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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
FORM 10-K
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023
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: 001-39995

https://cdn.kscope.io/09170131b699f629b933a4ef73d67462-AFCGamma_new_logo.jpg
AFC GAMMA, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Maryland85-1807125
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)(I.R.S. Employer Identification Number)
525 Okeechobee Blvd., Suite 1650, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
(Address of principal executive offices) (Zip Code)
(561) 510-2390
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
N/A
(Former name, former address and former fiscal year, if changed since last report)

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each classTrading Symbol(s)Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, $0.01 par value per shareAFCG
The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
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 o No x
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 x
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 No
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 No
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 filerAccelerated filer
Non-accelerated filer
Smaller reporting companyEmerging growth company
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.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management assessment of the effectiveness of its internal controls over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. o
If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements. o
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to (§240.10D-1(b)). o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes No
The approximate aggregate market value of 15,803,332 shares of voting common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant, as of June 30, 2023, based upon the last sale price reported on the Nasdaq Stock Market (the “Nasdaq”) was $196,751,483. For purposes of the foregoing calculation only, all directors and executive officers of AFC Gamma, Inc. have been deemed affiliates.
Class
Outstanding at March 1, 2024
Common stock, $0.01 par value per share20,667,094
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement for its 2024 Annual Meeting of Shareholders (to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on or before April 29, 2024) are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Form 10-K.


Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Item 1A.
Item 1B.
Item 1C.
Item 2.
Item 3.
Item 4.
Part II
Item 5.
Item 6.
Item 7.
Item 7A.
Item 8.
Item 9.
Item 9A.
Item 9B.
Item 9C.
Part III
Item 10.
Item 11.
Item 12.
Item 13.
Item 14.
Part IV
Item 15.
Item 16.


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SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Annual Report”), filed by AFC Gamma, Inc. (the “Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our”), and the information incorporated by reference in it, or made in other reports, filings with the SEC, press releases contain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and we intend such statements to be covered by the safe harbor provisions contained therein. Some of the statements contained in this Annual Report, other than statements of current or historical facts, are forward-looking statements and are based on our current intent, belief, expectations and views of future events. The forward-looking statements include, without limitation, any statement that may predict, forecast, indicate or imply future results or performance, and may contain the words “believe,” “anticipate,” “expect,” “estimate,” “project,” “could,” “would,” “will,” “can,” “continuing,” “may,” “aim,” “intend,” “ongoing,” “plan,” “predict,” “potential,” “should,” “seeks,” “likely to” or words or phrases of similar meaning.
These statements are only predictions and involve estimates, known and unknown risks, assumptions, uncertainties and other factors that could cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in such forward-looking statements as a result of the factors discussed in Item 1A. Risk Factors and elsewhere in this Annual Report. We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations and projections about future events and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs. Moreover, we operate in a rapidly evolving environment. New risk factors and uncertainties emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for our management to predict all the risk factors and uncertainties, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about:
our business and investment strategy;
the ability of our Manager to locate suitable loan opportunities for us and to monitor and actively manage our portfolio and implement our investment strategy;
our expectations for origination targets and repayments;
the allocation of loan opportunities to us by our Manager;
our projected operating results;
actions and initiatives of the U.S. or state governments and changes to government policies and the execution and impact of these actions, initiatives and policies, including the fact that cannabis remains illegal under federal law and certain state laws;
the estimated growth in and evolving market dynamics of the cannabis market;
changes in general economic conditions, in our industry and in the commercial finance and real estate markets;
the demand for cannabis cultivation and processing facilities;
shifts in public opinion and state regulation regarding cannabis;
the state of the U.S. economy generally or in specific geographic regions;
the impact of a protracted decline in the liquidity of credit markets on our business;
the amount, collectability and timing of our cash flows, if any, from our loans;
our ability to obtain and maintain financing arrangements;
our expected leverage;
changes in the value of our loans;
losses that may arise due to the concentration of our portfolio in a limited number of loans and borrowers;
our expected investment and underwriting process;
the rates of default or recovery rates on our loans;
the degree to which our hedging strategies may or may not protect us from interest rate volatility;
1

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the availability of investment opportunities in mortgage-related and real estate-related instruments and other securities;
changes in interest rates and impacts of such changes on our results of operations, cash flows and the market value of our loans;
interest rate mismatches between our loans and our borrowings used to fund such loans;
the departure of any of the executive officers or key personnel supporting and assisting us from our Manager or its affiliates;
impact of and changes in governmental regulations, tax law and rates, accounting guidance and similar matters;
our ability to maintain our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act (as defined below);
our ability to qualify and maintain our qualification as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes;
estimates relating to our ability to make distributions to our shareholders in the future;
our understanding of our competition;
market trends in our industry, interest rates, real estate values, the securities markets or the general economy;
our ability to complete the Spin-Off (as defined below) in a timely manner or at all; and
we may not achieve some or all of the expected benefits of the Spin-Off (as defined below).
You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. The forward-looking statements made in this Annual Report relate only to events or information available to us as of the date of this Annual Report. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
PART I
Item 1.    Business
The following description of the business of AFC Gamma, Inc. should be read in conjunction with the information included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2023. Unless the context otherwise requires, the terms “we,” “us” or “our” refers to AFC Gamma, Inc.
Overview
AFC Gamma, Inc. is an institutional lender to the commercial real estate sector that was founded in July 2020 by a veteran team of investment professionals. We primarily originate, structure, underwrite, invest in and manage senior secured loans and other types of commercial real estate loans and debt securities, with a specialization in loans to cannabis industry operators in states that have legalized medical and/or adult-use cannabis. We have recently expanded our investment guidelines to deploy capital in attractive lending opportunities secured by commercial real estate. Our expanded investment guidelines now include (i) first and second lien loans secured by mortgages to commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses that are not related to the cannabis industry, (ii) the ownership of non-cannabis related real property assets, and (iii) mortgage-backed securities, in addition to our prior sole focus on first lien loans secured by mortgages to cannabis operators in states that have legalized medical and/or adult use cannabis. We expect the underwriting and investment process for these investments under our expanded guidelines to be substantially similar to the process we deploy for our loans to cannabis operators.
Our objective is to provide attractive risk-adjusted returns over time through cash distributions and capital appreciation primarily by providing loans to real estate developers and state law compliant cannabis companies. The loans we originate are primarily structured as senior loans secured by real estate, equipment, value associated with licenses (where applicable) and/or other assets of the loan parties to the extent permitted by applicable laws and the regulations governing such loan parties. Some of our cannabis-related borrowers have their equity securities listed for public trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange (“CSE”) in Canada and/or over-the-counter (“OTC”) in the United States.
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We have expanded our investment guidelines to invest in attractive commercial real estate financing opportunities emerging from the current interest rate environment. As the U.S. Federal Reserve Board (the “Federal Reserve”) began to increase interest rates in the first quarter of 2022 and continued to do so through the third quarter of 2023 in an effort to curb rising inflation, we believe the higher interest rates and associated pressures have created an opportunity in real estate lending, where there is currently less capital available in the marketplace to finance real estate projects. As a result of these market dynamics, we have identified a number of opportunities to provide acquisition and construction financing for real estate owners, operators and related businesses at attractive rates and secured by valuable real estate collateral.
Separately, as states continue to legalize cannabis for medical and adult-use, an increasing number of companies operating in the cannabis industry need financing. Due to the current capital constrained cannabis market, which does not typically have access to traditional bank financing, we believe we continue to be well positioned to act as a prudent financing source to cannabis industry operators given our stringent underwriting criteria, size and scale of operations and institutional infrastructure.
We are a Maryland corporation and externally managed by AFC Management, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company (our “Manager”), pursuant to the terms of the Amended and Restated Management Agreement, dated January 14, 2021, by and between AFC Gamma, Inc. and AFC Management, LLC (as amended from time to time, the “Management Agreement”). We commenced operations on July 31, 2020 and completed our initial public offering (“IPO”) in March 2021.
We have elected to be taxed as a real estate investment trust (a “REIT”) under Section 856 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), commencing with our taxable year ended December 31, 2020. We believe that we have qualified as a REIT and that our current and proposed method of operation will enable us to continue to qualify as a REIT. However, no assurances can be given that our beliefs or expectations will be fulfilled, since qualification as a REIT depends on us continuing to satisfy numerous asset, income and distribution tests, which in turn depends, in part, on our operating results and ability to obtain financing. We also intend to operate our business in a manner that will permit us to maintain our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act of 1940 as amended (the “Investment Company Act”).
Our wholly-owned subsidiary, AFCG TRS1, LLC (“TRS1”), operates as a taxable REIT subsidiary (a “TRS”). TRS1 began operating in July 2021. Our wholly-owned subsidiary, Sunrise Realty Trust, Inc. (“SUNS”) (f/k/a CRE South LLC), was formed on August 28, 2023 and converted from a Delaware limited liability company to a Maryland corporation in February 2024. The financial statements of TRS1 and SUNS are consolidated within our consolidated financial statements.
We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (“JOBS Act”), and we are eligible to take advantage of certain exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not “emerging growth companies” including, but not limited to, not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements, and exemptions from the requirements of holding a non-binding advisory vote on executive compensation and shareholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved. In addition, Section 107 of the JOBS Act also provides that an “emerging growth company” can take advantage of the extended transition period provided in Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act for complying with new or revised accounting standards. In other words, an “emerging growth company” can delay the adoption of certain accounting standards until those standards would otherwise apply to private companies. We have elected to take advantage of the extended transition period to comply with new or revised accounting standards and to adopt certain of the reduced disclosure requirements available to emerging growth companies. As a result of the accounting standards election, we will not be subject to the same implementation timing for new or revised accounting standards as other public companies that are not emerging growth companies which may make comparison of our financials to those of other public companies more difficult.
We could remain an “emerging growth company” for up to five years from our initial public offering, or until the earliest of (i) the last day of the first fiscal year in which our annual gross revenues exceed $1.235 billion, (ii) the date that we become a “large accelerated filer” as defined in Rule 12b-2 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, which would occur if the market value of our common stock that is held by non-affiliates exceeds $700.0 million as of the last business day of our most recently completed second fiscal quarter, or (iii) the date on which we have issued more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during the preceding three-year period.
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Spin-Off
On February 22, 2024, we announced that our Board unanimously approved a plan to spin-off (the “Spin-Off”) our commercial real estate (“CRE”) portfolio into an independent, publicly traded REIT, named Sunrise Realty Trust, Inc. (“SUNS”).
The separation and the resulting Spin-Off is expected to be implemented in two steps. First, we expect to contribute, and SUNS expects to accept and assume, all of the assets, liabilities and business related to our CRE lending business not related to our business of structuring, underwriting, origination and investing in loans to and debt securities of cannabis industry operators, as currently conducted by SUNS, including the operations, properties, services and activities of such business (the “Contribution”), to the extent such assets, liabilities and business are not already held at SUNS. Then, we plan to distribute all of the outstanding shares of SUNS common stock (“SUNS Common Stock”) on the distribution date to our stockholders as of the record date on a pro rata basis. We and SUNS expect that $115 million of assets in the aggregate, in a combination of loans and cash, will either be contributed to SUNS in the Contribution or be held by SUNS immediately following the Contribution. Following the distribution, we and SUNS expect the SUNS Common Stock to be listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market. SUNS has filed a registration statement on Form 10 with the Securities and Exchange Commission which provides additional details about the Spin-Off.
While SUNS will be an independent publicly-traded company, operating the Spin-Off Business separately from AFC Gamma, various individuals will serve as executive officers and directors of both companies. For example, Leonard Tannenbaum, our Chief Investment Officer and Executive Chairman of the Board, is expected to be the Executive Chairman, Brandon Hetzel, our Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, is expected to be the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer and Robyn Tannenbaum, our President, is expected to be the President of both entities immediately following the completion of the Spin-Off. Additionally, Alexander Frank, one of our directors, is expected to serve on the board of directors of both companies immediately following the completion of the Spin-Off.
Our Competitive Strengths
We are situated to originate loans with attractive risk-adjusted returns secured by valuable real property as traditional bank and institutional lenders are limiting commercial real estate lending activity in the current interest rate environment. We believe we are well positioned to continue as a prudent financing source to commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses due to the following factors:
Experienced Management Team: Our Manager administers our business activities and day-to-day operations subject to the overall supervision of our Board of Directors (the “Board”). Our Manager’s team is comprised of professionals with extensive and diverse expertise and significant financing experience across many industries, including the real estate sector. We believe that the length and breadth of this team’s financing experience and their ability to source and execute a wide variety of loans is one of our significant competitive advantages.
Flexible Structure: We believe we have a more flexible funding structure, with the ability to redeploy capital more quickly than the typical REIT land ownership models and traditional lenders. Our funding structure commits and funds loans with an average maturity of two to five years with significant prepayment protections whereas certain competitors with typical REIT land ownership models have longer-term leases. The duration of our loans, as compared to the length of leases usually employed by REIT land ownership models, allows us to redeploy our capital with more flexibility as market changes occur instead of being locked in for longer periods of time. This model also allows our borrowers to retain control of their real estate assets, which is important to their businesses and allows for more flexibility regarding their capital structure.
Compelling Risk-Adjusted Returns: We seek to obtain strong risk-adjusted yield-to-maturity (“YTM”) with targeted annual gross yields on our portfolio within the range of 12% to 20% through coupons, original issue discount (“OID”), prepayment or exit fees, and other fees.
Underlying Collateral: Our loans are primarily secured by real property and certain personal property, including by the value associated with licenses (where applicable), equipment, and other assets to the extent permitted by applicable laws, and the regulations governing our borrowers and our intention to qualify as a REIT. As of December 31, 2023, our portfolio of assets held outside of TRS1 had a weighted average real estate collateral coverage of approximately 1.0 times our aggregate committed principal amount of such loans, with the real estate collateral coverage for each of our loans measured as of the time of closing for such loan and based on various sources of data available at such time.
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Leading loan origination platform in high-growth cannabis market with extensive barriers to entry: Through our size and scale of operations, as well as our incumbency and institutional infrastructure, we believe we are well positioned to continue as a leading financing source of choice for cannabis companies. Currently, we are able to take advantage of the capital supply/demand imbalance to generate strong risk-adjusted returns by providing operators debt capital. Based on historical and projected growth, as states continue to legalize cannabis, the demand for capital to fund operations should increase and we believe we will be positioned to continue funding these borrowers both as a relationship lender and institutional capital provider to an expanding universe of operators.
Significant Management Investment: Leonard M. Tannenbaum, our Chief Investment Officer and Executive Chairman of the Board, made an equity investment of approximately $47.8 million in August 2020, which included a combination of cash and a transfer of loan assets at fair value plus accrued and unpaid interest, in exchange for 3,342,500 shares of our common stock.
Our Portfolio
For information about our investment portfolio, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations-Investment Portfolio” and the notes to our consolidated financial statements included in this Annual Report.
Collateral Overview
Our loans are secured by various types of assets of our borrowers, including real property and certain personal property, such as the value associated with licenses (where applicable), equipment, and other assets to the extent permitted by applicable laws and the regulations governing our borrowers.
With respect to our loans to cannabis operators, we do not have liens on cannabis inventory and are generally restricted from taking ownership of state licenses by current statutory prohibitions and exchange listing standards. The documents governing our loans also include a variety of provisions intended to provide remedies against the value associated with licenses. For example, some loan documents require a grant of a security interest in all property of the entities holding licenses to the extent not prohibited by applicable law or regulations (or requiring regulatory approval), equity pledges of entities holding licenses, receivership remedies and/or other remedies to secure the value associated with the borrowers’ licenses. Upon default of a loan, we may seek to sell the loan to a third party or have an affiliate or a third party work with the borrower to have the borrower sell collateral securing the loan to a third party or institute a foreclosure proceeding to have such collateral sold, in each case, to generate funds towards the payoff of the loan. While we believe that the appraised value of any real estate assets or other collateral securing our loans may impact the amount of the recovery in each such scenario, the amount of any such recovery from the sale of such real estate or other collateral may be less than the appraised value of such collateral and the sale of such collateral may not be sufficient to pay off the remaining balance on the defaulted loan. Becoming the holder of a license through foreclosure or otherwise, the sale of a license or other realization of the value of licenses requires the approval of regulatory authorities. As of December 31, 2023, our portfolio of assets held outside of TRS1 had a weighted average real estate collateral coverage of approximately 1.0 times our aggregate committed principal amount of such loans, with the real estate collateral coverage for each of our loans measured as of the time of closing for such loan and based on various sources of data available at such time. We calculate our weighted average real estate collateral coverage by estimating the underlying value of our real estate collateral based on various objective and subjective factors, including, without limitation, third-party appraisals, total cost basis of the subject property and/or our own internal estimates.
