition, the TRS rules 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.

We elected for certain of our subsidiaries to be treated as TRSs. Our TRSs will pay U.S. federal, state and local income tax on their consolidated taxable income, and their after-tax income will be available for distribution to us but will not be required to be distributed to us. We have structured the formation transactions such that the aggregate value of the TRS stock and securities owned by us will be less than 20% of the value of our total assets (including the TRS stock and securities). Furthermore, we will monitor the value of our investments in our TRSs to ensure compliance with the rule that no more than 20% of the value of our assets may consist of TRS stock and securities (which is applied at the end of each calendar quarter). In addition, we will scrutinize all of our transactions with TRSs to ensure that they are entered into on arm’s-length terms to avoid incurring the 100% excise tax described above. There can be no assurance, however, that we will be able to comply with the TRS limitations or to avoid application of the 100% excise tax discussed above.

REIT distribution requirements could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan.

We generally must distribute annually at least 90% of our taxable income, subject to certain adjustments and excluding any net capital gain, in order for U.S. federal corporate income tax not to apply to earnings that we distribute. To the extent that we satisfy this distribution requirement, but distribute less than 100% of our taxable income, we will be subject to U.S. federal corporate income tax on our undistributed taxable income. In addition, we will be subject to a non-deductible 4% excise tax if the actual amount distributed to our shareholders in a calendar year is less than a minimum amount specified under U.S. federal tax laws. We intend to make distributions to our shareholders to comply with the REIT qualification requirements of the Code.

From time to time, we may generate taxable income greater than our income for financial reporting purposes prepared in accordance with GAAP, or differences in timing between the recognition of taxable income and the actual receipt of cash may occur. For example, if we purchase agency securities at a discount, we are generally required to include the discount in taxable income prior to receiving the cash proceeds of the accrued discount at maturity. Additionally, if we incur capital losses in excess of capital gains, such net capital losses are not allowed to reduce our taxable income for purposes of determining our distribution requirement. Such net capital losses may be carried forward for a period of up to five years and applied against future capital gains subject to the limitation of our ability to generate sufficient capital gains, which cannot be assured. If we do not have other funds available in these situations we could be required to borrow funds on unfavorable terms, sell investments at disadvantageous prices or distribute amounts that would otherwise be invested in future acquisitions to make distributions sufficient to maintain our qualification as a REIT, or avoid corporate income tax and the non-deductible 4% excise tax in a particular year. These alternatives could increase our costs or reduce our shareholders’ equity. Thus, compliance with the REIT requirements may hinder our ability to grow, which could adversely affect the value of our common stock.


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We have not established a minimum distribution payment level and we cannot assure you of our ability to pay distributions in the future.

To maintain our qualification as a REIT and generally not be subject to U.S. federal income and excise tax, we intend to make regular quarterly cash distributions to our shareholders out of legally available funds therefor. Our intended dividend policy as a REIT will be to pay quarterly distributions either in cash or stock which, on an annual basis, will equal all or substantially all of our net taxable income. We have not, however, 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 in this Annual Report. All distributions will be made 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, restrictions on making distributions under Delaware law and other factors as our board of directors may deem relevant from time to time. We may not be able to make distributions in the future and our board of directors may change our distribution policy in the future. We believe that a change in any one of the following factors, among others, could adversely affect our results of operations and impair our ability to pay distributions to our shareholders:

the profitability of the assets we hold or acquire;
the allocation of assets between our REIT-qualified and non-REIT-qualified subsidiaries.
our ability to make profitable investments and to realize profit therefrom;
margin calls or other expenses that may reduce our cash flow; and
defaults in our asset portfolio or decreases in the value of our portfolio.

We cannot assure you that we will achieve results that will allow us to make a specified level of cash distributions or any increase in the level of such distributions in the future.

If we were to make a taxable distribution of shares of our stock, shareholders may be required to sell such shares or sell other assets owned by them in order to pay any tax imposed on such distribution.

We may distribute taxable dividends that are payable in shares of our common stock. If we were to make such a taxable distribution of shares of our stock, shareholders would be required to include the full amount of such distribution as income. As a result, a shareholder may be required to pay tax with respect to such dividends in excess of cash received. Accordingly, shareholders receiving a distribution of our shares may be required to sell shares received in such distribution or may be required to sell other stock or assets owned by them, at a time that may be disadvantageous, in order to satisfy any tax imposed on such distribution. If a shareholder sells the shares it receives as a dividend in order to pay such tax, the sale proceeds may be less than the amount included in income with respect to the dividend. Moreover, in the case of a taxable distribution of shares of our stock with respect to which any withholding tax is imposed on a non-U.S. shareholder, we may have to withhold or dispose of part of the shares in such distribution and use such withheld shares or the proceeds of such disposition to satisfy the withholding tax imposed. In addition, if a significant number of our shareholders determine to sell shares of our Class A common stock in order to pay taxes owed on dividends, it may put downward pressure on the trading price of our Class A common stock.