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We may pursue a sale of a defaulted loan if we believe that a sale would yield higher proceeds or that a sale could be accomplished more quickly than a foreclosure proceeding while yielding proceeds comparable to what would be expected from a foreclosure sale. To the extent that we determine that the proceeds are more likely to be maximized through instituting a foreclosure sale or through taking title to the underlying collateral, we will be subject to the rules and regulations under state law that govern foreclosure sales and Nasdaq listing standards that do not permit us to take title to real estate while it is involved in commercial sales of cannabis. In addition, even for loans to cannabis operations, the sale of the collateral securing our loans may be difficult and may be sold to a party outside of the cannabis industry. Therefore, any appraisal-based value of our real estate and other collateral may not equal the value of such collateral if it were to be sold to a third-party in a foreclosure or similar proceeding. We may seek to sell a defaulted loan prior to commencing a foreclosure proceeding or during a foreclosure proceeding to a purchaser that is not required to comply with Nasdaq listing standards. We believe a third-party purchaser that is not subject to Nasdaq listing standards may be able to realize greater value from real estate and other collateral securing our loans with respect to loans to cannabis operators. However, we can provide no assurances that a third-party would buy such loans or that the sales price of such loans would be sufficient to recover the outstanding principal balance, accrued interest, and fees. We will not own real estate as long as it is used in the commercial sale of cannabis due to current statutory prohibitions and exchange listing standards, which may delay or limit our remedies in the event that any of our borrowers default under the terms of their loans with us.
Our Loan Origination Pipeline
As of March 1, 2024, our loan origination pipeline consisted of potential new loans to (i) commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses representing prospective total loan commitments of approximately $701 million and (ii) state law compliant cannabis operators representing prospective total loan commitments of approximately $279 million. From January 1, 2020 to March 1, 2024, members of our management team, provided by our Manager, and the members of the investment committee of our Manager (the “Investment Committee”), who advise on our investments and operations, sourced over $19.4 billion of loans across the cannabis industry in various states while maintaining a robust pipeline of potentially actionable opportunities. We are in various stages of our evaluation process with respect to these loans. We identify appropriate loans from our origination pipeline based on investment criteria factors such as, among other things, the prospective borrower’s financial performance, loan size, proposed sources and uses and location, at which point we may issue an indication of interest or non-binding term sheet and, if mutually agreeable, enter into a non-binding term sheet or non-binding syndication commitment letter with the prospective borrower.
We are currently completing our underwriting process and negotiating definitive loan documents for each of the potential loan investments related to our active fully-executed, non-binding term sheets and fully-executed, non-binding syndication commitment letters. The potential loans remain subject to satisfactory completion of our underwriting and due diligence processes, definitive documentation and final approval by the Investment Committee, as applicable. As a result, no assurance can be given that any of these potential loans will close on the currently contemplated terms or at all. We intend to fund these potential loans using unused borrowing capacity under our senior secured revolving credit facility (the “Revolving Credit Facility”), obtained under the Loan and Security Agreement (the “Revolving Credit Agreement”), net proceeds of future debt or equity offerings, including in connection with our at-the-market offering program (the “ATM Program”), existing cash and/or, depending upon the timing of closing, or net proceeds from loan repayments.
Our Leadership
Leonard M. Tannenbaum, our Chief Investment Officer and Executive Chairman, has over 25 years of investment management experience. He has taken three other entities public and has managed several externally-managed investment vehicles with approximately $5.0 billion of assets under management in the aggregate. During his career, Mr. Tannenbaum has underwritten over 400 loans with over $10.0 billion in principal value. Daniel Neville, our Chief Executive Officer, has over 15 years of experience in finance. Prior to joining AFC Gamma in November 2023, Mr. Neville previously served as the Chief Financial Officer of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. Robyn Tannenbaum, our President, has over 15 years of experience in finance, capital market transactions and investor relations. Brandon Hetzel, our Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, has over 14 years of experience in accounting and finance.
Our Manager and Our Management Agreement
We are externally managed and advised by our Manager, a registered investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended (the “Advisers Act”), and an affiliate of Mr. Tannenbaum, Mrs. Tannenbaum and Mr. Neville. Each of our officers is employed by our Manager and certain of our officers are members of AFC Gamma’s Investment Committee.
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Our Manager’s team is comprised of professionals with extensive and diverse expertise and significant financing industry experience. Members of the Investment Committee of our Manager and the investment personnel provided by our Manager have approximately 80 years of combined investment management experience and are a valuable resource to us. Our Manager, its affiliates and the members of our Investment Committee manage several externally-managed vehicles totaling over $400.0 million in cannabis-related assets, including AFC Gamma, Inc. and AFC Warehouse Holding, LLC (“AFC Warehouse”), one of our affiliates. Our Manager’s Investment Committee is comprised of Leonard M. Tannenbaum, Robyn Tannenbaum, Bernard D. Berman, and Daniel Neville.
In September 2023, Mr. Berman purchased a 3.0% membership interest in certain income of the Manager. In January 2024, Mr. Neville purchased a 1.6% membership interest in certain income of the Manager. The Manager is 75.0% owned by Mr. Tannenbaum and 10.0% owned by Mrs. Tannenbaum.
Our Management Agreement
Pursuant to the Management Agreement, our Manager manages our portfolio and our day-to-day operations, subject to the terms set forth in the Management Agreement and such further conditions as may be imposed from time to time by our Board. Under the Management Agreement, our Manager has contractual responsibilities to us, including to provide us with a management team (whether our Manager’s own employees or individuals for which our Manager has contracted with other parties to provide services to its clients), who will be our executive officers, and the Investment Committee.
Currently, the Management Agreement automatically renews every year on July 31st for a one-year period, unless we or our Manager elects not to renew. The Management Agreement may be terminated by us or our Manager under certain specified circumstances.
Pursuant to the Management Agreement, upon the date on which our equity equals or exceeds $1,000,000,000, we may, at our election, provide our Manager with a written offer for an internalization transaction in which our Manager will contribute all of its assets to us, or in the alternative, the equity owners of our Manager will contribute 100% of the outstanding equity interest in our Manager to us. If the offer price of such internalization transaction has not been agreed prior to the date that is the three-month anniversary of the date on which our equity equals or exceeds $1,000,000,000, then we shall have the right, but not the obligation, to consummate such internalization transaction, effective as of such date, at an internalization price equal to five times the sum of (i) the annual Base Management Fee (without giving effect to any Base Management Fee Rebate), (ii) the annual Incentive Compensation and (iii) the aggregate amount of Outside Fees less the Base Management Fee Rebate, in each case, earned by our Manager during the 12-month period immediately preceding the most recently completed fiscal quarter.
For a summary of compensation paid to our Manager for the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, see Note 15 to our consolidated financial statements in this Annual Report for more information.
On March 10, 2022, we entered into an amendment to our Management Agreement between us and our Manager. Pursuant to the amendment, the Management Agreement was amended to, among other things, (i) update the investment guidelines to allow for (x) investments in, among other things, debt securities (including seller notes) with characteristics similar to our Target Investments (as defined in our Management Agreement) and (y) until appropriate investments in Target Investments are identified, short-term investments in, among other things, equity interests of real estate investment trusts and (ii) update the payment process for the Base Management Fee and Incentive Fee payable to our Manager to allow for a preliminary payment of such fees equal to 80-90% of the estimated quarterly installment prior to the final calculation and payment of such quarterly installments.
On November 7, 2022, we entered into an amendment to our Management Agreement between us and our Manager. Pursuant to the amendment, the Management Agreement was amended to update the investment guidelines to allow for investments in (i) first lien loans secured by mortgages to businesses that are not related to the cannabis industry, (ii) the ownership of non-cannabis related real property assets and (iii) mortgage-backed securities.
On March 6, 2023, we entered into an amendment to our Management Agreement between us and our Manager. Pursuant to the amendment, the Management Agreement was amended to update the investment guidelines to allow for investments in second lien loans secured by mortgages to businesses that are not related to the cannabis industry. In addition, the definition of the Investment Committee was amended to allow independent contractors to serve on the Investment Committee and to allow for a majority vote for any action taken by the Investment Committee at any time that the Investment Committee is comprised of at least four members.
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On September 11, 2023, we entered into an amendment to our Management Agreement between us and our Manager. Pursuant to the amendment, the Management Agreement was amended to update the investment guidelines to allow for investments in mezzanine loans to commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses. In addition, the investment guidelines were amended such that loans and investments made in respect of (x) first lien or second lien loans secured by mortgages or mezzanine loans to commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses, (y) the ownership of non-cannabis related commercial real estate assets, and (z) mortgage-backed securities shall not exceed 35% of the Company’s assets as evaluated on a quarterly basis and determined by our Board through the independent Audit and Valuation Committee.
On February 22, 2024, we entered into an amendment to our Management Agreement between us and our Manager. Pursuant to the amendment, the Management Agreement was amended to update the investment guidelines to focus on our investments in first and second lien loans, typically secured by mortgages and other security interests, to cannabis operators in states that have legalized medical and/or adult use cannabis. Therefore, the investment guidelines were amended such that loans and investments made in respect of (x) first lien or second lien loans secured by mortgages or mezzanine loans to commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses and (y) the ownership of non-cannabis related commercial real estate assets, were removed and are no longer permitted by the investment guidelines. We and our Manager have agreed that this amendment will become effective upon the completion of the Spin-Off (as defined below). The Manager is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Castleground Holdings LLC (f/k/a Advanced Flower Capital Management, LLC) (the “Parent Manager”).
Indemnification and Liability
Our Management Agreement provides for customary indemnification of our Manager and its affiliates, and certain of our and their respective members, shareholders, managers, partners, trustees, personnel, officers, directors, employees, consultants and Sub-Managers, as applicable. Additionally, we have entered into indemnification agreements with the members of the Investment Committee provided by our Manager that provide for indemnification and advance of expenses to the maximum extent permitted by Maryland law, subject to certain standards to be met and certain other limitations and conditions as set forth in such indemnification agreements. We also carry directors and officers insurance. We believe the policy specifications and insured limits are appropriate and adequate given the relative risk of loss, the cost of the coverage and standard industry practice; however, our insurance coverage may not be sufficient to cover all of our losses. The Management Agreement also provides that the Manager Parties will not be liable to us for acts or omissions performed in accordance with and pursuant to the Management Agreement, except by reason of acts constituting bad faith, willful misconduct, gross negligence, or reckless disregard of their duties under the relevant Management Agreement.
Term
The Management Agreement automatically renews every year on July 31st for a one-year period, unless we or our Manager elect not to renew. We may decline to renew our Management Agreement upon 180 days prior written notice and the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of our independent directors that there has been unsatisfactory performance by our Manager that is materially detrimental to us taken as a whole. In such event, we shall pay our Manager a termination fee (the “Termination Fee”) equal to three times the sum of (i) the annual Base Management Fee and (ii) the annual Incentive Compensation, in each case, earned by our Manager during the 12-month period immediately preceding the most recently completed fiscal quarter. Our Manager may decline to renew our Management Agreement upon 180 days prior written notice and without payment of any termination fee by either party. We and our Manager have agreed that it is both of our intention that if our Management Agreement is not terminated prior to our equity equaling or exceeding $1,000,000,000, then we and our Manager (or the equity owners of our Manager) shall contemplate effecting an Internalization Transaction (as defined below) pursuant to our Management Agreement. Our Management Agreement was amended and restated to reflect these terms upon the consummation of our IPO.
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Termination for Cause
We may terminate our Management Agreement effective upon 30 days’ prior written notice, without payment of any termination fee, if (i) our Manager, its agents or its assignees breach any material provision of our Management Agreement and such breach shall continue for a period of 30 days after written notice thereof specifying such breach and requesting that the same be remedied in such 30-day period (or 45 days after written notice of such breach if our Manager takes steps to cure such breach within 30 days of the written notice); (ii) there is a commencement of any proceeding relating to our Manager’s bankruptcy or insolvency, including an order for relief in an involuntary bankruptcy case or our Manager authorizing or filing a voluntary bankruptcy petition; (iii) any Manager change of control occurs that a majority of the independent directors determines is materially detrimental to us taken as a whole; (iv) our Manager is dissolved; or (v) our Manager commits fraud against us, misappropriates or embezzles our funds, or acts, or fails to act, in a manner constituting bad faith, willful misconduct, gross negligence or reckless disregard in the performance of its duties under this Agreement; provided, however, that if any of the actions or omissions described in this clause (v) are caused by an employee, personnel and/or officer of our Manager or one of its affiliates and our Manager (or such affiliate) takes all necessary and appropriate action against such person and cures the damage caused by such actions or omissions within 30 days of our Manager’s actual knowledge of its commission or omission, we shall not have the right to terminate our Management Agreement.
Our Manager may terminate our Management Agreement effective upon 60 days’ prior written notice in the event that we default in the performance or observance of any material term, condition or covenant contained in our Management Agreement and such default shall continue for a period of 30 days after written notice thereof specifying such default and requesting that the same be remedied in such 30-day period. We are required to pay to our Manager the Termination Fee if our Management Agreement is terminated pursuant to the preceding sentence. Additionally, our Manager may terminate our Management Agreement if we are required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, in which case we shall not be required to pay a termination fee.
Internalization of our Manager
Our Management Agreement was amended and restated in connection with our IPO such that upon the date on which our equity equals or exceeds $1,000,000,000 (such date, the “Internalization Trigger Date”), we may, at our election, provide our Manager with a written offer for an internalization transaction in which our Manager will contribute all of its assets to us, or in the alternative, the equity owners of our Manager will contribute 100% of the outstanding equity interest in our Manager to us (such transaction an “Internalization Transaction”). The initial offer price will be as determined by a special committee of our Board consisting solely of our independent directors (the “Internalization Committee”) and set forth in any such initial written offer. Upon receipt of our initial offer, our Manager may accept our proposal or submit a counter offer. If an Internalization Transaction is not consummated pursuant to our initial offer or our Manager’s counter offer, our Manager and we agree to enter into good faith negotiations for the consummation of an Internalization Transaction with an offer price to be agreed. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if the price of such Internalization Transaction (the “Internalization Price”) has not been agreed upon prior to the date that is the three-month anniversary of the Internalization Trigger Date, then we shall have the right, but not the obligation, to consummate an Internalization Transaction, effective as of such date, at an Internalization Price equal to five times the sum of (i) the annual Base Management Fee (without giving effect to any Base Management Fee Rebate), (ii) the annual Incentive Compensation and (iii) the aggregate amount of Outside Fees less the Base Management Fee Rebate, in each case, earned by our Manager during the 12-month period immediately preceding the most recently completed fiscal quarter.
At the time of consummation of an Internalization Transaction, all assets of our Manager or 100% of the equity interest in our Manager shall be conveyed to and acquired by us in exchange for the consideration to be paid for the Internalization Transaction. Consummation of any Internalization Transaction agreed to between us and our Manager is conditioned upon the satisfaction of the following conditions: (i) our receipt of a fairness opinion from a nationally-recognized investment banking firm to the effect that the consideration to be paid by us for the assets and equity of our Manager is fair, from a financial point of view, to our shareholders who are not affiliated with our Manager or its affiliates; (ii) the approval of the acquisition by the Internalization Committee; and (iii) the approval of our shareholders holding a majority of the votes cast on such Internalization Transaction proposal at a meeting of shareholders duly called and at which a quorum is present, any of which conditions may be waived by us, in our sole discretion.
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The price to be paid to our Manager in any Internalization Transaction may be payable in cash, shares of our common stock or a combination at the discretion of our Board. The value of any our common stock paid as partial or full consideration of any Internalization Transaction shall be calculated based on the volume-weighted average of the closing market price of our common stock for the ten consecutive trading days immediately preceding the date with respect to which value must be determined; provided, however, that if our common stock is not traded on a securities exchange at the time of closing of any such Internalization Transaction, then the number of shares of common stock shall be determined by agreement between our Board and our Manager or, in the absence of such agreement, the Internalization Price shall be paid in cash.
Investment Guidelines
We have adopted investment guidelines (the “Investment Guidelines”) which require us and our Manager to abide by certain investment strategies which include, but are not limited to: (i) not making loans that would cause us to fail to qualify as a REIT, or that would cause us to be regulated as an investment company under the Investment Company Act; (ii) not making loans that would cause us to violate any law, rule or regulation of any applicable governmental body or agency (excluding the federal prohibition under the CSA (defined below) of the cultivation, processing, sale or possession of cannabis or parts of cannabis including the sale or possession of cannabis paraphernalia, advertising the sale of cannabis, products containing cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia, or controlling or managing real estate on which cannabis is trafficked, as long as such investments are in compliance with applicable state law) or any applicable securities exchange or that would otherwise not be permitted by our governing documents; (iii) requiring the approval of the Investment Committee for all investments made by us; and (iv) until appropriate loans that align with our overall investment strategy are identified, permitting our Manager to cause us to invest our available cash in interest-bearing, short-term investments, including money market accounts or funds, commercial mortgage backed securities and corporate bonds, debt securities (including seller notes), equity and other investments, and interests of real estate investment trusts, subject to the requirements for our qualification as a REIT.
Our Investment Guidelines may only be amended, restated, modified, supplemented or waived pursuant to the approval of (i) a majority of our Board (which must include a majority of our independent directors) and (ii) our Manager.
Investment Committee
Pursuant to our Management Agreement, our Manager has established an Investment Committee for us, the members of which consist of employees or advisers of our Manager and/or its affiliates and which currently includes certain of our Manager’s affiliates and certain of our officers. The Investment Committee has the following responsibilities: (i) reviewing loan opportunities for us presented to it by senior investment professionals of our Manager and (ii) reviewing our loan portfolios for compliance with the Investment Guidelines established pursuant to our Management Agreement at least on a quarterly basis, or more frequently as necessary. All of our loans require the approval of the Investment Committee. The members of the Investment Committee currently consist of Mr. Tannenbaum, Mrs. Tannenbaum, Mr. Neville and Mr. Berman. Any action to be taken by the Investment Committee requires the approval of a majority of the members of the Investment Committee; provided that during any time that the Investment Committee is comprised of less than four (4) members, any action by the Investment Committee shall require unanimous approval of all members of the Investment Committee.
Manager Succession Plan
The members of our Manager have delegated the management of the business and affairs of our Manager to Mr. Tannenbaum, as manager (the “Managing Member”). Pursuant to our Manager’s operating agreement, the Managing Member will hold office until such Managing Member resigns or is removed pursuant to our Manager’s operating agreement. The Managing Member shall be automatically removed as such in the event of his or her death, permanent physical or mental disability. Upon the resignation or removal of Mr. Tannenbaum as the Managing Member, the members of our Manager will appoint Mrs. Tannenbaum as the Managing Member.
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Co-Investments
From time to time, we may co-invest with other investment vehicles managed by our Manager or its affiliates, including our Manager, and their portfolio companies, including by means of splitting loans, participating in loans or other means of syndicating loans. We are not obligated to provide, nor have we provided, any financial support to the other managed investment vehicles. As such, our risk is limited to the carrying value of its investment in any such loan. As of December 31, 2023, there were four co-invested loans held by us and our affiliates. Subsequent to December 31, 2023, there were an additional two co-invested loans held by us and our affiliates.
Certain investment opportunities in loans, which may be suitable for us, may also be suitable for other accounts, private funds, pooled investment vehicles or other entities managed or advised, directly or indirectly, by our Manager, Mr. Tannenbaum or Mrs. Tannenbaum, or any of their or our respective affiliates or entities in which any such person is an executive, in each case, excluding AFC Warehouse, our affiliate that is also managed by our Manager (such accounts, private funds, pooled investment vehicles and other entities, collectively, the “Ancillary Entities”), and, subject to compliance with the Manager COI Policy (as defined below), our related persons transaction policy, our code of business conduct and ethics and applicable regulatory considerations, our Manager may allocate such loans and participate in such loans on behalf of Ancillary Entities under such allocation process as our Manager deems reasonable under the circumstances in good faith. Additionally, subject to the foregoing policies, codes and considerations, our Manager or its affiliates, including AFC Agent LLC (“AFC Agent”), may from time to time serve as administrative agent to the lenders under our co-investments, which as of December 31, 2023 include: (1) Private Company I, (2) Private Company A, (3) Subsidiary of Private Company G and (4) Subsidiary of Public Company H. Two additional co-invested loans that closed subsequent to December 31, 2023 are noted below with regards to CRE Private Company A and CRE Private Company B.
(1) In July 2021, the senior secured loan facility with Private Company I, consisting of an aggregate of $15.5 million in loan commitments, was syndicated by our Manager between the Company and A BDC Warehouse, LLC (“ABW”), an entity wholly-owned by Mr. Tannenbaum, our Chief Investment Officer and Executive Chairman of our Board, and Mrs. Tannenbaum, our President. ABW’s commitment in the loan facility was ultimately transferred to AFC Institutional Fund LLC (“AFCIF”), an entity beneficially owned in part, by our (i) Chief Investment Officer and Executive Chairman of our Board, (ii) President and (iii) former Head of Real Estate and a former Director, while each such owner also maintained a beneficial ownership of our Manager at the time of the investment. AFCIF holds approximately one-third of the loan’s aggregate principal amount as of December 31, 2023. On April 1, 2022, our investment in the senior secured loan to Private Company I was transferred to TRS1. In May 2022, the credit agreement with Private Company I was amended to, among other things, increase the aggregate loan commitment by approximately $0.1 million, such that the loan commitment of TRS1 is approximately $10.4 million. In connection with the amendment, TRS1 also agreed to waive certain financial covenants for one fiscal quarter and amend the minimum net income financial covenant for certain fiscal quarters, subject to certain terms and conditions, including payment of an amendment fee. In October 2022, TRS1 entered into an amendment with Private Company I to, among other things, and subject to certain terms and conditions, (i) increase the aggregate loan commitment by approximately $0.1 million, such that the loan commitment of TRS1 is approximately $10.5 million, (ii) waive certain financial covenants for one fiscal quarter, (iii) defer certain principal payments, (iv) permit 50% of cash interest to instead be paid in kind for four months and (v) increase the interest rate for interest paid in kind. In January 2023, TRS1 agreed, subject to certain terms and conditions (including payment of full cash interest, rather than partial PIK interest, which was previously agreed to), to defer an upcoming principal payment. In March 2023, TRS1 agreed, subject to certain terms and conditions, to defer an upcoming principal payment and permit a portion of an upcoming cash interest payment to instead be paid in kind. In May 2023, Private Company I failed to pay its full principal and interest payments due May 1, 2023. The agent on the credit facility, AFC Agent, promptly delivered a notice of an event of default based on this payment default and certain other defaults under the credit agreement, accelerated all obligations due thereunder and subsequently initiated a foreclosing procedure in the State of Maryland. In June 2023, we sold two-thirds of the Private Company I credit facility at par plus accrued interest to a multi-state cannabis operator and we have a put right on the remaining one-third immediately prior to the transfer of one of the borrower’s cannabis licenses. As of December 31, 2023, our outstanding principal balance was approximately $3.8 million, which is fully funded.
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(2) In September 2021, we entered into an assignment with our Manager (the “September Commitment Assignment”) pursuant to which our Manager assigned to us its commitment to make loans to Private Company A in a principal amount of up to $20.0 million, which was funded in September 2021. We purchased the loan commitments from our Manager at accreted cost plus accrued PIK interest. We did not pay any fees or premium to our Manager for our acquisition of our Manager’s loan commitments under the Credit Agreement with Private Company A (the “Private Company A Credit Facility”) pursuant to the September Commitment Assignment. In December 2021, we entered into the second amendment to the Private Company A Credit Facility to, among other things, increase the total loan commitments by $20.0 million in an additional tranche, with $2.5 million allocated to Flower Loan Holdco, LLC (“FLH”), an entity wholly-owned by Mr. and Mrs. Tannenbaum, and the remaining new commitment allocated to third-party lenders. In February 2022, we entered into the third amendment to the Private Company A Credit Facility to, among other things, increase the total loan commitments by $16.3 million in an additional tranche, with approximately $15.3 million allocated to the Company and approximately $1.0 million allocated to a third-party lender. In November 2022, we entered into a fourth amendment to the Private Company A Credit Facility to, among other things, increase the total loan commitments by $10.0 million in an additional tranche, with approximately $7.1 million allocated to the Company, $1.4 million allocated to FLH and the remaining $1.5 million allocated to third-party lenders. In March 2023, we entered into a fifth amendment to the Private Company A Credit Facility to, among other things and subject to certain terms and conditions, (i) increase the interest rate of certain tranches such that the facility has a uniform interest rate of 13.0% across certain tranches; (ii) reprioritize the allocation of principal and interest payments to first be applied to a specific tranche under the facility; and (iii) establish the requirement for a blocked account to hold the cash proceeds from the sale of certain assets and distribute such proceeds to the lenders. In October 2023, AFC Agent delivered a notice of default to Private Company A based on certain financial and other covenant defaults and began charging additional default interest of 5.0%, beginning as of July 1, 2023, in accordance with the terms of the Private Company A Credit Facility. In November 2023, Private Company A was placed into receivership to maintain the borrower’s operations and maximize value for the benefit of its creditors. The court-appointed receiver began liquidating certain assets for the benefit of the creditors. During the year ended December 31, 2023, AFC Agent received approximately $48.2 million in total loan principal prepayments and $1.4 million in related exit fees from the borrower’s sale of some of its collateral assets, of which approximately $34.7 million in principal prepayments and $1.1 million in related exit fees were allocated to us relating to our pro rata portion of the Private Company A Credit Facility and was applied to the outstanding principal balance. As of December 31, 2023, our outstanding principal balance was approximately $53.4 million, which is fully funded. Refer to Note 17 to our consolidated financial statements for more information on Private Company A prepayments that occurred subsequent to December 31, 2023.
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(3) In September 2021, we entered into the second amended and restated credit agreement with Subsidiary of Private Company G to, among other things, increase the total loan commitments by $53.4 million in three tranches, with approximately $10.0 million allocated to ABW and the remaining $43.4 million allocated to us. ABW’s commitment was ultimately transferred to AFCIF. In August 2022, we committed an additional $8.1 million under the credit agreement with Subsidiary of Private Company G. Following the expansion, we now hold $73.5 million in commitments. As part of the expansion, the interest rate increased from a blended weighted-average rate across three tranches of 13.7% to U.S. prime rate plus 10.25%, subject to a U.S. prime rate floor of 4.5%, per annum and the PIK interest decreased from a blended weighted-average rate across three tranches of 1.8% to 0.0% per annum. In December 2022, the credit agreement with Subsidiary of Private Company G was amended to, among other things and subject to certain terms and conditions, (i) require the borrowers to make certain cash equity capital contributions, (ii) permit 75% of accrued cash interest to instead be paid in kind for four months and (iii) include an excess cash flow sweep. Subsidiary of Private Company G failed to make its cash interest payment due July 1, 2023 in arrears for the month of June, and we placed the borrower on non-accrual from June 1, 2023 to August 31, 2023. In connection therewith, we initiated a consensual foreclosure proceeding with respect to certain of the borrower’s assets in Pennsylvania, with the expectation that the net cash proceeds of the public auction would be used to prepay a portion of the principal outstanding under the credit facility. On September 6, 2023, the foreclosure proceeding was adjourned indefinitely. We subsequently entered into a forbearance agreement with Subsidiary of Private Company G in September 2023, which carves out the consensual foreclosure proceeding described above, pursuant to which we agreed to forbear from exercising certain remedies as a result of certain defaults under the credit agreement. In exchange for such forbearance, Subsidiary of Private Company G agreed to, among other things, sell certain assets, including certain collateral, the proceeds of which will be applied to the outstanding obligations under the credit agreement with Private Company G, to provide certain additional collateral, and to contribute additional cash equity to be held in escrow by AFC Agent. As amended by the forbearance agreement entered into with Subsidiary of Private Company G, the borrower was required to pay interest of $0.8 million pro rata to the lender group for the month of September and to pay $1.0 million pro rata to the lender group for each of the months of October, November, and December 2023. Subsidiary of Private Company G paid September, October, and November interest in accordance with the terms of the forbearance agreement, which was due October 1, 2023, November 1, 2023, and December 1, 2023, respectively, and the credit facility was restored to accrual status. During the fourth quarter of 2023, AFC Agent received $1.5 million from the sale of some of the collateral assets of Subsidiary of Private Company G, of which approximately $1.3 million was allocated to us and applied to the outstanding interest balance. Subsidiary of Private Company G did not make its cash interest payment due January 1, 2024 in arrears for the month of December, and we placed the borrower on non-accrual as of December 1, 2023 and will recognize income related to loan activity only upon receipt of cash. Refer to Note 17 to our consolidated financial statements for more information on Subsidiary of Private Company G forbearance agreement that was entered into subsequent to December 31, 2023. As of December 31, 2023, our outstanding principal balance under the credit facility with Subsidiary of Private Company G was approximately $79.2 million, which is fully funded.
(4) In December 2021, we entered into a credit agreement with Subsidiary of Public Company H, which provides Subsidiary of Public Company H with a $100.0 million senior secured credit facility, of which, we committed $60.0 million, a predecessor-in-interest to AFCIF committed $10.0 million, and third-party lenders committed $30.0 million of the aggregate principal amount. In October 2022, the credit agreement with Subsidiary of Public Company H was amended to, among other things, increase the total loan commitment by $50.0 million, of which $30.0 million of the new loan commitment was allocated pro rata to us, $5.0 million was allocated to AFCIF and the remaining $15.0 million was allocated to a third-party lender. As part of the expansion, the interest rate increased from a fixed rate of 9.8% to U.S. prime rate plus 5.8%, subject to a U.S. prime rate floor of 5.5%. In April 2023, the credit agreement with Subsidiary of Public Company H was amended to, among other things, (i) reduce the total loan commitment by $10.0 million ratably amongst the lenders, including us, of which $6.0 million of the reduced commitment was allocated to us and $9.0 million of additional principal was funded by us, (ii) strengthen the real estate coverage covenants and (iii) require certain conditions precedent be met prior to disbursing funds to construction projects. Following the amendment, we held $84.0 million in commitments. As of December 31, 2023, our outstanding principal balance under the credit facility with Subsidiary of Public Company H was $84.0 million, which is fully funded.
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(5)     In January 2024, the Company and an affiliate entered into a secured mezzanine loan with CRE Private Company A that was syndicated by the affiliate, consisting of an aggregate of $56.4 million in loan commitments, of which $28.2 million was funded by us and another $28.2 million was provided by an affiliate. The Company and affiliate are each 50.0% syndicate lenders in the secured mezzanine loan. The secured mezzanine loan bears interest at an annual rate of Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) plus 15.31% spread, subject to a SOFR floor of 2.42%. At the end of January 2024, the Company and affiliate entered into an amendment to the secured mezzanine loan with CRE Private Company A, which among other things, (1) extended the maturity date to May 31, 2024 and (2) amended the SOFR floor from 2.42% to 4.00%. Pursuant to the amendment, the Company and affiliate expect to receive an extension fee of approximately $0.1 million each, respectively.
(6)    In January 2024, the Company and an affiliate entered into a secured mezzanine loan with CRE Private Company B that was syndicated by the affiliate, consisting of an aggregate of $56.4 million in loan commitments, of which $20.7 million was funded by us and another $20.7 million was provided by an affiliate. The secured mezzanine loan was purchased by us and an affiliate at a discount of 1.0% for a purchase price of approximately $20.4 million each, respectively. Approximately $15.0 million was established as an unfunded commitment, available to be drawn to pay interest on the secured mezzanine loan, of which we are responsible for $7.5 million. The Company and affiliate are each 50.0% syndicate lenders in the secured mezzanine loan. The secured mezzanine loan bears interest at an annual fixed rate of 13.00% and matures in May 2027.
AFC Agent, an entity wholly-owned by Mr. and Mrs. Tannenbaum, serves as the administrative agent to all respective lenders under the majority of our credit facilities. We do not pay any consideration to AFC Agent for its services as administrative agent under such credit facilities.
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Management Compensation
Our Manager will manage our day-to-day affairs. The following table summarizes all of the compensation, fees and expense reimbursement that we will pay to our Manager under our Management Agreement:
TypeDescriptionPayment
Base Management Fees
An amount equal to 0.375% of our Equity (as defined below), determined as of the last day of each quarter. The Base Management Fees are reduced by the Base Management Fee Rebate. Under no circumstances will the Base Management Fee be less than zero. Our Equity, for purposes of calculating the Base Management Fees, could be greater than or less than the amount of shareholders’ equity shown on our financial statements. The Base Management Fees are payable independent of the performance of our portfolio.
For additional information, see “—Base Management Fees.”
Quarterly in arrears in cash.
Base Management Fee Rebate
An amount equal to 50% of the aggregate amount of any other fees earned and paid to our Manager during the applicable quarter resulting from the investment advisory services and general management services rendered by our Manager to us under our Management Agreement, including any agency fees relating to our loans, but excluding the Incentive Compensation and any diligence fees paid to and earned by our Manager and paid by third parties in connection with our Manager’s due diligence of potential loans.
For additional information, see “—Base Management Fees.”
Reduces the Base Management Fees on a quarterly basis.