There are uncertainties relating to the estimate of our E&P Distribution paid on January 21, 2016.

To qualify for taxation as a REIT effective for the year ended December 31, 2015, we were required to distribute to our shareholders our undistributed accumulated earnings and profits attributable to taxable periods ending prior to January 1, 2015 (the “E&P Distribution”). To satisfy this requirement, on November 30, 2015, our board of directors approved the fourth quarter 2015 dividend of $0.46 per share of our Class A common stock.

We believe that the total value of the E&P Distribution was sufficient to fully distribute our accumulated earnings and profits. However, the amount of our undistributed accumulated earnings and profits is a complex factual and legal determination. We may have had less than complete information at the time we estimated our earnings and profits or may have interpreted the applicable law differently from the IRS. Substantial uncertainties exist relating to the computation of our undistributed accumulated earnings and profits, including the possibility that the IRS could, in auditing tax years through 2015, successfully assert that our taxable income should be increased, which could increase our pre-REIT accumulated earnings and profits. Thus, we may fail to satisfy the requirement that we distribute all of our pre-REIT accumulated earnings and profits by the close of our first taxable year as a REIT. Moreover, although there are procedures available to cure a failure to distribute all of our pre-REIT accumulated earnings and profits, we cannot now determine whether we will be able to take advantage of them or the economic impact to us of doing so.


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Distributions payable by REITs do not qualify for the reduced tax rates available for some dividends.

The maximum tax rate applicable to income from “qualified dividends” payable to domestic shareholders that are individuals, trusts and estates is currently 20%. Distributions of ordinary income payable by REITs, however, generally are not eligible for these reduced rates. The more favorable rates applicable to regular corporate qualified 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 qualified dividends, which could adversely affect the value of the stock of REITs, including our common stock.

Even if we qualify as a REIT, we may face other tax liabilities that reduce our cash flow.

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 and assets, including taxes on any undistributed income, taxes on income from some activities conducted as a result of a foreclosure, excise taxes, state or local income, property and transfer taxes, such as mortgage recording taxes, and other taxes. In addition, in order to meet the REIT qualification requirements, prevent the recognition of certain types of non-cash income, or to avert the imposition of a 100% tax that applies to certain gains derived by a REIT from dealer property or inventory, we intend to hold some of our assets through our TRSs or other subsidiary corporations that will be subject to corporate level income tax at regular corporate rates. In addition, if we lend money to a TRS, the TRS may be unable to deduct all or a portion of the interest paid to us, which could result in an even higher corporate level tax liability. Furthermore, the Code imposes a 100% excise tax on certain transactions between a TRS and a REIT that are not conducted on an arm’s length basis. We intend to structure any transaction with a TRS on terms that we believe are arm’s length to avoid incurring this 100% excise tax. There can be no assurances, however, that we will be able to avoid application of the 100% excise tax. The payment of any of these taxes would decrease cash available for distribution to our shareholders.

Moreover, the Company owns appreciated assets at the REIT level that it held before the effective date of its REIT election, January 1, 2015. If the Company disposes of any such appreciated assets during the five-year period following the Company’s qualification as a REIT, the Company will be subject to tax at the highest corporate tax rates on any gain from such assets to the extent of the excess of the fair market value of the assets at the time that the Company became a REIT over the adjusted tax basis of such assets on such date, which are referred to as built-in gains. The Company would be subject to this tax liability even if it qualifies and maintains its status as a REIT. Any recognized built-in gain will retain its character as ordinary income or capital gain and will be taken into account in determining REIT taxable income and the Company’s distribution requirement. Any tax on the recognized built-in gain will reduce REIT taxable income. The Company may choose not to sell in a taxable transaction appreciated assets it might otherwise sell during the five-year period in which the built-in gain tax applies in order to avoid the built-in gain tax. However, if the Company sells such assets in a taxable transaction, the amount of corporate tax that the Company will pay will vary depending on the actual amount of net built-in gain or loss present in those assets as of the time the Company became a REIT. The amount of tax could be significant.

Complying with REIT requirements may cause us to forgo otherwise attractive opportunities or liquidate otherwise attractive investments.