Incentive Compensation
An amount with respect to each fiscal quarter (or portion thereof that our Management Agreement is in effect) based upon our achievement of targeted levels of Core Earnings (as defined below). No Incentive Compensation is payable with respect to any fiscal quarter unless our Core Earnings for such quarter exceed the amount equal to the product of (i) 2% and (ii) Adjusted Capital (as defined below) as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal quarter (such amount, the “Hurdle Amount”). The Incentive Compensation for any fiscal quarter will otherwise be calculated as the sum of (i) the product of (A) 50% and (B) the amount of our Core Earnings for such quarter, if any, that exceeds the Hurdle Amount, but is less than or equal to 166-2/3% of the Hurdle Amount and (ii) the product of (A) 20% and (B) the amount of our Core Earnings for such quarter, if any, that exceeds 166-2/3% of the Hurdle Amount. Such compensation is subject to Clawback Obligations (as defined below), if any.
For additional information, see “—Incentive Compensation” and “—Incentive Compensation—Incentive Compensation Clawback.”
Quarterly in arrears in cash.
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Expense Reimbursement
We pay all of our costs and expenses and reimburse our Manager or its affiliates for expenses of our Manager and its affiliates paid or incurred on our behalf, excepting only those expenses that are specifically the responsibility of our Manager pursuant to our Management Agreement. Pursuant to our Management Agreement, we reimburse our Manager or its affiliates, as applicable, for our fair and equitable allocable share of the compensation, including annual base salary, bonus, any related withholding taxes and employee benefits, paid to (i) subject to review by the Compensation Committee of our Board, our Manager’s personnel serving as our Chief Executive Officer (except when the Chief Executive Officer serves as a member of the Investment Committee prior to the consummation of an internalization transaction of our Manager by us), General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Managing Director and any of our other officers, based on the percentage of his or her time spent devoted to our affairs and (ii) other corporate finance, tax, accounting, internal audit, legal, risk management, operations, compliance and other non-investment personnel of the Manager and its affiliates who spend all or a portion of their time managing our affairs, with the allocable share of the compensation of such personnel described in this clause (ii) being as reasonably determined by our Manager to appropriately reflect the amount of time spent devoted by such personnel to our affairs. The service by any personnel of our Manager and its affiliates as a member of the Investment Committee will not, by itself, be dispositive in the determination as to whether such personnel is deemed “investment personnel” of our Manager and its affiliates for purposes of expense reimbursement. Prior to the consummation of our IPO, we were not obligated to reimburse our Manager or its affiliates, as applicable, for any compensation paid to Mr. Tannenbaum, Mr. Jonathan Kalikow, a former director and officer of the Company, or Mrs. Tannenbaum. For the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, our Manager did not seek reimbursement for our allocable share of Mr. Kalikow and Mr. Tannenbaum’s compensation, but did seek reimbursement for our allocable share of Mrs. Tannenbaum’s compensation.
For additional information, see “—Expense Reimbursement.”
Monthly in cash.
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Termination Fee
Equal to three times the sum of (i) the annual Base Management Fee and (ii) the annual Incentive Compensation, in each case, earned by our Manager during the 12-month period immediately preceding the most recently completed fiscal quarter prior to the date of termination. Such fee shall be payable upon termination of our Management Agreement in the event that (i) we decline to renew our Management Agreement, without cause, upon 180 days prior written notice and the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of our independent directors that there has been unsatisfactory performance by our Manager that is materially detrimental to us taken as a whole, or (ii) our Management Agreement is terminated by our Manager (effective upon 60 days’ prior written notice) based upon our default in the performance or observance of any material term, condition or covenant contained in our Management Agreement and such default continuing for a period of 30 days after written notice thereof specifying such default and requesting that the same be remedied in such 30-day period.
For additional information, see “—Termination Fee.”
Upon specified termination in cash.
General
Under our Management Agreement, we pay a Base Management Fee and Incentive Compensation to our Manager. Upon the consummation of our IPO, our Management Agreement was amended and restated to revise the Base Management Fee and Incentive Compensation payable to our Manager as specified below. Any compensation previously earned by our Manager for services rendered prior to the consummation of our IPO was calculated and payable pursuant to the terms of, and in accordance with, our Management Agreement as in effect prior to the consummation of our IPO. Pursuant to our Management Agreement, we are also obligated to reimburse our Manager or its affiliates for certain expenses of our Manager and its affiliates paid or incurred on our behalf. We may also grant equity-based awards and incentives to our Manager and other eligible awardees under our 2020 Stock Incentive Plan (the “Stock Incentive Plan”) from time to time. During the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, our Manager earned a Base Management Fee of approximately $3.7 million and $3.4 million respectively, which was net of a Base Management Fee Rebate of approximately $1.7 million and $1.8 million, respectively. The Incentive Compensation fee payable to our Manager for the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022 was approximately $10.4 million and $12.3 million, respectively.
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Summary Compensation and Expenses Reimbursement Table
Years ended
December 31,
20232022
Management fees$5,395,617 $5,213,535 
Less: outside fees earned(1,693,133)(1,785,916)
Base management fees3,702,484 3,427,619 
Incentive fees earned10,361,821 12,337,631 
General and administrative expenses reimbursable to Manager3,590,594 3,976,312 
Total$17,654,899 $19,741,562 
Base Management Fees
Initially, our Manager received base management fees (“Base Management Fees”) that were calculated and payable quarterly in arrears in cash, in an amount equal to 0.4375% of our Equity (as defined below), determined as of the last day of each such quarter. The Base Management Fees were to be reduced by the aggregate amount of any other fees earned and paid to our Manager during such quarter resulting from the investment advisory services and general management services rendered by it to us under our Management Agreement, including any syndication, structuring, diligence, monitoring or agency fees relating to our loans, but excluding the Incentive Compensation (as defined below). Our Management Agreement was amended and restated upon the consummation of our IPO such that the Base Management Fees now (i) amount to 0.375% of our Equity, determined as of the last day of each quarter, and (ii) will be reduced by 50% of the aggregate amount of any Outside Fees, including any agency fees relating to our loans, but excluding the Incentive Compensation and any diligence fees paid to and earned by our Manager and paid by third parties in connection with our Manager’s due diligence of potential loans. Under no circumstances will the Base Management Fees be less than zero. Our Equity, for purposes of calculating the Base Management Fees, could be greater than or less than the amount of shareholders’ equity shown on our consolidated financial statements. The Base Management Fees are payable independent of the performance of our portfolio.
For purposes of computing the Base Management Fees, “Equity” means, as of any date (i) the sum of (A) the net proceeds from all of our issuances of equity securities since our inception through such date (allocated on a pro rata daily basis for such issuances during the fiscal quarter of any such issuance), plus (B) our retained earnings at the end of the most recently completed fiscal quarter determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”) in the United States (without taking into account any non-cash equity compensation expense incurred in current or prior periods), less (ii) (A) any amount that we have paid to repurchase our common stock since our inception through such date, (B) any unrealized gains and losses and other non-cash items that have impacted shareholders’ equity as reported in our consolidated financial statements prepared in accordance with GAAP through such date; and (C) one-time events pursuant to changes in GAAP, and certain non-cash items not otherwise described above, through such date, in each case as determined after discussions between our Manager and our independent directors and approval by a majority of our independent directors.
Incentive Compensation
In addition to the Base Management Fees, our Manager receives incentive compensation (“Incentive Compensation” or “Incentive Fees”) with respect to each fiscal quarter (or portion thereof that our Management Agreement is in effect) based upon our achievement of targeted levels of Core Earnings (as defined below). To the extent earned by our Manager, the Incentive Compensation will be payable to our Manager quarterly in arrears in cash.
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Initially, no Incentive Compensation is payable with respect to any fiscal quarter unless our Core Earnings for such quarter exceed the amount equal to the product of (i) 1.75% and (ii) the Adjusted Capital as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal quarter (the “Hurdle Amount”). The Incentive Compensation for any fiscal quarter will otherwise be calculated as the sum of (i) the product (the “Catch-Up Amount”) of (A) 50% and (B) the amount of our Core Earnings for such quarter, if any, that exceeds the Hurdle Amount, but is less than or equal to 166-2/3% of the Hurdle Amount and (ii) the product (the “Excess Earnings Amount”) of (A) 20% and (B) the amount of our Core Earnings for such quarter, if any, that exceeds 166-2/3% of the Hurdle Amount. Our Management Agreement was amended and restated upon the consummation of our IPO such that the Hurdle Amount now equals the product of (i) 2% and (ii) Adjusted Capital as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal quarter.
For the purposes of computing Incentive Compensation:
“Adjusted Capital” means the sum of (i) cumulative gross proceeds generated from issuances of the shares of our capital stock (including any distribution reinvestment plan), less (ii) distributions to our investors that represent a return of capital and amounts paid for share repurchases pursuant to any share repurchase program.
“Core Earnings” means, for a given period, the net income (loss) for such period, computed in accordance with GAAP, excluding (i) non-cash equity compensation expense, (ii) Incentive Compensation, (iii) depreciation and amortization, (iv) any unrealized gains or losses or other non-cash items that are included in net income for the applicable reporting period, regardless of whether such items are included in other comprehensive income or loss, or in net income and (v) one-time events pursuant to changes in GAAP and certain non-cash charges, in each case as determined after discussions between our Manager and our independent directors and approval by a majority of our independent directors. For the avoidance of doubt, Core Earnings shall not exclude under clause (iv) above, in the case of investments with a deferred interest feature (such as OID, debt instruments with PIK interest and zero coupon securities), accrued income that we have not yet received in cash.
The calculation methodology for computing Incentive Compensation will look through any derivatives or swaps as if we owned the reference assets directly. Therefore, net interest, if any, associated with a derivative or swap (which represents the difference between (i) the interest income and fees received in respect of the reference assets of such derivative or swap and (ii) the interest expense paid by us to the derivative or swap counterparty) will be included in the calculation of Core Earnings for purposes of the Incentive Compensation.
Incentive Compensation Clawback
Initially, once Incentive Compensation is earned and paid to our Manager, it is not refundable, notwithstanding any losses incurred by us in subsequent periods, except that if our aggregate Core Earnings for any fiscal year do not exceed the amount equal to the product of (i) 7.0% and (ii) our Adjusted Capital as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal year (such amount, the “Annual Hurdle Amount”), our Manager will be obligated to pay us (such obligation to pay, the “Clawback Obligation”) an amount equal to the aggregate Incentive Compensation that was earned and paid to our Manager during such fiscal year (such amount, the “Clawback Amount”); provided that under no circumstances will the Clawback Amount be more than the amount to which the Annual Hurdle Amount exceeds our aggregate Core Earnings for the specified fiscal year. The Clawback Obligation is determined on an annual basis and any Incentive Compensation earned during a specified fiscal year will not be subject to the Clawback Obligation with respect to the Incentive Compensation earned during any prior or subsequent fiscal year.
Upon consummation of our IPO, our Management Agreement was amended and restated such that the Annual Hurdle Amount now equals the product of (i) 8.0% and (ii) our Adjusted Capital as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal year.
The aggregate Core Earnings, Annual Hurdle Amount, Clawback Amount and any components thereof for the initial and final fiscal years that our Management Agreement is in effect will be prorated based on the number of days during the initial and final fiscal years, respectively, that our Management Agreement is in effect, to the extent applicable.
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Incentive Compensation Illustration
The following illustration sets forth a simplified graphical representation of the calculation of our quarterly Incentive Compensation in accordance with our Management Agreement without consideration to any Clawback Obligation.
Quarterly Incentive Fee on Core Earnings
Core Earnings (expressed as a percentage of Adjusted Capital as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal quarter)
https://cdn.kscope.io/09170131b699f629b933a4ef73d67462-Quarterly Incentive Fee on Core Earnings.jpg
 Percentage of Core Earnings allocated to the Incentive Fee on income
Incentive Compensation Example
The following table sets forth a simplified, hypothetical example of a quarterly Incentive Compensation calculation in accordance with our Management Agreement without consideration to any Clawback Obligation. Our actual results may differ materially from the following example.
This example of a quarterly Incentive Compensation calculation assumes the following:
Adjusted Capital as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal quarter of $100.0 million; and
Core Earnings before the Incentive Compensation for the specified quarter representing a quarterly yield of 20.9% on Adjusted Capital as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal quarter.
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Under these assumptions, the hypothetical quarterly Incentive Compensation payable to our Manager would be $1.045 million as calculated below:
Illustrative
Amount
Calculation
1.What are the Core Earnings?$5,225,000 Assumed to be a 5.2% quarterly or 20.9% per annum return on Adjusted Capital as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal quarter ($100.0 million).
2.What is the Hurdle Amount?$2,000,000 The hurdle rate (2.0% quarterly or 8.0% per annum) multiplied by Adjusted Capital as of the last day of the immediately preceding fiscal quarter ($100.0 million).
3.What is the Catch-Up Amount?$666,667 The catch-up incentive rate (50.0%) multiplied by the amount that Core Earnings ($5.2 million) exceeds the Hurdle Amount ($2 million), but is less than or equal to 166-2/3% of the Hurdle Amount (approximately $3.3 million).
4.What is the Excess Earnings Amount?$378,333 The excess earnings incentive rate (20%) multiplied by the amount of Core Earnings ($5.2 million) that exceeds 166-2/3% of the Hurdle Amount (approximately $3.3 million).
5.What is the Incentive Compensation?$1,045,000 The sum of the Catch-Up Amount (approximately $666,667) and the Excess Earnings Amount (approximately $378,333).
The foregoing is solely a hypothetical example of a quarterly Incentive Compensation that we could pay to our Manager for a given fiscal quarter and is based on the simplified assumptions described above.
Non-GAAP Metrics Used in Hypothetical Example
As used in this Annual Report, we use hypothetical Equity, Adjusted Capital, Catch-up Amount and Excess Earnings Amount only as measures in the calculation of the financial metrics that we are required to calculate under the terms of the Management Agreement. All of the adjustments made in our calculation of these metrics are adjustments that were made in calculating our performance for purposes of the required financial metrics under the Management Agreement, and are presented in a manner consistent with the reporting of the metrics to the Manager. Additionally, the terms Equity, Adjusted Capital, Core Earnings, Catch-up Amount and Excess Earnings Amount are not defined under GAAP and are not measures of shareholder equity, capitalization, operating income or operating performance presented in accordance with GAAP. Our Equity, Adjusted Capital, Core Earnings, Catch-up Amount and Excess Earnings Amount have limitations as analytical tools, and when assessing our shareholder equity, capitalization, operating income and operating performance, you should not consider Equity, Adjusted Capital, Core Earnings, Catch-up Amount and Excess Earnings Amount in isolation, or as a substitute for shareholder equity, capitalization and operating income or other consolidated income statement data prepared in accordance with GAAP. Additionally, other companies may calculate Equity, Adjusted Capital, Core Earnings, Catch-up Amount and Excess Earnings Amount differently than we do, limiting their usefulness as comparative measures.
Further, we note that, as presented in the above table, Adjusted Capital, Core Earnings, Catch-up Amount and Excess Earnings Amount are hypothetical non-GAAP financial measures and reconciliation of those numbers to the most directly comparable financial measure prepared in accordance with GAAP are not provided in this Annual Report as they are derived from our actual historical financials and are meant to serve as an illustrative tool to assist the investor in understanding how our Manager’s fees would be calculated based on hypothetical assumptions pursuant to the terms of the Management Agreement.
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Expense Reimbursement
We pay all of our costs and expenses and reimburse our Manager and/or its affiliates for expenses of our Manager and/or its affiliates paid or incurred on our behalf, excepting only those expenses that are specifically the responsibility of our Manager pursuant to our Management Agreement. Pursuant to our Management Agreement, we reimburse our Manager and/or its affiliates, as applicable, for our fair and equitable allocable share of the compensation, including annual base salary, bonus, any related withholding taxes and employee benefits, paid to (i) subject to review by the Compensation Committee of our Board, personnel of our Manager and/or its affiliates, as applicable, serving as our Chief Executive Officer (except when the Chief Executive Officer serves as a member of the Investment Committee prior to the consummation of an internalization transaction of our Manager by us), General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, Managing Director and any of our other officers based on the percentage of his or her time spent devoted to our affairs and (ii) other corporate finance, tax, accounting, internal audit, legal, risk management, operations, compliance and other non-investment personnel of the Manager and/or its affiliates who spend all or a portion of their time managing our affairs, with the allocable share of the compensation of such personnel described in this clause (ii) being as reasonably determined by our Manager to appropriately reflect the amount of time spent devoted by such personnel to our affairs. The service by any personnel of our Manager and its affiliates as a member of the Investment Committee will not, by itself, be dispositive in the determination as to whether such personnel is deemed “investment personnel” of our Manager and its affiliates for purposes of expense reimbursement. Prior to the consummation of our IPO, we were not obligated to reimburse our Manager or its affiliates, as applicable, for any compensation paid to Mr. Tannenbaum, Mr. Kalikow or Mrs. Tannenbaum. For the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, our Manager did not seek reimbursement for our allocable share of Mr. Kalikow and Mr. Tannenbaum’s compensation, but did seek reimbursement for our allocable share of Mrs. Tannenbaum’s compensation. Costs and expenses paid or incurred by the Manager on our behalf are reimbursed monthly in cash to the Manager and are made regardless of whether any cash distributions are made to our shareholders.
Termination Fee
Upon termination of our Management Agreement, a Termination Fee will be payable to our Manager by us in cash in the event that (i) we decline to renew our Management Agreement, without cause, upon 180 days prior written notice and the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of our independent directors that there has been unsatisfactory performance by our Manager that is materially detrimental to us taken as a whole, or (ii) our Management Agreement is terminated by our Manager (effective upon 60 days’ prior written notice) based upon our default in the performance or observance of any material term, condition or covenant contained in our Management Agreement and such default continuing for a period of 30 days after written notice thereof specifying such default and requesting that the same be remedied in such 30-day period. The Termination Fee equals three times the sum of (A) the annual Base Management Fee and (B) the annual Incentive Compensation, in each case, earned by our Manager during the 12-month period immediately preceding the most recently completed fiscal quarter prior to the date of termination.
Grants of Equity Compensation to Our Manager
Pursuant to the Stock Incentive Plan, we may grant equity-based awards and incentives to employees or executive officers of our Manager and other eligible awardees under the Stock Incentive Plan from time to time. These equity-based awards under our Stock Incentive Plan create incentives to improve long-term stock price performance and focus on long-term business objectives, create substantial retention incentives for award recipients and enhance our ability to pay compensation based on our overall performance, each of which further align the interests of our Manager and the other eligible awardees with our shareholders.
Our Growth Strategy
Our objective is to provide attractive risk-adjusted returns over time through cash distributions and capital appreciation. We intend to achieve this objective by sourcing, underwriting, structuring and funding loans to state law compliant cannabis companies and commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses.
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We draw upon our Manager’s expertise in sourcing, underwriting, structuring and funding capabilities to implement our growth strategy. From January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2023, our Manager and its affiliates have had access to over $19.4 billion of potential loan opportunities, which we have historically focused on loans to cannabis operators. We believe we continue to be well positioned to take advantage of the capital supply and demand imbalance that exists in the cannabis market as well as the elevated interest rate environment in the commercial real estate market. As the cannabis industry continues to evolve and to the extent that additional states legalize cannabis, the demand for capital is expected to continue to increase as operators seek to enter and build out new markets. We provide borrowers an institutional and flexible alternative for financing. As we continue to grow our available capital, we believe we can commit to additional transactions with strong risk-adjusted returns to diversify our portfolio.
In connection with, and effective upon the Spin-Off, the Amended and Restated Management Agreement will be amended to update the investment guidelines to focus on our investments in first and second lien loans, typically secured by mortgages and other security interests, to cannabis operators in states that have legalized medical and/or adult use cannabis. Therefore, the investment guidelines will no longer include loans and investments made in respect of (x) first lien or second lien loans secured by mortgages or mezzanine loans to commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses and (y) the ownership of non-cannabis related commercial real estate assets. Our Manager regularly evaluates our loans and we currently retain an independent third-party valuation firm to provide input on the valuation of unquoted assets, which our Manager considers along with various other subjective and objective factors when making any such evaluation. The collateral underlying our loans is located in states in the U.S. that we believe have attractive regulatory environments for companies operating in the cannabis industry, economic conditions and commercial real estate fundamentals.
Key elements of our strategy include:
Targeting loans for origination and/or investment that typically have the following characteristics:
principal balance greater than $10.0 million;
real estate collateral coverage of at least one times the principal balance;
secured by commercial real estate properties; and
well-capitalized sponsors with substantial experience in particular relevant sectors and geographic markets.
Diversifying our financing sources with increased access to equity and debt capital, which may provide us with a lower overall cost of funding and the ability to hold larger loan sizes, among other things.
Underwriting and Investment Process
Pursuant to the Management Agreement, our Manager manages our loans and day-to-day operations, subject at all times to the further terms and conditions set forth in the Management Agreement and such further limitations or parameters as may be imposed from time to time by our Board.
Our Manager’s rigorous underwriting and investment process enables us to source, screen and ultimately provide debt capital to (i) established cannabis industry participants in states that have legalized medical and/or adult use cannabis and (ii) well-capitalized real estate sponsors in the commercial real estate sector. Our Manager as well as our management team provided by our Manager and our Board strive to be attuned to the macro-environment and political environment as they relate to the lending and cannabis industries and the commercial real estate sector.
We expect to benefit from the tested method of capital allocation and on-going investment monitoring developed by our Manager. The primary objectives of the investment process are for it to be repeatable, dependable, and able to produce attractive risk-adjusted returns. The primary components of the investment process are as follows:
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OriginationUnderwritingInvestment CommitteeLegal Documentation and
Post-Closing
Direct origination platform works to create enhanced yields and allows us to put in greater controls for loans in which our Manager originates and structures
Disciplined underwriting process leads to a highly selective approach
Focused on managing credit risk through comprehensive investment review process
Investment team works alongside external counsel to negotiate credit agreements and collateral liens
Platform drives increased deal flow, which provides for improved loan selectivity
Potential loans are screened based on four key criteria: company profile, state dynamics, regulatory matters and real estate asset considerations
The Investment Committee must approve each loan before commitment papers are issued
Emphasis is placed on financial covenants and limitations on actions that may be adverse to lenders
Allows for specific portfolio construction and a focus on higher quality companies
For the commercial real estate pipeline, as of March 1, 2024 since June 1, 2022, we had 29 active loans in our pipeline at various stages in the diligence process, and we had passed on 396 of 432 sourced loan opportunities due to, among other reasons, nontarget location, high loan to cost, purchase price and/or value, insufficient equity, inexperienced sponsor and lack of net operating income
For the cannabis pipeline, as of March 1, 2024 since January 1, 2020, we had 10 active loans in our pipeline at various stages in the diligence process, and we had passed on 752 of 808 sourced loan opportunities due to, among other reasons, lack of collateral, lack of cash flow, stage of company, state dynamics and lack of cash flow
Other tools that we frequently use to verify data include, but are not limited to: appraisals, quality of earnings, environmental reports, site visits, construction review, anti-money laundering compliance, comparable company analyses and background checks
Members of the Investment Committee currently include: Leonard M. Tannenbaum, Daniel Neville, Bernard D. Berman and Robyn Tannenbaum.
Portfolio is proactively managed to monitor ongoing performance, in some instances, through seats on borrowers’ boards of directors or board observer rights
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Our Manager’s origination team meets regularly to evaluate new loan opportunities, employing a highly collaborative approach to investing. Upon its receipt of an actionable request, our Manager’s deal team prepares a standardized memorandum (an “Early Read Memorandum”) that serves as the initial recommendation to the Investment Committee with respect to initially pursuing such opportunity. This Early Read Memorandum contains key property metrics, typically including, without limitation, property characteristics, preliminary loan terms and structure. Our Manager’s origination team takes a bottom-up, enterprise value-oriented approach to underwriting, focusing on collateral valuation, multiple exit strategies and downside principal protection. The goal of our Manager is to identify key issues and decisions early in the process, including, without limitation, issues relating to the preliminary pricing, asset quality, market, borrower or capital structure.
Our Manager also evaluates the Early Read Memorandum prepared by the deal team to evaluate the likely financing terms, comparable market transactions and the impact of the loan on our overall portfolio construction from a diversification and return standpoint. Loans are priced based on our Manager’s view of risk and market conditions. Our Manager confirms that the applicable pricing generates an appropriate expected return on any given loan. Key model inputs typically include: the loan’s credit spread; OID and exit fees (if any); the timing and amount of future funding; the expected tenor and cost of asset-level financing; expected timing of repayments; likelihood of a loan extension past initial maturity; extension fees (if any); the cost of servicing; and an estimate of our management, general and administrative expenses. Model assumptions and pricing methodology are adjusted as needed based on prevailing market conditions, investor sentiment and activity and portfolio allocations and concentrations at the time of pricing. Returns on targets are not a reliable indicator of future performance and no guarantee or assurance is given that such returns will be achieved or that an investment will not result in losses. Target return rates are based on our good faith and reasonable assumptions. Actual events or conditions may differ materially from these assumptions, and therefore, actual returns could be substantially lower.
Competition
We operate in a competitive market for the origination and acquisition of attractive lending opportunities. We compete with a variety of institutional investors, including other REITs, debt funds, specialty finance companies, savings and loan associations, banks, mortgage bankers, insurance companies, investment banking firms, financial institutions, private equity and hedge funds, and other entities. Some of our competitors are substantially larger and have considerably greater financial, technical and marketing resources than we do. Several of our competitors, including other REITs, have recently raised, or are expected to raise, significant amounts of capital and may have investment objectives that overlap with our investment objectives, which may create additional competition for lending and other investment opportunities. Some of our competitors may have a lower cost of funds and access to funding sources that may not be available to us or are only available to us on substantially less attractive terms. Many of our competitors are not subject to the operating constraints associated with REIT tax compliance or maintenance of an exemption from the Investment Company Act. In addition, some of our competitors may have higher risk tolerances or different risk assessments, which could allow them to consider a wider variety of investments and establish more lending relationships than we do. Competition may result in realizing fewer investments, higher prices, acceptance of greater risk, greater defaults, lower yields or a narrower spread of yields over our borrowing costs. In addition, competition for attractive investments could delay the investment of our capital.
In the face of this competition, we have access to our Manager’s professionals and their financing industry expertise and relationships, which may provide us with a competitive advantage in competing effectively for attractive investment opportunities and help us assess risks and determine appropriate pricing for certain potential investments. We also believe we have a more flexible funding structure than our competitors with typical REIT land ownership models, given our ability to redeploy funds more quickly. The duration of our loans, as compared to the length of leases usually employed by REIT land ownership models, allows us to redeploy our capital with more flexibility as market changes occur instead of being locked in for longer periods of time. This model also allows our borrowers to retain control of their real estate assets, which is important to their businesses and allows for more flexibility regarding their capital structure. Although we believe our Manager’s expertise and our flexible funding structure provide us with valuable competitive advantages, we may not be able to achieve our business goals or expectations due to the competitive risks that we face.
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Regulatory Environment
Our operations are subject to regulation, supervision, and licensing under various United States, state, provincial, and local statutes, ordinances and regulations. In general, lending is a highly regulated industry in the United States and we are required to comply with, among other statutes and regulations relating to lending and to the cannabis industry, certain provisions of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the USA Patriot Act, regulations promulgated by the Office of Foreign Asset Control, and U.S. federal and state securities laws and regulations. In addition, certain states have adopted laws or regulations that may, among other requirements, require licensing of lenders and financiers, prescribe disclosures of certain contractual terms, impose limitations on interest rates and other charges, and limit or prohibit certain collection practices and creditor remedies. Last, because our borrowers are engaged in commercial cannabis activities in the U.S., our operations are also subject to federal and state laws relating to cannabis. We are required to comply with the applicable laws and regulations in the states in which we do business. We actively monitor proposed changes to relevant legal and regulatory requirements in order to maintain our compliance.
The Dodd-Frank Act
The Dodd-Frank Act made 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 with respect to various issues that may affect our Company. Certain regulations have already been adopted and others remain under consideration by various governmental agencies, in some cases past the deadlines set in the Dodd-Frank Act for adoption. It is possible that regulations that will be adopted in the future will apply to us or that existing regulations that are currently not applicable to us will begin to apply to us as our business evolves.
Investment Company Act
We have not been and are not currently required to be registered under the Investment Company Act pursuant to Section 3(c)(5) (the “Section 3(c)(5) Exemption”) of the Investment Company Act.
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 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 that is engaged or proposes to engage in the business of investing, reinvesting, owning, holding or trading in securities and owns or proposes to acquire investment securities having a value exceeding 40% of the value of the issuer’s total assets (exclusive of U.S. government securities and cash items) on an unconsolidated basis, which we refer to as the 40% test. Real estate mortgages are excluded from the term “investment securities.”
We rely on the Section 3(c)(5) Exemption, which excludes from the definition of investment company “[a]ny person who is not engaged in the business of issuing redeemable securities, face-amount certificates of the installment type or periodic payment plan certificates, and who is primarily engaged in one or more of the following businesses . . . (C) purchasing or otherwise acquiring mortgages and other liens on and interests in real estate.” The SEC generally requires that, for the exception provided by the Section 3(c)(5) Exemption to be available, at least 55% of an entity’s assets be comprised of mortgages and other liens on and interests in real estate, also known as “qualifying interests,” and at least another 25% of the entity’s assets must be comprised of additional qualifying interests or real estate-type interests (with no more than 20% of the entity’s assets comprised of miscellaneous assets). We believe we qualify for the exemption under this section and our current intention is to continue to focus on originating and investing in loans collateralized by real estate so that at least 55% of our assets are “qualifying interests” and no more than 20% of our assets are miscellaneous assets. However, if, in the future, we do acquire assets that do not meet this test, we may qualify as an “investment company” and be required to register as such under the Investment Company Act, which could have a material adverse effect on us.
The Investment Company Act provides certain protections and imposes certain restrictions on registered investment companies, none of which are currently applicable to us. Our governing documents do not permit any transfer of shares of our common stock that would result in us becoming subject to regulation as an investment company. If we were required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, we would become subject to substantial regulation with respect to our capital structure (including our 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, and other matters.
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Federal Laws Applicable to the Regulated Cannabis Industry
Cannabis (with the exception of hemp containing no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight) is illegal under U.S. federal law. The U.S. federal government regulates drugs through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, as amended (21 U.S.C. § 801, et seq.) (the “CSA”). Although cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, all but nine states now have some form of cannabis legalization, and more than half of the country’s population live in states that allows for “adult use” of cannabis leading to even more widespread commercialization of cannabis by licensed entities. Additionally, the federal government has made several public statements around state legalization, discussed below, that indicate a willingness to allow the state programs to continue to develop, and, further federal reforms are expected over the next several years. Consistent with that, the federal government has chosen not to interfere with the state-regulated cannabis programs and has not brought criminal enforcement against state law compliant cannabis licensees or those doing business with them for the past nine years.
Nonetheless, the federal government could enforce U.S. drug laws against non-medical companies operating in accordance with state cannabis laws, including our borrowers, creating a climate of legal uncertainty regarding the production and sale of cannabis. Unless and until Congress amends the CSA with respect to cannabis (and the President approves such amendment), there is a risk that the federal law enforcement authorities responsible for enforcing the CSA, including the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”), may reverse course and strictly enforce current federal law against state law compliant cannabis companies.
Any change in the federal government’s enforcement posture with respect to state-licensed commercialization of cannabis, including the enforcement postures of individual federal prosecutors in judicial districts where our borrowers are located, could result in significant losses for our borrowers, and we would likely suffer losses with respect to our investment in such borrowers, which would adversely affect the trading price of our securities. For more information on regulatory risks, see “Risk FactorsRisks Related to the Cannabis Industry and Related Regulations.”
State Regulation of the Cannabis Industry
Forty-one states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam have legalized the commercial sale of cannabis for certain medical purposes. Twenty-four of those states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Northern Mariana have legalized cannabis for adults for non-medical purposes as well (sometimes referred to as adult or recreational use). In most states that have legalized cannabis in some form, the growing, processing and/or dispensing of cannabis is highly regulated and requires that the operator obtain one or more licenses in accordance with applicable state requirements. Local governments in some cases also impose rules and regulations on the manner of operating cannabis businesses. As a result, applicable state and local laws and regulations vary widely, including, but not limited to, who can purchase and grow cannabis, the forms and potencies of cannabis products allowed, product testing, the level of enforcement by state and local authorities on non-licensed cannabis operators, state and local taxation of regulated cannabis products, and local municipality bans on operations and operator licensing processes.
Because cannabis is such a highly regulated industry, we expect a significant amount of our borrower’s management’s time and external resources will be used to comply with the laws, regulations and guidelines that impact their business, and changes thereto, and such compliance may place a significant burden on such management and other resources of our borrowers. Complying with multiple regulatory regimes will require additional resources and may limit our borrowers’ ability to expand into certain jurisdictions. Furthermore, we cannot predict the nature of any future laws, regulations, interpretations or applications, and it is possible that regulations may be enacted in the future that will be materially adverse to the business of our borrowers, and thus materially impact our investments as well.
Human Capital
We are externally-managed by our Manager and do not have any employees. Our officers also serve as officers or employees of our Manager and/or its affiliates. Our Manager’s employees have extensive financing capabilities and experience in originating, underwriting and managing real estate and cash flow financings. We believe our relationship with our Manager provides us with an robust relationship network of cannabis industry operators and commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses as well as significant back-office personnel to assist in origination and management of loans.