To qualify as REITs for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we and certain of our subsidiaries must continually satisfy tests concerning, among other things, the sources of our income, the nature and diversification of our assets, the amounts that we distribute to our shareholders and the ownership of our stock. We may be required to make distributions to shareholders at disadvantageous times or when we do not have funds readily available for distribution and may be unable to pursue investments that would be otherwise advantageous to us in order to satisfy the source-of-income or asset-diversification requirements for qualifying as a REIT. Thus, compliance with the REIT requirements may hinder our ability to make and, in certain cases, to maintain ownership of, certain attractive investments.

Further, to qualify as REITs, we must ensure that at the end of each calendar quarter, at least 75% of the value of our assets consists of cash, cash items, government securities and qualified real estate assets. The remainder of our investments in securities (other than government securities and qualified real estate assets) generally cannot include more than 10% of the outstanding voting securities of any one issuer or more than 10% of the total value of the outstanding securities of any one issuer. In addition, in general, no more than 5% of the value of our assets (other than government securities and qualified real estate assets) can consist of the securities of any one issuer, and no more than 20% of the value of our total assets can be represented by securities of one or more TRSs. If we fail to comply with these requirements at the end of any calendar quarter, we must correct the failure within 30 days after the end of the calendar quarter or qualify for certain statutory relief provisions to avoid losing our REIT qualification and suffering adverse tax consequences. As a result, we may be required to liquidate otherwise attractive investments from our investment portfolio. These actions could have the effect of reducing our income and amounts available for distribution to our shareholders.

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The failure of a mezzanine loan to qualify as a real estate asset could adversely affect our ability to continue to qualify as a REIT.

We invest in mezzanine loans, for which the IRS has provided a safe harbor but not rules of substantive law. Pursuant to the safe harbor, if a mezzanine loan meets certain requirements, it will be treated by the IRS as a real estate asset for purposes of the REIT asset tests, and interest derived from the mezzanine loan will be treated as qualifying mortgage interest for purposes of the REIT 75% income test. We or certain of our REIT subsidiaries may acquire mezzanine loans that do not meet all of the requirements of this safe harbor. In the event we own a mezzanine loan that does not meet the safe harbor, the IRS could challenge such loan’s treatment as a real estate asset for purposes of the REIT asset and income tests and, if such a challenge were sustained, it could impact our ability to qualify as a REIT.

The failure of assets subject to repurchase agreements to qualify as real estate assets could adversely affect our ability to qualify as a REIT.

We enter into certain financing arrangements that are structured as sale and repurchase agreements pursuant to which we nominally sell certain of our assets to a counterparty and simultaneously enter into an agreement to repurchase these assets at a later date in exchange for a purchase price. Economically, these agreements are financings that are secured by the assets sold pursuant thereto. We believe that we will be treated for REIT asset and income test purposes as the owner of the assets that are the subject of any such sale and repurchase 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 assets during the term of the sale and repurchase agreement, in which case we could fail to qualify as a REIT.

Distributions to tax-exempt investors may be classified as unrelated business taxable income.

Neither ordinary nor capital gain distributions with respect to our Class A common stock nor gain from the sale of Class A common stock should generally constitute unrelated business taxable income to a tax-exempt investor. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. In particular:

part of the income and gain recognized by certain qualified employee pension trusts with respect to our common stock may be treated as unrelated business taxable income if shares of our Class A common stock are predominantly held by qualified employee pension trusts, and we are required to rely on a special look-through rule for purposes of meeting one of the REIT ownership tests, and we are not operated in a manner to avoid treatment of such income or gain as unrelated business taxable income;
part of the income and gain recognized by a tax-exempt investor with respect to our Class A common stock would constitute unrelated business taxable income if the investor incurs debt in order to acquire the common stock;
part or all of the income or gain recognized with respect to our Class A common stock by social clubs, voluntary employee benefit associations, supplemental unemployment benefit trusts and qualified group legal services plans which are exempt from U.S. federal income taxation under the Code may be treated as unrelated business taxable income; and
to the extent that we have "excess inclusion income," e.g., from: (i) us (or a part of us, or a disregarded subsidiary of ours) being treated as a “taxable mortgage pool"; (ii) us holding residual interests in a REMIC securitization; or (iii) us receiving income from another REIT that is treated as excess inclusion income, a portion of the distributions paid to a tax-exempt shareholder that is allocable to such excess inclusion income may be treated as unrelated business taxable income.

Liquidation of assets may jeopardize our REIT qualification or create additional tax liability for us.

To qualify as a REIT, we must comply with requirements regarding the composition of our assets and our sources of income. If we are compelled to liquidate our investments to repay obligations to our lenders, we may be unable to comply with these requirements, ultimately jeopardizing our qualification as a REIT, or we may be subject to a 100% tax on any resultant gain if we sell assets that are treated as dealer property or inventory.