Our Manager’s employees are a valuable asset to our operations, and we believe each person is an integrated member of the team and is meaningful to our continued success. Our Manager’s team meets regularly as a full team where each member is encouraged to actively participate in a wide range of topics relating to our operations.
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We believe that our Manager’s ability to attract, develop, engage and retain key personnel is essential to our operations. While we are a young company, having commenced operations in July 2020 and completed our IPO in March 2021, we believe our Manager provides a committed team of employees with substantial experience in each aspect of our operations, including cash flow and real estate lending, construction and real estate development, portfolio management, corporate finance and capital markets.
Additional Information
We file with or submit to the SEC annual, quarterly, and current periodic reports, proxy statements and other information meeting the informational requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”). This information is available on our website at www.afcgamma.com. The information on our website is not, and shall not be deemed to be, a part of this Annual Report or incorporated into any other filings that we make with the SEC. These documents also may be accessed through the SEC’s electronic data gathering, analysis and retrieval system via electronic means, including on the SEC’s homepage, which can be found at www.sec.gov.
Item 1A.    Risk Factors
Risk Factor Summary
Our business and our ability to execute our strategy are subject to many risks. Before making a decision to invest in our common stock, you should carefully consider all of the risks and uncertainties described in the risks set forth below. These risks include, but are not limited to, the following:
We were recently formed and have limited operating history, and may not be able to successfully operate our business, integrate new assets and/or manage our growth or to generate sufficient revenue to make or sustain distributions to our shareholders.
Competition for the capital that we provide may reduce the return of our loans, which could adversely affect our operating results and financial condition.
Our growth and success depends on our external manager, its key personnel and investment professionals, and its ability to make loans on favorable terms that satisfy our investment strategy and otherwise generate attractive risk-adjusted returns; thus, we may experience losses if our external manager overestimates projected yields or incorrectly prices the risks of our loans or if there are any adverse changes in our relationship with our Manager.
Lending to companies operating in the cannabis industry which involves significant risks, including the risk of strict enforcement of federal cannabis laws against our borrowers, our borrowers’ inability to renew or otherwise maintain their licenses or other requisite authorizations for their cannabis operations, and lack of liquidity for such loans.
Our ability to grow or maintain our business depends in part on state laws pertaining to the cannabis industry. New laws that are adverse to our borrowers may be enacted, and current favorable state or national laws or enforcement guidelines relating to cultivation, production and distribution of cannabis may be modified or eliminated in the future, which would impede our ability to grow our business under our current business plan and could materially adversely affect our business.
As a debt investor, we are often not in a position to exert influence on borrowers, and the shareholders and management of such companies may make decisions that could decrease the value of loans made to such borrower.
Our growth depends on external sources of capital, which may not be available on favorable terms or at all.
Interest rate fluctuations could increase our financing costs, which could lead to a significant decrease in our results of operations, cash flows and the market value of our loans.
Maintenance of our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act may impose significant limits on our operation, and failure to maintain our exempt status under the Investment Company Act could have an adverse effect on our financial results.
Failure to qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes would cause us to be taxed as a regular corporation, which would substantially reduce funds available for distributions to our shareholders.
We may incur significant debt, and our governing documents and current credit facility contain no limit on the amount of debt we may incur.
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We may in the future pay distributions from sources other than our cash flow from operations, including borrowings, offering proceeds or the sale of assets, which means we will have less funds available for investments or less income-producing assets and your overall return may be reduced.
If any of the factors enumerated above or in “Risk Factors” occurs, our business, financial condition, liquidity, results of operations and prospects could be materially and adversely affected. In that case, the trading price of our common stock could decline, and you may lose some or all of your investment.
Set forth below are the risks that we believe are material to our business. Any of these risks could significantly and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. You should carefully consider the risks described below, together with the other information included in this Annual Report, including the information contained under the caption “Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements”.
Risks Related to Our Business and Growth Strategy
We were recently formed and have limited operating history, and may not be able to operate our business successfully or to generate sufficient revenue to make or sustain distributions to our shareholders.
We were formed on July 6, 2020, began operations on July 31, 2020, and have limited operating history. As of December 31, 2023, our portfolio consisted of loans to 12 different borrowers (such portfolio, our ‘‘Existing Portfolio’’). We are subject to all of the business risks and uncertainties associated with any new business, including the risk that we will not achieve our investment objectives and that the value of your investment could decline substantially. We cannot assure you that we will be able to operate our business successfully or profitably, or implement our operating policies. Our ability to provide attractive returns to our shareholders is dependent on our ability both to generate sufficient cash flow to pay our investors attractive distributions and to achieve capital appreciation, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to do either. There can be no assurance that we will be able to generate sufficient revenue from operations to pay our operating expenses and make or sustain distributions to shareholders. Our limited resources may also materially and adversely impact our ability to successfully implement our business plan. The results of our operations and the implementation of our business plan depend on several factors, including the availability of opportunities to make loans, the availability of adequate equity and debt financing, the performance of the commercial real estate sector (which are described below under “–Risks Related to the Commercial Real Estate Sector”), the federal and state regulatory environment relating to the cannabis industry (which are described below under “–Risks Related to the Cannabis Industry and Related Regulations”), conditions in the financial markets and economic conditions.
Competition for the capital that we provide may reduce the return of our loans, which could adversely affect our operating results and financial condition.
We compete as an institutional lender to commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses, with a specialization in debt financing to cannabis industry operators in states that have legalized medical and/or adult-use cannabis. An increasing number of competitors have recently entered the marketplace, and these competitors may prevent us from making attractive loans on favorable terms. We expect over time that the increasing number of competitors will likely result in yields that are lower than our current yields. Our competitors may have greater resources than we do and may be able to compete more effectively as a capital provider. In particular, larger companies may enjoy significant competitive advantages that result from, among other things, a lower cost of capital and enhanced operating efficiencies.
Additionally, some of our competitors may have higher risk tolerances or different risk assessments, which could allow them to consider a wider variety of loans, deploy more aggressive pricing and establish more relationships than us. Our competitors may also adopt loan structures similar to ours, which would decrease our competitive advantage in offering flexible loan terms. In addition, due to a number of factors (including but not limited to potentially greater clarity and/or unification of the laws and regulations governing cannabis by states and the federal government including through federal legislation or rescheduling or descheduling of cannabis, which may, in turn, encourage additional federally-chartered banks to provide their services to cannabis-related businesses), the number of entities and the amount of funds competing to provide suitable capital may increase, resulting in loans with terms less favorable to us. Moreover, we strategically benefit from the cannabis industry’s currently constrained access to U.S. capital markets and if such access is broadened, including if the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”) and/or the Nasdaq Stock Market were to permit the listing of plant-touching cannabis companies in the U.S., the demand among U.S. cannabis companies for private equity investments and debt financings, including our target loans, may materially decrease and could result in our competing with financial institutions that we otherwise would not. Any of the foregoing may lead to a decrease in our profitability, and you may experience a lower return on your investment. Increased competition in providing capital may also preclude us from making those loans that would generate attractive returns to us.
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If we are unable to successfully integrate new assets and manage our growth, our results of operations and financial condition may suffer.
We may in the future significantly increase the size and/or change the mix of our portfolio of assets. We may be unable to successfully and efficiently integrate new assets into our existing portfolio or otherwise effectively manage our assets or our growth effectively. In addition, increases in our portfolio of assets and/or changes in the mix of our assets may place significant demands on our Manager’s administrative, operational, asset management, financial and other resources. Any failure to manage increases in size effectively could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
We will allocate our cash on hand and the proceeds of our financing activities without input from our shareholders.
While we intend to use our cash on hand and the proceeds from our financing activities to originate and participate in commercial loans and other debt investments to companies operating in the cannabis industry, as well as equity interest in real estate investment trusts, in each case, that are consistent with our investment strategy, our shareholders will not be able to evaluate the exact manner in which our cash or the proceeds from our financing activities will be invested in the future or the economic merit of our future loans and other debt investments. As a result, we may use our cash on hand and/or the proceeds from our financing activities to invest in loans with which our shareholders may not agree. Additionally, our loans will be selected by our Manager with input from the members of the Investment Committee, and our shareholders will not have input into such investment decisions. Both of these factors will increase the uncertainty, and thus the risk, of investing in our securities. The failure of our Manager to apply our cash and/or the proceeds of our financing activities effectively or to find loans that meet our loan criteria in sufficient time or on acceptable terms could result in unfavorable returns, could cause a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity, results of operations and ability to make distributions to our shareholders, and could cause the value of our securities to decline.
Pending application of our cash on hand and the proceeds of any financing activities, we may invest such cash and proceeds in interest-bearing, short-term investments, including money market accounts or funds, commercial mortgage-backed securities, corporate bonds, certain debt securities (including seller notes), equity interests of real estate investment trusts and other investments, which are consistent with our intention to qualify as a REIT and to maintain our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act. These investments would be expected to provide a lower net return than we seek to achieve from investment in our target loans and investments. We expect to reallocate any such investments into our target portfolio within specified time frames, subject to the availability of appropriate investment opportunities. Our Manager intends to conduct due diligence with respect to each investment and suitable investment opportunities may not be immediately available. Even if opportunities are available, there can be no assurance that our Manager’s due diligence processes will uncover all relevant facts or that any investment will be successful.
We cannot assure you that (i) we will be able to enter into definitive agreements to invest in any new loans or other investments that meet our investment objectives, (ii) we will be successful in consummating any investment opportunities we identify or (iii) any of the investment we may make using our cash on hand and proceeds of any financing activities will yield attractive risk-adjusted returns. Our inability to do any of the foregoing likely would materially and adversely affect our business and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
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Our loans’ lack of liquidity may adversely affect our business.
Our Existing Portfolio includes, and our future loans will likely include, loans to private companies, which are less liquid than publicly traded securities. Certain of our target investments such as secured loans are also particularly illiquid due to a variety of factors, which may include a short life, potential unsuitability for securitization and greater difficulty of recovery in the event of a default or insolvency by the company to which we have provided a loan. The illiquidity of our loans may make it difficult for us to sell such loans if the need or desire arises. Further, applicable laws and regulations restricting the ownership and transferability of loans to regulated cannabis companies in conjunction with many parties not wishing to invest in cannabis businesses as a result of cannabis being federally illegal may make it difficult for us to sell or transfer such loans to third parties. In addition, many of the loans we make, to the extent they constitute securities, will not be registered under the relevant securities laws, resulting in a prohibition against their transfer, sale, pledge or disposition except in a transaction that is exempt from the registration requirements of, or otherwise in accordance with, those laws. As a result, we may be unable to dispose of such loans in a timely manner or at all. If we are required and able to liquidate all or a portion of our portfolio quickly, we could realize significantly less value than that which we had previously recorded for our loans and we cannot assure you that we will be able to sell our assets at a profit in the future. Further, we may face other restrictions on our ability to liquidate a loan in a company to the extent that we or our Manager have or could be attributed as having material, non-public information regarding such company. Our ability to vary our portfolio in response to changes in economic, regulatory and other conditions or changes in our strategic plan may therefore be relatively limited, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Our Existing Portfolio is, and our future portfolio may be, concentrated in a limited number of loans, which subjects us to an increased risk of significant loss if any asset declines in value or if a particular borrower fails to perform as expected.
Our Existing Portfolio is, and our future loans may be, concentrated in a limited number of loans in a limited number of sectors. The cannabis industry is experiencing significant consolidation, which we expect to increase, among cannabis operators and certain of our borrowers may combine, increasing the concentration of our borrower portfolio with those consolidated operators. If a significant loan to one or more companies fails to perform as expected, such a failure could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results, and the magnitude of such effect could be more significant than if we had further diversified our portfolio. A consequence of this limited number of loans is that the aggregate returns we realize may be significantly adversely affected if a small number of loans perform poorly, if we need to write down the value of any one loan, if a loan is repaid prior to maturity and we are not able to promptly redeploy the proceeds and/or if an issuer is unable to obtain and maintain commercial success. While we intend to diversify our portfolio of loans as we deem prudent, we do not have fixed guidelines for diversification. As a result, our portfolio could be concentrated in relatively few loans and in a limited number of borrowers.
Our portfolio of loans is, and in the future may be, concentrated in certain property types or in particular industries, such as cannabis or commercial real estate (until the anticipated Spin-Off effective date), that are subject to higher risk of foreclosure, or secured by properties concentrated in a limited number of geographic locations. Economic and business downturns relating generally to such region or type of asset may result in defaults on a number of our loans within a short time period, which may reduce our net income and the value of our common stock and accordingly reduce our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders. 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, forbearance, 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 could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results.
We may lend to multiple borrowers that share a common sponsor. We do not have a limit on the amount that can be held by multiple borrowers that share the same sponsor. We may face greater credit risk to the extent a large portion of our portfolio is concentrated in loans to multiple borrowers that share the same sponsor.
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Our Existing Portfolio contains loans to companies with operations that are geographically concentrated in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and we will be subject to social, political and economic risks of doing business in those states and any other state in which we in the future have lending exposure.
Our Existing Portfolio contains loans to companies with operations that are geographically concentrated in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Circumstances and developments related to operations in these markets that could negatively affect our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations include, but are not limited to, the following factors:
the development and growth of applicable state cannabis markets (for example, the increase in additional dispensaries in certain states have diluted the value of the pre-existing dispensaries);
the responsibility of complying with multiple and likely conflicting state and federal laws, including with respect to retail sale, distribution, cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis, licensing, banking, and insurance;
unexpected changes in regulatory requirements and other laws, in particular licensing requirements;
difficulties and costs of managing operations in certain locations;
potentially adverse tax consequences;
the impact of national, regional or state specific business cycles and economic instability; and
access to capital may be more restricted, or unavailable on favorable terms or at all in certain locations.
Loans to relatively new and/or small companies and companies operating in the cannabis industry generally involve significant risks.
We primarily provide loans to established companies operating in the cannabis industry, but because the cannabis industry is relatively new and rapidly evolving, some of our loans may be with relatively new and/or small companies. Loans to relatively new and/or small companies and companies operating in the cannabis industry generally involve a number of significant risks, including, but not limited to, the following:
these companies may have limited financial resources and may be unable to meet their obligations, which may be accompanied by a deterioration in the value of any collateral securing our loan, a reduction in the likelihood of us realizing a return on our loan or the need to recognize a partial or complete loss on our loan;
they typically have shorter operating histories, narrower product lines and smaller market shares than larger and more established businesses, which tend to render them more vulnerable to competitors’ actions and market conditions (including conditions in the cannabis industry), as well as general economic downturns;
they typically depend on the management talents and efforts of a small group of persons; therefore, the death, disability, resignation or termination of one or more of these persons could have a material adverse effect on such borrower and, in turn, on us;
there are a limited number of management teams in the cannabis industry that have U.S. public company experience. As a result, the management team of a borrower may not be familiar with U.S. securities laws and may have to expend time and resources becoming familiar with such laws;
there is generally less public information about these companies. Unless publicly traded, these companies and their financial information are generally not subject to the regulations that govern public companies, and we may be unable to uncover all material information about these companies, which may prevent us from making a fully informed lending decision and cause us to lose money on our loans;
they generally have less predictable operating results and may require substantial additional capital to support their operations, finance expansion or maintain their competitive position;
there is generally less market forecast information about the cannabis industry, making it difficult for our borrowers to forecast demand. If the market does not develop as a borrower expects, it could have a material adverse effect on its business;
we, our executive officers and directors and our Manager may, in the ordinary course of business, be named as defendants in litigation arising from our loans to such borrowers and may, as a result, incur significant costs and expenses in connection with such litigation and/or related indemnification obligations;
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changes in laws and regulations, as well as their interpretations, may have a disproportionate adverse effect on their business, financial structure or prospects compared to those of larger and more established companies; and
they may have difficulty accessing capital from other providers on favorable terms or at all.
For example, the loan parties to the Public Company A loans previously defaulted on certain covenants under the applicable agreements governing their real estate loan and equipment loan in which we have a participation. These defaults resulted from, among other things, the loan parties’ failure to timely pay taxes due, incurrence of mechanic’s liens and tax liens on assets, failure to notify the lenders of such failure to pay and incurrence of liens, failure to make certain principal and interest payments and pay certain fees, failure to make payment obligations owed to third party creditors and failure to enter into specified debt restructuring transactions. Such defaults were unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since October 2020, the lenders under the Public Company A real estate loan and equipment loan have, subject to certain terms and conditions, granted a number of forbearances and entered into several modification agreements with Public Company A and the other loan parties. Under our participation agreements with the lenders of the Public Company A loans, the lenders must seek our consent in connection with any modifications to the terms of the Public Company A loans or any forbearance agreements.
The loan parties to the Public Company A loans are currently in default under both the real estate loan documents and the equipment loan documents, including for failure to timely make certain principal and interest payments thereunder. The lenders are in discussions with Public Company A regarding additional modifications to the Public Company A loans. In October 2022, the parent company of Public Company A, which is also a guarantor of the Public Company A loans, along with its Canadian subsidiaries (“Public Company A Affiliates”), filed for bankruptcy protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act in Canada. As of October 1, 2022, we placed our loan participations involving Public Company A on non-accrual status. During the year ended December 31, 2023, the credit facility with Public Company A matured without repayment. The agent on the credit facility has placed the borrower in default, and we recorded a realized loss of approximately $(1.2) million relating to the Public Company A real estate loan held at fair value and the Public Company A equipment loan receivable held at carrying value has an outstanding principal amount of approximately $2.0 million as of December 31, 2023.
We may need to foreclose on loans that are in default, which could result in losses.
We may find it necessary to foreclose on loans that are in default. Foreclosure processes are often lengthy and expensive. Results of foreclosure processes may be uncertain, as claims may be asserted by the relevant borrower or by other creditors or investors in such borrower that interfere with enforcement of our rights, such as claims that challenge the validity or enforceability of our loan or the priority or perfection of our security interests. Our borrowers may resist foreclosure actions by asserting numerous claims, counterclaims and defenses against us, including, without limitation, lender liability claims and defenses, even when the assertions may have no merit, in an effort to prolong the foreclosure action and seek to force us into a modification or buy-out of our loan for less than we are owed. Additionally, the transfer of certain collateral to us may be limited or prohibited by applicable laws and regulations. See “The loans that are in our Existing Portfolio or that we expect to make in the future may be secured by properties, that are, and will be, subject to extensive regulations, such that if such collateral was foreclosed upon those regulations may result in significant costs and materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.” For transferable collateral, foreclosure or other remedies available may be subject to certain laws and regulations, including the need for regulatory disclosure and/or approval of such transfer. If federal law were to change to permit cannabis companies to seek federal bankruptcy protection, the applicable borrower could file for bankruptcy, which would have the effect of staying the foreclosure actions and delaying the foreclosure processes and potentially result in reductions or discharges of debt owed to us. Foreclosure may create a negative public perception of the collateral property, resulting in a diminution of its value. Even if we are successful in foreclosing on collateral property securing our loan, the liquidation proceeds upon sale of the underlying real estate may not be sufficient to recover our loan. Any costs or delays involved in the foreclosure or a liquidation of the underlying property will reduce the net proceeds realized and, thus, increase the potential for loss.
In the event a borrower defaults on any of its obligations to us and such debt obligations are equitized, we do not intend to directly hold such equity interests, which may result in additional losses on our loans in such entity.
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We will not own real estate as long as it is used in the commercial sale of cannabis due to current statutory prohibitions and exchange listing standards, which may delay or limit our remedies in the event that any of our borrowers default under the terms of their loans with us.
Although we have the contractual ability to foreclose on, and take title to, the collateral securing our loans upon a default by the borrower, we will not take title to and own such real estate collateral as long as it is used in cannabis-related operations due to current statutory prohibitions, including Section 856 of the CSA, which relates to the management or control of properties that are used for the manufacturing, distributing or using of any controlled substances. Until that law changes, taking title to real estate used in cannabis-related activities or owning equity in cannabis-related businesses would also violate Nasdaq listing requirements. These restrictions related to real property used in cannabis-related operations may cause significant delays or difficulties in deriving value from those properties. In addition, any alternative uses of cannabis-related properties may be limited due to the specialized nature of the facilities or may be less profitable than the cannabis-related operations, which would adversely affect the value of the collateral securing our loans and could result in the sale of such property at a loss. Because the sale of collateral may be forced upon the borrower at such point when time may be of the essence, and the assets may be made available to a limited number of potential purchasers, particularly in those limited-license states in which we focus, the sales prices may be less than the prices obtained with more time in a larger market. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
The properties securing our loans may be subject to contingent or unknown liabilities that could adversely affect the value of these properties, and as a result, our loans.
Properties securing our loans may be subject to contingent, unknown or unquantifiable liabilities that may adversely affect the value of our loans. Such defects or deficiencies may include title defects, title disputes, liens or other encumbrances on properties securing our loans to borrowers. The discovery of such unknown defects, deficiencies and liabilities could affect the ability of our borrowers to make payments to us or could affect our ability to foreclose and sell the properties securing such loans, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. Further, we, our executive officers, directors and our Manager may, in the ordinary course of business, be named as defendants in litigation arising from our loans.
We may in the future foreclose and acquire properties without any recourse, or with only limited recourse, against the prior property owner with respect to contingent or unknown liabilities. As a result, if a claim were asserted against us based on ownership of any of these properties, we may have to pay substantial amounts to defend or settle the claim. If the magnitude of such unknown liabilities is high, individually or in the aggregate, our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations would be materially and adversely affected.
Construction loans involve an increased risk of loss.
Our portfolio and current pipeline includes construction loans and we may continue to invest in such loans in the future. 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, but not limited to: a loss of the value of the property securing the loan, especially if the borrower is unable to raise funds to complete it from other sources; a borrower’s 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.
Our investments in construction loans require us to make estimates about the fair value of land improvements that may be challenged by the Internal Revenue Service.
We invest in construction loans, the interest from which would be qualifying income for purposes of the gross income tests applicable to REITs, provided that the loan value of the real property securing the construction loan was equal to or greater than the highest outstanding principal amount of the construction loan during any taxable year. For purposes of construction loans, the loan value of the real property is generally the fair value of the land plus the reasonably estimated cost of the improvements or developments (other than personal property) that secure the loan and that are to be constructed from the proceeds of the loan. There can be no assurance that the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) would not challenge our estimates of the loan values of the real property.
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Our borrowers may be unable to renew or otherwise maintain their licenses or other requisite authorizations for their cannabis operations, which may result in such borrowers not being able to operate their businesses and defaulting on their payments to us.
Our borrowers operating in state-regulated cannabis markets are required to maintain the requisite state and local cannabis licenses and other authorizations on a continuous basis. If one or more of these borrowers are unable to renew or otherwise maintain its licenses or other state and local authorizations necessary to continue its cannabis operations, such borrowers may default on their payments to us. Any payment defaults by a borrower could adversely affect our cash flows and we may also experience delays in enforcing our rights as a lender and may incur substantial costs in protecting our investment.
If our Manager overestimates the yields or incorrectly prices the risks of our loans, we may experience losses.
Our Manager values our potential loans based on yields and risks, taking into account estimated future losses and the collateral securing a potential loan, if any, and the estimated impact of these losses on expected future cash flows, returns and appreciation. Our Manager’s loss estimates and expectations of future cash flows, returns and appreciation may not prove accurate, as actual results may vary from estimates and expectations. If our Manager underestimates the asset-level losses or overestimates loan yields relative to the price we pay for a particular loan, we may experience losses with respect to such loan.
Some of our portfolio loans may be recorded at fair value and, as a result, there will be uncertainty as to the value of these loans.
Some of our portfolio loans may be in the form of positions or securities that are not publicly traded. The fair value of securities and loans that are not publicly traded may not be readily determinable. Subject to the discretion of the Audit and Valuation Committee of our Board, we may value these loans quarterly, or more frequently as circumstances dictate, at fair value, which may include unobservable inputs. Because such valuations are subjective, the fair value of certain of our assets may fluctuate over short periods of time and our determinations of fair value may differ materially from the values that would have been used if a ready market for these loans existed. Our results of operations for a given period and the value of our securities generally could be adversely affected if our determinations regarding the fair value of these loans were materially higher than the values that we ultimately realize upon their disposal. The valuation process can be particularly challenging, especially if market events make valuations of certain assets more difficult, unpredictable and volatile.
Declines in market prices and liquidity in the capital markets can result in significant net unrealized depreciation of our portfolio, which in turn would reduce our net asset value.
Volatility in the capital markets can adversely affect our loan valuations. Decreases in the market values or fair values of our loans are recorded as unrealized depreciation. The effect of all of these factors on our portfolio can reduce our net asset value (and, as a result our asset coverage calculation) by increasing net unrealized depreciation in our portfolio. Depending on market conditions, we could incur substantial realized and/or unrealized losses, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Provisions for loan losses are difficult to estimate.
In June 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) issued Accounting Standards Update (“ASU”) No. 2016-13 Financial Instruments — Credit Losses — Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments (Topic 326) (“ASU No. 2016-13”) (the “CECL Standard”). This update changed how entities will measure credit losses for most financial assets and certain other instruments that are not measured at fair value. The CECL Standard replaced the “incurred loss” approach under existing guidance with an “expected loss” model for instruments measured at amortized cost. The CECL Standard requires entities to record allowances (“CECL Allowances”) on certain financial assets carried at amortized cost, such as loans held for investment and held-to-maturity debt securities that are deducted from the carrying amount of the assets to present the net carrying value at the amounts expected to be collected on the assets. We have adopted the CECL Standard as of July 31, 2020, the date of commencement of our operations. The CECL Standard can create volatility in the level of our CECL Allowances for loan losses. If we are required to materially increase our level of CECL Allowances for loan losses for any reason, such increase could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
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Our CECL Allowances are evaluated on a quarterly basis. The determination of CECL Allowances require us to make certain estimates and judgments, which may be difficult to determine. Our estimates and judgments are based on a number of factors, including (i) whether cash from the borrower’s operations is sufficient to cover the debt service requirements currently and into the future, (ii) the ability of the borrower to refinance the loan and (iii) the liquidation value of collateral, all of which remain uncertain and are subjective.
The loans and other assets we will obtain may be subject to impairment charges, and we may experience a decline in the fair value of our assets.
We will periodically evaluate the loans we obtain and other assets for impairment indicators. The judgment regarding the existence of impairment indicators is based upon factors such as market conditions, borrower performance and legal structure. If we determine that an impairment has occurred, we would be required to make an adjustment to the net carrying value of the asset which could have an adverse effect on our results of operations in the period in which the impairment charge is recorded.
Such impairment charges reflect non-cash losses at the time of recognition and a subsequent disposition or sale of impaired assets could further affect our future losses or gains as they are based on the difference between the sale price received and the cost of such assets at the time of sale, as may be adjusted for amortization. If we experience a decline in the fair value of our assets, our results of operations, financial condition and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders could be materially and adversely affected.
Any credit ratings assigned to our loans will be subject to ongoing evaluations and revisions, and we cannot assure you that those ratings will not be downgraded.
Some of our loans may be rated by rating agencies such as Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s, DBRS, Inc. or Realpoint LLC. Any credit ratings on our loans are subject to ongoing evaluation by credit rating agencies, and we cannot assure you that any such ratings will not be changed or withdrawn by a rating agency in the future if, in its judgment, circumstances warrant. If rating agencies assign a lower-than-expected rating or reduce or withdraw, or indicate that they may reduce or withdraw, their ratings of our loans in the future, the value of our loans could significantly decline, which would adversely affect the value of our portfolio and could result in losses upon disposition or, in the case of our loans, otherwise imply a potential failure of borrowers to satisfy their debt service obligations to us.
Economic recessions or downturns could impair our borrowers and harm our operating results.
Because the operations of our borrowers are heavily dependent on retail sales, many of our borrowers may be susceptible to economic downturns or recessions and, during such periods, may be unable to satisfy their debt service obligations to us. Therefore, during these periods, our non-performing assets may increase and the value of our portfolio may decrease if we are required to write-down the values of our loans. Adverse economic conditions may also decrease the value of collateral securing some of our loans. Economic slowdowns or recessions could lead to financial losses in our portfolio and a decrease in our revenues, net income and asset values.
A borrower’s failure to satisfy financial or operating covenants imposed by us or other creditors could lead to defaults and, potentially, acceleration of the time when its debt obligations are due and foreclosure on its assets representing collateral for its obligations, which could trigger cross-defaults under other agreements and jeopardize our borrower’s ability to meet its obligations under the loans that we hold. We may incur expenses to the extent necessary to seek recovery upon default or to negotiate new terms with a defaulting borrower.
Our loans may be risky, and we could lose all or part of our loan.
The debt that we invest in is typically not initially rated by any rating agency, but we believe that if such loans were rated, they would be below investment grade (rated lower than “Baa3” by Moody’s Investors Service, lower than “BBB-” by Fitch Ratings or lower than “BBB-” by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services), which under the guidelines established by these entities is an indication of having predominantly speculative characteristics with respect to the underlying company’s capacity to pay interest and repay principal. Therefore, certain of our loans may result in an above average amount of risk and volatility or loss of principal. While the loans we invest in are often secured, such security does not guarantee that we will receive principal and interest payments according to the terms of the loan, or that the value of any collateral will be sufficient to allow us to recover all or a portion of the outstanding amount of such loan should we be forced to enforce our remedies.
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We may in the future enter into credit agreements with borrowers that may permit them to incur debt that ranks equally with, or senior to, the loans we extend to such companies under such credit agreements.
As of December 31, 2023, all of our borrowers are generally restricted, under our applicable credit agreements with such borrowers, from incurring any debt that ranks equally with, or senior to, our loans. Although our intended investment strategy is to construct a portfolio of loans secured with first priority liens on certain assets of our borrowers, we may in the future enter into credit agreements that rank equally with, or are subordinated to, other debt of our borrowers or that otherwise permit our borrowers to incur other debt that ranks equally with, or senior to, our loans under such credit agreements. In such case, such instruments may, by their terms, provide that the holders of such other debt are entitled to receive payment of interest or principal on or before the dates on which we are entitled to receive payments in respect of our loans. These instruments may prohibit borrowers from paying interest on or repaying our loans in the event and during the continuance of a default under such instrument or upon the occurrence of other specified events. In certain cases, we may, and may continue to, obtain unsecured guarantees from the parent entities or subsidiaries of our borrowers in addition to the collateral provided by such borrowers and such guarantees may be effectively subordinated to any secured debt of any such entities and/or structurally subordinated to any debt of such subsidiaries. Also, in the event of insolvency, liquidation, dissolution, reorganization or bankruptcy of a borrower, holders of securities ranking senior to our loan to that borrower, if any, typically are entitled to receive payment in full before we can receive any distribution in respect of our loan. After repaying such holders, the borrower may not have any remaining assets to use for repaying its obligation to us. In the case of securities or other debt ranking equally with our loans, we would have to share on an equal basis any distributions with other security holders in the event of an insolvency, liquidation, dissolution, reorganization or bankruptcy of the relevant borrower.
Our borrowers may be highly leveraged.
Some of our borrowers may be highly leveraged, which may have adverse consequences to these companies and to us as an investor. These companies may be subject to restrictive financial and operating covenants and the leverage may impair these companies’ ability to finance their future operations and capital needs. As a result, these companies’ flexibility to respond to changing business and economic conditions and to take advantage of business opportunities may be limited. Further, a leveraged company’s income and net assets will tend to increase or decrease at a greater rate than if borrowed money were not used.
There may be circumstances in which our loans could be subordinated to claims of other creditors, or we could be subject to lender liability claims.
If one of our borrowers were to go bankrupt, depending on the facts and circumstances, a bankruptcy court might re-characterize our loan and subordinate all or a portion of our claim to that of other creditors. In addition, we could be subject to lender liability claims if we are deemed to be too involved in a borrower’s business or exercise control over such borrower. For example, we could become subject to a lender’s liability claim, if, among other things, we actually render significant managerial assistance to a borrower to which we have provided a loan.
As a debt investor, we are often not in a position to exert influence on borrowers, and the shareholders and management of such companies may make decisions that could decrease the value of loans to such borrower.
As a debt investor, we are subject to the risk that a borrower may make business decisions with which we disagree and the shareholders and management of such company may take risks or otherwise act in ways that do not serve our interests. As a result, a borrower may make decisions that could decrease the value of our loan to such borrower.
Due to our borrowers’ involvement in the regulated cannabis industry, we and our borrowers have, and may continue to have, a difficult time obtaining or maintaining the various insurance policies that are desired to operate our business, which may expose us to additional risk and financial liabilities.
Insurance that is otherwise readily available, such as workers’ compensation, general liability, title insurance and directors’ and officers’ insurance, is more difficult for us and our borrowers to find and more expensive, because of our borrowers’ involvement in the regulated cannabis industry. There are no guarantees that we or our borrowers will be able to find such insurance now or in the future, or that such insurance will be available on economically viable terms. If we or our borrowers are forced to go without such insurance, it may prevent us from entering into certain business sectors, may inhibit our growth, may expose us to additional risk and financial liabilities and, in the case of an uninsured loss, may result in the loss of anticipated cash flow or the value of our loan.
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Our insurance policies may not cover all losses.