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We may be required to report taxable income for certain investments in excess of the economic income we ultimately realize from them.

We may acquire mortgage-backed securities in the secondary market for less than their face amount. In addition, pursuant to our ownership of certain mortgage-backed securities, we may be treated as holding certain debt instruments acquired in the secondary market for less than their face amount. The discount at which such securities or debt instruments are acquired may reflect doubts about their ultimate collectability rather than current market interest rates. The amount of such discount will nevertheless generally be treated as “market discount” for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Accrued market discount is reported as income when, and to the extent that, any payment of principal of the mortgage-backed security or debt instrument is made. If we collect less on the mortgage-backed security or debt instrument than our purchase price plus the market discount we had previously reported as income, we may not be able to benefit from any offsetting loss deductions. In addition, pursuant to our ownership of certain mortgage-backed securities, we may be treated as holding distressed debt investments that are subsequently modified by agreement with the borrower. If the amendments to the outstanding debt are “significant modifications” under applicable Treasury regulations, the modified debt may be considered to have been reissued to us at a gain in a debt-for-debt exchange with the borrower. In that event, we may be required to recognize taxable gain to the extent the principal amount of the modified debt exceeds our adjusted tax basis in the unmodified debt, even if the value of the debt or the payment expectations have not changed.

Moreover, some of the mortgage-backed securities that we acquire may have been issued with original issue discount. We are required to report such original issue discount based on a constant yield method and will be taxed based on the assumption that all future projected payments due on such mortgage-backed securities will be made. If such mortgage-backed securities turn out not to be fully collectible, an offsetting loss deduction will become available only in the later year that uncollectibility is provable.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, we generally will be required to take certain amounts into income not later than the time such amounts are reflected on certain financial statements. The application of this rule may require the accrual of income with respect to certain debt instruments or mortgage-backed securities, such as original issue discount, earlier than would be the case under the previous tax rules, although the precise application of this rule is unclear at this time. This rule generally will be effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017 or, for debt instruments or mortgage-backed securities issued with original issue discount, for tax years beginning after December 31, 2018.

Finally, in the event that mortgage-backed securities or any debt instruments we are treated as holding pursuant to our investments in mortgage-backed securities are delinquent as to mandatory principal and interest payments, we may nonetheless be required to continue to recognize the unpaid interest as taxable income as it accrues, despite doubt as to its ultimate collectability. Similarly, we may be required to accrue interest income with respect to subordinate mortgage-backed securities at the stated rate regardless of whether corresponding cash payments are received or are ultimately collectible. In each case, while we would in general ultimately have an offsetting loss deduction available to us when such interest was determined to be uncollectible, the utility of that deduction could depend on our having taxable income in that later year or thereafter.

Certain apportionment rules may affect our ability to comply with the REIT asset and gross income tests.

The Code provides that a regular or a residual interest in a REMIC is generally treated as a real estate asset for the purpose of the REIT asset tests, and any amount includible in our gross income with respect to such an interest is generally treated as interest on an obligation secured by a mortgage on real property for the purpose of the REIT gross income tests. If, however, less than 95% of the assets of a REMIC in which we hold an interest consist of real estate assets (determined as if we held such assets), we will be treated as holding our proportionate share of the assets of the REMIC for the purpose of the REIT asset tests and receiving directly our proportionate share of the income of the REMIC for the purpose of determining the amount of income from the REMIC that is treated as interest on an obligation secured by a mortgage on real property. In connection with the expanded FHFA RMBS-backed Home Affordable Refinance Program loan program in which we may invest, the IRS issued guidance providing that, among other things, if a REIT holds a regular interest in an “eligible REMIC,” or a residual interest in an “eligible REMIC” that informs the REIT that at least 80% of the REMIC’s assets constitute real estate assets, then the REIT may treat 80% of the interest in the REMIC as a real estate asset for the purpose of the REIT income and asset tests. Although the portion of the income from such a REMIC interest that does not qualify for purposes of the REIT 75% gross income test would likely be qualifying income for the purpose of the 95% REIT gross income test, the remaining 20% of the REMIC interest generally would not qualify as a real estate asset, which could adversely affect our ability to satisfy the REIT asset tests. Accordingly, owning such a REMIC interest could adversely affect our ability to qualify as a REIT.


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Qualifying as a REIT involves highly technical and complex provisions of the Code.

Qualification as a REIT involves the application of highly technical and complex Code provisions for which only limited judicial and administrative authorities exist. Even a technical or inadvertent violation could jeopardize our REIT qualification. Our qualification as a REIT depends on our satisfaction of certain asset, income, organizational, distribution, shareholder ownership and other requirements on a continuing basis. In addition, our ability to satisfy the requirements to qualify as a REIT depends in part on the actions of third parties over which we have no control or only limited influence, including in cases where we own an equity interest in an entity that is classified as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

The tax on prohibited transactions will limit our ability to engage in transactions, including certain methods of structuring mortgage-backed securities transactions (“MBS Transactions”), which would be treated as prohibited transactions for U.S. federal income tax purposes.

Net income that we derive from a prohibited transaction is subject to a 100% tax. The term “prohibited transaction” generally includes a sale or other disposition of property (including agency securities, but other than foreclosure property) that is held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of a trade or business by us or by a borrower that has issued a shared appreciation mortgage or similar debt instrument to us. We could be subject to this tax if we were to dispose of or structure MBS Transactions in a manner that was treated as a prohibited transaction for U.S. federal income tax purposes. The 100% tax does not apply to gains from the sale of foreclosure property or property that is held through a TRS or other taxable corporation, as is the case with our securitization business, although such income will be subject to tax in the hands of the corporation at regular corporate rates.

We intend to conduct our operations at the REIT level so that no asset that we own (or are treated as owning) will be treated as, or as having been, held for sale to customers, and that a sale of any such asset will not be treated as having been in the ordinary course of our business. As a result, we may choose not to engage in certain transactions at the REIT level, and may limit the structures we utilize for our MBS Transactions, even though the sales or structures might otherwise be beneficial to us. In addition, whether property is held “primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of a trade or business” depends on the particular facts and circumstances. We intend to structure our activities to avoid prohibited transaction characterization but no assurance can be given that any property that we sell will not be treated as property held for sale to customers, or that we can comply with certain safe-harbor provisions of the Code that would prevent such treatment.

Our taxable income is calculated differently than net income based on U.S. GAAP.

Our taxable income may substantially differ from our net income based on U.S. GAAP. For example, interest income on our mortgage related securities does not necessarily accrue under an identical schedule for U.S. federal income tax purposes as for accounting purposes. Please see Note 16 to our consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018 included elsewhere in this Annual Report.

Rapid changes in the values of our target assets may make it more difficult for us to maintain our qualification as a REIT.

If the fair market value or income potential of our assets declines as a result of increased interest rates, prepayment rates, general market conditions, government actions or other factors, we may need to increase our real estate assets and income or liquidate our non-REIT-qualifying assets to maintain our REIT qualification. If the decline in real estate asset values or income occurs quickly, this may be especially difficult to accomplish. We may have to make decisions that we otherwise would not make absent the REIT election.


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The Company’s qualification as a REIT and exemption from U.S. federal income tax with respect to certain assets may be dependent on the accuracy of legal opinions or advice rendered or given or statements by the issuers of assets that the Company acquires, and the inaccuracy of any such opinions, advice or statements may adversely affect the Company’s REIT qualification and result in significant corporate-level tax.

When purchasing securities, the Company 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 whether such securities represent debt or equity securities for U.S. federal income tax purposes, and also to what extent those securities constitute real estate assets for purposes of the REIT asset tests and produce income which qualifies for purposes of the REIT income tests. In addition, when purchasing the equity tranche of a securitization, the Company may rely on opinions or advice of counsel regarding the qualification of the securitization for exemption from U.S. corporate income tax and the qualification of interests in such securitization as debt for U.S. federal income tax purposes. The inaccuracy of any such opinions, advice or statements may adversely affect the Company’s REIT qualification and result in significant corporate-level tax.
Changes to U.S. federal income tax laws could materially and adversely affect us and our stockholders.
The present U.S. federal income tax treatment of REITs may be modified, possibly with retroactive effect, by legislative, judicial or administrative action at any time, which could affect the U.S. federal income tax treatment of an investment in our common equity. The U.S. federal income tax rules dealing with REITs constantly are under review by persons involved in the legislative process, the IRS and the U.S. Treasury Department, which results in statutory changes as well as frequent revisions to regulations and interpretations. The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made substantial changes to the Code. Among those changes are a significant permanent reduction in the generally applicable corporate tax rate, changes in the taxation of individuals and other non-corporate taxpayers that generally but not universally reduce their taxes on a temporary basis subject to “sunset” provisions, the elimination or modification of various currently allowed deductions (including substantial limitations on the deductibility of interest and, in the case of individuals, the deduction for personal state and local taxes), certain additional limitations on the deduction of net operating losses, and preferential rates of taxation on most ordinary REIT dividends in comparison to other income recognized by such taxpayers. The effect of these, and the many other, changes made in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is highly uncertain, both in terms of their direct effect on the taxation of an investment in our common equity and their indirect effect on the value of our assets or market conditions generally. Furthermore, many of the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will require guidance through the issuance of Treasury regulations in order to assess their effect. There may be a substantial delay before such regulations are promulgated, increasing the uncertainty as to the ultimate effect of the statutory amendments on us. There may also be technical corrections legislation proposed with respect to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the effect and timing of which cannot be predicted and may be adverse to us or our stockholders.

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
 
None.

Item 2. Properties

We lease our corporate headquarters office at 345 Park Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, New York, 10154. We also rent month-to-month regional offices in California and South Carolina.

Commercial Real Estate

We own a portfolio of commercial real estate properties which are included in our real estate business segment. As of December 31, 2018, we owned 143 single tenant net leased properties with an aggregate book value of $673.4 million. These properties are fully leased on a net basis where the tenant is generally responsible for payment of real estate taxes, property, building and general liability insurance and property and building maintenance expenses. As of December 31, 2018, our net leased properties comprised a total of 5.2 million square feet, 100% leased with an average age since construction of 14.2 years and a weighted average remaining lease term of 13.3 years. Commercial real estate investments in excess of $20.0 million require the approval of our board of directors’ Risk and Underwriting Committee.
 

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In addition, as of December 31, 2018, we owned 69 diversified commercial real estate properties with an aggregate book value of $318.1 million. Through separate joint ventures, we owned a 40 property student housing portfolio in Isla Vista, CA with a book value of $83.5 million and an occupancy rate of 100.0%, a portfolio of 12 office buildings in Richmond, VA with a book value of $77.6 million with an 80.3% occupancy rate, an apartment complex in Miami, FL with a book value of $36.2 million and an occupancy rate of 91.2%, an unleased industrial building in Lithia Springs, GA with an aggregate book value of $24.3 million, a portfolio of seven office buildings in Richmond, VA with a book value of $15.8 million and an 80.3% occupancy rate, a 13-story office building in Oakland County, MI with a book value of $11.1 million and a 81.8% occupancy rate, a two-story office building in Grand Rapids, MI with a book value of $8.4 million and a 100.0% occupancy rate, and a single-tenant industrial building in Grand Rapids, MI with a book value of $5.1 million. We also own a single-tenant office building in Ewing, NJ with a book value of $28.2 million, a single-tenant office building in Crum Lynne, PA with a book value of $10.2 million, a single-tenant two-story office building in Wayne, NJ with a book value of $8.2 million, a shopping center in Carmel, NY with a book value of $6.3 million and a 43.0% occupancy rate, and an office building in Peoria, IL with a book value of $3.2 million and a 50.8% occupancy rate.

Residential Real Estate

We sold 12 condominium units at Veer Towers in Las Vegas, NV, during the year ended December 31, 2018, generating aggregate gains on sale of $4.3 million. As of December 31, 2018, we owned one residential condominium unit at Veer Towers in Las Vegas, NV with a book value of $0.4 million through a joint venture, and we expect to complete the sale of this remaining unit in 2019. As of December 31, 2018, there were no condominium units under contract for sale. As of December 31, 2018, the remaining condominium unit we hold is not rented or occupied.
 
We sold 26 condominium units at Terrazas River Park Village in Miami, FL, during the year ended December 31, 2018, generating aggregate gains on sale of $1.1 million. As of December 31, 2018, we owned 22 residential condominium units at Terrazas River Park Village in Miami, FL with a book value of $6.1 million, and we intend to sell these remaining units in less than 24 months. As of December 31, 2018, three condominium units were under contract for sale with a book value of $0.7 million. As of December 31, 2018, the remaining condominium units we hold were 62.5% rented and occupied. During the year ended December 31, 2018, the Company recorded $0.7 million of rental income from the condominium units.

The condominium units are included in our real estate business segment. Depending on market conditions for new leases and renewals in this residential inventory, we may provide tenants rent concessions or abatements. We intend to sell the entire inventory of units over time. We are leasing the units currently under short-term leases (less than two-year terms) to offset operating expenses during our sales process, and therefore, any rent concessions or abatements would have no material impact on our operations. The Company holds these residential condominium units in its TRS.

The following table, organized by tenant type and acquisition date, summarizes our owned properties as of December 31, 2018 ($ amounts in thousands):

Location
 
Acquisition date
 
Acquisition price/basis
 
Year built/reno.
 
Lease expiration (1)
 
Approx. square footage
 
Carrying value of asset
 
Mortgage loan outstanding (2)
 
Asset net of mortgage loan outstanding
 
Annual rental income (3)
 
Ownership Percentage (4)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net Leased
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pelican Rapids, MN
 
12/26/18
 
$
1,195

 
2018
 
10/31/33
 
9,100

 
$
1,262

 
$

 
$
1,262

 
$
87

 
100.0
%
 
Carthage, MO
 
12/26/18
 
1,099

 
2018
 
10/31/33
 
7,489

 
1,168

 

 
1,168

 
80

 
100.0
%
 
Bolivar, MO
 
12/26/18
 
1,175

 
2018
 
10/31/33
 
9,026

 
1,243

 

 
1,243

 
85

 
100.0
%
 
Pinconning, MI
 
12/06/18
 
1,235

 
2018
 
9/30/33
 
9,026

 
1,291

 

 
1,291

 
90

 
100.0
%
 
New Hampton, IA
 
11/30/18
 
1,317

 
2018
 
9/30/33
 
9,002

 
1,471

 

 
1,471

 
96

 
100.0
%
 
Ogden, IA
 
10/03/18
 
1,137

 
2018
 
7/31/33
 
7,489

 
1,182

 
857

 
325

 
82

 
100.0
%
 
Moscow Mills, MO
 
04/12/18
 
1,237

 
2018
 
1/31/33
 
9,026

 
1,284

 
992

 
292

 
90

 
100.0
%
 
Foley, MN
 
04/12/18
 
1,176

 
2018
 
1/1/33
 
7,489

 
1,208

 
884

 
324

 
85

 
100.0
%
 
Wonder Lake, IL
 
04/12/18
 
1,255

 
2017
 
7/31/32
 
9,100

 
1,298

 
944

 
354

 
91

 
100.0
%
 
Kirbyville, MO
 
04/02/18
 
1,156

 
2018
 
1/31/33
 
9,026

 
1,194

 
870

 
324

 
84

 
100.0
%
 
Gladwin, MI
 
04/02/18
 
1,171

 
2017
 
1/31/33
 
9,026

 
1,218

 
884

 
334

 
85

 
100.0
%
 
Rockford, MN
 
12/08/17
 
1,195

 
2017
 
10/31/32
 
9,002

 
1,198

 
885

 
313

 
87

 
100.0
%
 
Winterset, IA
 
12/08/17
 
1,258

 
2017
 
8/31/32
 
9,026

 
1,266

 
933

 
333

 
91

 
100.0
%
 
Kawkawlin, MI
 
10/05/17
 
1,234

 
2017
 
7/31/32
 
9,100

 
1,245

 
916

 
329

 
89

 
100.0
%
 

67

Table of Contents

Location
 
Acquisition date
 
Acquisition price/basis
 
Year built/reno.
 
Lease expiration (1)
 
Approx. square footage
 
Carrying value of asset
 
Mortgage loan outstanding (2)
 
Asset net of mortgage loan outstanding
 
Annual rental income (3)
 
Ownership Percentage (4)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Aroma Park, IL
 
10/05/17
 
1,218

 
2017
 
7/31/32
 
9,002

 
1,216

 
950

 
266

 
88

 
100.0
%
 
East Peoria, IL
 
10/05/17
 
1,350

 
2017
 
7/31/32
 
9,100

 
1,347

 
1,019

 
328

 
98

 
100.0
%
 
Milford, IA
 
09/08/17
 
1,298

 
2017
 
6/1/32
 
9,100

 
1,309

 
988

 
321

 
94

 
100.0
%
 
Jefferson City, MO
 
06/02/17
 
1,241

 
2016
 
2/28/32
 
9,002

 
1,280

 
951

 
329

 
90

 
100.0
%
 
Denver, IA
 
05/31/17
 
1,183

 
2017
 
3/31/31
 
9,026

 
1,175

 
905

 
270

 
86

 
100.0
%
 
Port O'Connor, TX
 
05/25/17
 
1,255

 
2017
 
3/31/30
 
9,100

 
1,244

 
956

 
288

 
91

 
100.0
%
 
Wabasha, MN
 
05/25/17
 
1,280

 
2016
 
3/31/31
 
9,026

 
1,300

 
972

 
328

 
92

 
100.0
%
 
Jacksonville, FL
 
05/23/17
 
115,641

 
1989
 
9/30/31
 
822,540

 
134,918

 
83,382

 
51,536

 
7,403

 
100.0
%
 
Shelbyville, IL
 
05/23/17
 
1,132

 
2016
 
1/31/31
 
9,026

 
1,185

 
869

 
316

 
82

 
100.0
%
 
Jesup, IA
 
05/05/17
 
1,163

 
2017
 
3/31/30
 
9,026

 
1,143

 
891

 
252

 
84

 
100.0
%
 
Hanna City, IL
 
04/11/17
 
1,141

 
2016
 
6/30/31
 
9,100

 
1,172

 
872

 
300

 
83

 
100.0
%
 
Ridgedale, MO
 
03/09/17
 
1,298

 
2016
 
6/30/31
 
9,002

 
1,303

 
999

 
304

 
94

 
100.0
%
 
Peoria, IL
 
02/06/17
 
1,183

 
2016
 
8/31/31
 
7,489

 
1,207

 
910

 
297

 
86

 
100.0
%
 
Carmi, IL
 
02/03/17
 
1,411

 
2016
 
10/31/31
 
9,100

 
1,376

 
1,108

 
268

 
102

 
100.0
%
 
Springfield, IL
 
11/16/16
 
1,308

 
2016
 
6/30/31
 
9,026

 
1,343

 
1,009

 
334

 
96

 
100.0
%
 
Fayetteville, NC
 
11/15/16
 
6,971

 
2008
 
10/31/34
 
14,820

 
6,464

 
4,919

 
1,545

 
450

 
100.0
%
 
Dryden Township, MI
 
10/26/16
 
1,190

 
2016
 
8/31/31
 
9,100

 
1,210

 
918

 
292

 
87

 
100.0
%
 
Lamar, MO
 
07/22/16
 
1,176

 
2016
 
5/31/31
 
9,100

 
1,161

 
907

 
254

 
86

 
100.0
%
 
Union, MO
 
07/01/16
 
1,227

 
2016
 
5/31/31
 
9,100

 
1,257

 
951

 
306

 
90

 
100.0
%
 
Pawnee, IL
 
07/01/16
 
1,201

 
2016
 
5/31/31
 
9,002

 
1,154

 
951

 
203

 
88

 
100.0
%
 
Decatur, IL
 
06/30/16
 
1,365

 
2016
 
5/31/31
 
9,002

 
1,393

 
1,058

 
335

 
100

 
100.0
%
 
Cape Girardeau, MO
 
06/30/16
 
1,281

 
2016
 
5/31/31
 
9,100

 
1,301

 
1,021

 
280

 
94

 
100.0
%
 
Linn, MO
 
06/30/16
 
1,122

 
2016
 
5/31/31
 
9,002

 
1,111

 
865

 
246

 
82

 
100.0
%
 
Rantoul, IL
 
06/21/16
 
1,204

 
2016
 
4/30/31
 
9,100

 
1,216

 
930

 
286

 
88

 
100.0
%
 
Flora Vista, NM
 
06/06/16
 
1,305

 
2016
 
4/30/31
 
9,002

 
1,233

 
1,008

 
225

 
95

 
100.0
%
 
Champaign, IL
 
06/03/16
 
1,324

 
2016
 
4/30/31
 
9,002

 
1,350

 
1,023

 
327

 
97

 
100.0
%
 
Mountain Grove, MO
 
06/03/16
 
1,279

 
2016
 
4/30/31
 
10,566

 
1,306

 
987

 
319

 
93

 
100.0
%
 
Decatur, IL
 
06/03/16
 
1,181

 
2016
 
4/30/31
 
9,002

 
1,191

 
948

 
243

 
86

 
100.0
%
 
San Antonio, TX
 
05/06/16
 
1,096

 
2015
 
3/31/31
 
9,100

 
1,067

 
889

 
178

 
80

 
100.0
%
 
Borger, TX
 
05/06/16
 
978

 
2016
 
3/31/31
 
9,100

 
967

 
785

 
182

 
71

 
100.0
%
 
St.Charles, MN
 
04/26/16
 
1,198

 
2016
 
3/31/31
 
9,026

 
1,164

 
963

 
201

 
87

 
100.0
%
 
Philo, IL
 
04/26/16
 
1,156

 
2016
 
3/31/31
 
9,026

 
1,157

 
926

 
231

 
84

 
100.0
%
 
Dimmitt, TX
 
04/26/16
 
1,319

 
2016
 
3/31/31
 
10,566

 
1,289

 
1,051

 
238

 
96

 
100.0
%
 
Radford, VA
 
12/23/15
 
1,564

 
2015
 
9/30/30
 
8,360

 
1,438

 
1,135

 
303

 
104

 
100.0
%
 
Albion, PA
 
12/23/15
 
1,525

 
2015
 
9/30/30
 
8,184

 
1,340

 
1,126

 
214

 
101

 
100.0
%
 
Rural Retreat, VA
 
12/23/15
 
1,399

 
2015
 
9/30/30