There are certain types of losses, generally of a catastrophic nature, such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, terrorism or acts of war, which 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 result in insurance proceeds insufficient to repair or replace an asset if it is damaged or destroyed. Under these circumstances, the insurance proceeds received with respect to an asset relating to one of our loans might not be adequate to restore our economic position with respect to our loan. Any uninsured loss could result in the loss of anticipated cash flow from, and the asset value of, the affected asset and the value of our loan related to such asset.
Subject to the approval of our Board (which must include a majority of our independent directors), our Manager may change our investment strategies or guidelines, financing strategies or leverage policies without the consent of our shareholders.
Subject to the approval of our Board (which must include a majority of our independent directors), our Manager may change our investment strategies or guidelines, financing strategies or leverage policies with respect to loans, originations, acquisitions, growth, operations, indebtedness, capitalization and distributions at any time without the consent of our shareholders, which could result in a portfolio with a different risk profile than that of our Existing Portfolio or of a portfolio comprised of our target loans. A change in our investment strategy may increase our exposure to interest rate risk, default risk and real estate market and cannabis industry fluctuations. Furthermore, a change in our asset allocation could result in our making loans in asset categories different from those described in this Annual Report. These changes could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations, the market price of our equity and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
Changes in laws or regulations governing our operations, including laws and regulations governing cannabis and REITs, changes in the interpretation thereof or newly enacted laws or regulations and any failure by us to comply with these laws or regulations, could require changes to certain of our business practices, negatively impact our operations, cash flow or financial condition, impose additional costs on us or otherwise adversely affect our business.
We are subject to regulation by laws and regulations at the local, state and federal levels, including laws and regulations governing cannabis and REITs by state and federal governments. These laws and regulations, as well as their interpretation, may change from time to time, and new laws and regulations may be enacted. We cannot predict the nature and timing of future laws, regulations, interpretations or applications, or their potential effect. However, any change in these laws or regulations, changes in their interpretation, or newly enacted laws or regulations and any failure by us to comply with current or new laws or regulations or such changes thereto, could require changes to certain of our business practices, negatively impact our operations, cash flow or financial condition, impose additional costs on us or otherwise adversely affect our business.
We may not be able to obtain or maintain required licenses and authorizations to conduct our business and may fail to comply with various state and federal laws and regulations applicable to our business.
In general, lending is a highly regulated industry in the United States and we are required to comply with, among other statutes and regulations, certain provisions of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 (the “Equal Credit Opportunity Act”) that are applicable to commercial loans, the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (the “USA Patriot Act”), regulations promulgated by the Office of Foreign Asset Control, various laws, rules and regulations related to the cannabis industry and U.S. federal and state securities laws and regulations. In addition, certain states have adopted laws or regulations that may, among other requirements, require licensing of lenders and financiers, prescribe disclosures of certain contractual terms, impose limitations on interest rates and other charges, and limit or prohibit certain collection practices and creditor remedies.
There is no guarantee that we will be able to obtain, maintain or renew any required licenses or authorizations, which vary state-to-state, to conduct our business or that we would not experience significant delays in obtaining these licenses and authorizations. As a result, we could be delayed in conducting certain business if we were first required to obtain certain licenses or authorizations or if renewals thereof were delayed. For example, our approval by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which required background checks and fingerprinting, took over two months to obtain. Furthermore, once licenses are issued and authorizations are obtained, we are required to comply with various information reporting and other regulatory requirements to maintain those licenses and authorizations, and there is no assurance that we will be able to satisfy those requirements or other regulatory requirements applicable to our business on an ongoing basis, which may restrict our business and could expose us to penalties or other claims.
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Any failure to obtain, maintain or renew required licenses and authorizations or failure to comply with regulatory requirements that are applicable to our business could result in material fines and disruption to our business and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, operating results and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
Unstable market and economic conditions may have serious adverse consequences on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Global credit and financial markets have experienced extreme volatility and disruptions recently, including declines in consumer confidence, concerns about declines in economic growth, increases in the rate of inflation, increases in borrowing rates and changes in liquidity and credit availability, and uncertainty about economic stability, including most recently in connection with actions the Federal Reserve Board may take to address inflation and the conflicts in Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas. There can be no assurance that further deterioration in credit and financial markets and confidence in economic conditions will not occur. Our general business strategy may be adversely affected by any such economic downturn, volatile business environment or continued unpredictable and unstable market conditions. Our business could also be impacted by volatility caused by geopolitical events, such as the conflicts in Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas. Such reductions may disproportionately affect our revenue. In addition, if the current equity and credit markets deteriorate, or do not improve, it may make any necessary debt or equity financing more difficult, more costly, and more dilutive. Furthermore, our stock price may decline due in part to the volatility of the stock market and the general economic downturn.
We rely on information technology in our operations, and security breaches and other disruptions in our systems could compromise our information and expose us to liability, which would cause our business and reputation to suffer.
In the ordinary course of our business, we collect and store sensitive data, including intellectual property, our proprietary business information and that of our borrowers and business partners, including personally identifiable information of our borrowers and employees, if any, on our networks. Despite our security measures, our information technology and infrastructure may be vulnerable to attacks by hackers or breached due to employee error, malfeasance or other disruptions. These incidents may be an intentional attack or an unintentional event and could involve gaining unauthorized access to our information systems or those of our borrowers for purposes of misappropriating assets, stealing confidential information, corrupting data or causing operational disruption. Any such breach could compromise our networks and the information stored there could be accessed, publicly disclosed, lost or stolen. The result of these incidents may include disrupted operations, misstated or unreliable financial data, liability for stolen assets or information, increased cybersecurity protection and insurance costs, litigation, damage to business relationships and regulatory fines and penalties. The costs related to cyber or other security threats or disruptions may not be fully insured or indemnified by other means. Although we intend to implement processes, procedures and internal controls to help mitigate cybersecurity risks and cyber intrusions, such measures will not guarantee that a cyber-incident will not occur and/or that our financial results, operations or confidential information will not be negatively impacted by such an incident. In addition, cybersecurity has become a top priority for regulators around the world, and some jurisdictions have enacted laws requiring companies to notify individuals of data security breaches involving certain types of personal data. If we fail to comply with the relevant laws and regulations, we could suffer financial losses, a disruption of our business, liability to investors, regulatory intervention or reputational damage.
The future outbreak of any other epidemic, pandemic or highly infectious or contagious diseases could materially and adversely impact or cause disruption to our borrowers and their operations, and in turn our ability to continue to execute our business plan.
The future outbreak of any other epidemic, pandemic or highly infectious or contagious diseases (including future outbreaks of variants of COVID-19) could have material and adverse effects on our borrowers and their operations, as well as on our performance, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows due to, among other factors:
a complete or partial closure of, or other operational issues at, one or more of our borrowers’ locations resulting from government or such company’s actions;
the temporary inability of consumers and patients to purchase our borrowers’ cannabis products due to a number of factors, including, but not limited to, illness, dispensary closures or limitations on operations, quarantine, financial hardship, and “stay at home” orders;
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difficulty accessing equity and debt 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 that may affect our access to capital necessary to fund business operations and our borrowers’ ability to fund their business operations and meet their obligations to us;
because of the federal regulatory uncertainty relating to the regulated cannabis industry, our borrowers being ineligible for financial relief available to other businesses;
delays in construction at the properties of our borrowers, which may adversely impact their ability to commence operations and generate revenues from projects; and
the potential negative impact on the health of our personnel, particularly if a significant number of them are impacted, resulting in a deterioration in our ability to ensure business continuity during a disruption.
The extent to which future public health crises ultimately impacts our operations and those of our borrowers will depend on numerous factors that are beyond our control, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted at this time. Future public health crises present material uncertainty and risk with respect to our performance, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Risks Related to the Commercial Real Estate Sector
The allocation of capital among our investment opportunities in the commercial real estate sector may vary, which may adversely affect our financial performance.
We have recently expanded our investment guidelines to deploy capital in attractive lending opportunities secured by commercial real estate. Our expanded investment guidelines now include (i) first and second lien loans secured by mortgages to commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses that are not related to the cannabis industry, (ii) the ownership of non-cannabis related real property assets, and (iii) mortgage-backed securities. The allocation of capital among such investment opportunities 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.
The commercial mortgages and other commercial real estate-related loans and the commercial mortgage loans underlying the mortgage-backed securities in which we may invest are subject to the ability of the commercial property to generate net income (and not the independent income or assets of the borrower in the case of mortgage loans). The volatility of real property could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position and results of operations.
The commercial mortgage loans and other commercial real estate-related loans and the commercial mortgage loans underlying the securities in which we may invest are subject to the ability of the commercial property to generate net income (and not the independent income or assets of the borrower in the case of mortgage loans). 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;
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unanticipated increases in real estate taxes and other operating expenses;
challenges to the borrower’s claim of title to the real property;
environmental considerations, including liability for testing, monitoring and remediation;
changes in zoning laws, rent control laws and other similar legal restrictions on property ownership and operation;
other governmental rules and policies;
community health issues, including, without limitation, epidemics and pandemics;
unanticipated structural defects or costliness of maintaining the property;
uninsured losses, such as possible acts of theft, terrorism, social unrest or civil disturbances;
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
large-scale fire, earthquake or severe weather-related damage to, or the effect of climate change on, the property and/or its operations.
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. 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.
The market value of our investments in mortgage-backed securities could fluctuate materially as a result of various risks that are out of our control and may result in significant losses.
We may invest in mortgage-backed securities, a specific type of structured finance security. Mortgage-backed securities 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 retail space, office buildings, industrial or warehouse properties, hotels, nursing homes and senior living centers. Accordingly, investments in mortgage-backed securities are subject to the various risks described herein which relate to the pool of underlying assets in which the mortgage-backed securities represents an interest. The exercise of remedies and successful realization of liquidation proceeds relating to commercial mortgage loans underlying mortgage-backed securities 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 mortgage-backed securities 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 mortgage-backed securities may default. Under such circumstances, cash flows of 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 mortgage-backed securities relating to such defaulted loans that we hold.
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The market value of our 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 mortgage-backed securities. The mortgage-backed securities in which we may invest may have no, or only a limited, trading market. In addition, we may invest in mortgage-backed securities that are not rated by any credit rating agency, and such investments may be less liquid than mortgage-backed securities that are rated, and we may sponsor or purchase junior tranches of mortgage-backed securities issuances or of a mortgage loan, either of which would experience the first loss in the event of a borrower default. 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 mortgage-backed securities. Some or all of the mortgage-backed securities we may hold may be subject to restrictions on transfer and may be considered illiquid.
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 and, to some extent, the sponsors thereof, 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, we 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.
Third-party diligence reports on mortgaged properties and the properties we may own are and will be 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 may 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 our loan 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.
We operate according to specific underwriting criteria in a highly competitive market for lending and investment opportunities, both of which may limit our ability to originate or acquire desirable loans and investments in our target assets and/or our ability to yield a certain return on our investments.
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Our Manager uses financial models and underwriting criteria, the effectiveness of which cannot be guaranteed. We operate in a highly competitive market for lending and investment opportunities. 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. Unlike us, certain of our competitors may not be subject to the maintenance of an exemption from the Investment Company Act. Some competitors may have a lower cost of funds and access to funding sources that may not be available to us. Our Manager’s underwriting criteria may restrict us from being able to compete with others for commercial mortgage loan origination and acquisition opportunities and these criteria may be stricter than those employed by our competitors. 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.
The vast majority of the mortgage loans that we originate or purchase, and those underlying the mortgage-backed securities in which we may 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 mortgage-backed securities in which we may invest, are effectively non-recourse obligations of the sponsor and borrower, meaning that there is no recourse against the assets of the borrower 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 is 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 expense of owning real property may impact our cash flows from operations.
We may in the future purchase or acquire real property that is unrelated to the cannabis industry. Owning and operating real property involves risks that are different (and in many ways more significant) than the risks faced in owning a debt instrument secured by that property. Costs associated with real estate, such as real estate taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, rental rate decreases and other circumstances cause a reduction in income from the property. As a result, cash flows from the operations of our properties may be reduced if a tenant does not pay 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 a landlord without delays and may incur substantial legal costs. Additionally, new properties that we may acquire 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.
Risks Related to the Cannabis Industry and Related Regulations
Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, and therefore, strict enforcement of federal laws regarding cannabis would likely result in our inability to execute our business plan.
All but nine U.S. states have legalized, to some extent, cannabis for medical purposes. Forty-one states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam have legalized some form of whole-plant cannabis cultivation, sales and use for certain medical purposes. Twenty-four of those states and the District of Columbia and Northern Mariana have also legalized cannabis for adults for non-medical purposes. Two of those states have also legalized low-tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”)/high-cannabidiol (“CBD”) extracts for select medical conditions.
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Under U.S. federal law, however, those activities are illegal. Cannabis, other than hemp (defined by the U.S. government as Cannabis sativa L. with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis), is a Schedule I controlled substance under the CSA. Even in states or territories that have legalized cannabis to some extent, the cultivation, possession and sale of cannabis all remain violations of federal law that are punishable by imprisonment, substantial fines and forfeiture. Moreover, individuals and entities may violate federal law if they aid and abet another in violating these federal controlled substance laws, or conspire with another to violate them, and violating the federal cannabis laws is a predicate for certain other crimes under the anti-money laundering laws or The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Monitoring our compliance with these laws is a critical component of our business. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government has the authority to regulate and criminalize the sale, possession and use of cannabis, even for individual medical purposes, regardless of whether it is legal under state law.
For over nine years, however, and despite varying positions by U.S. Attorney Generals, the U.S. government has not enforced those laws against cannabis companies complying with state law, or their vendors. Industry observers anticipate no reversal of that policy of non-enforcement against businesses complying with the state-regulated cannabis programs under the Biden administration given his campaign’s position on cannabis and statements made by Attorney General Merrick Garland, discussed below, although prosecutions against state-regulated entities cannot be ruled out entirely at this time. We would likely be unable to execute our business plan if the federal government were to reverse its long-standing hands-off approach to the state-regulated cannabis markets, described below, and were to start strictly enforcing federal law regarding cannabis.
As a result of the conflict between state and federal law regarding cannabis, investments in cannabis businesses in the United States are subject to inconsistent legislation and regulation. On August 29, 2013, the U.S. DOJ attempted to address this inconsistency and to provide guidance to enforcement agencies when former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, under the Obama administration, issued a memorandum on federal cannabis law enforcement. (the “Cole Memo”). Describing the criminal enforcement of federal cannabis prohibitions against those complying with state cannabis regulatory systems as an inefficient use of federal investigative and prosecutorial resources, the Cole Memo gave federal prosecutors discretion not to prosecute against state law compliant cannabis companies in states that were regulating cannabis so long as they were not violating eight federal priorities such as avoiding youth usage. On January 4, 2018, then acting U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum to all U.S. Attorneys (the “Sessions Memo”) rescinding the Cole Memo. The Sessions Memo, which remains in effect, states that each U.S. Attorney’s Office should follow established principles that govern all federal prosecutions when deciding which cannabis activities to prosecute. As a result, federal prosecutors could and still can use their prosecutorial discretion to decide to prosecute even state-regulated cannabis activities. Since the Sessions Memo was issued in early 2018, however, U.S. Attorneys have not prosecuted state law compliant entities. While not formally rescinding the Sessions Memo, former Attorney General William Barr took a softer position. He testified in his confirmation hearing on January 15, 2019, that he would not upset “settled expectations,” “investments,” or other “reliance interest[s]” arising as a result of the Cole Memo, and that he would not use federal resources to enforce federal cannabis laws in states that have legalized cannabis “to the extent people are complying with the state laws.” He stated: “My approach to this would be not to upset settled expectations and the reliance interests that have arisen as a result of the Cole Memorandum and investments have been made and so there has been reliance on it, so I don’t think it’s appropriate to upset those interests.” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has echoed Barr’s point about nullification. In a June 2021 opinion, he addressed the current state of federal prohibition and suggested that seminal case Gonzales v. Raich may be decided differently today: “If the Government is now content to allow States to act ‘as laboratories’ ‘and try novel social and economic experiments,’ . . . then it might no longer have authority to intrude on ‘[t]he States’ core police powers. . . .to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.” Standing Akimbo, LLC v. United States, 141 S. Ct. 2236, 2238 (2021). Certain statements made by Attorney General Garland suggest that the DOJ may issue further guidance on cannabis enforcement, though the content and timing of such guidance remains unknown.
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During his campaign, President Biden promised federal reform on cannabis, including decriminalization generally. In 2022, President Biden signed into law the “Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act,” a bill aimed at easing restrictions on cannabis research — bipartisan legislation which is the first standalone cannabis reform bill to pass both the House and Senate. Additionally, on October 6, 2022, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation pardoning federal convictions for simple marijuana possession offenses, encouraging state governors to do the same on the state level where permissible, and requesting that the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General initiate an administrative process to review cannabis’s Schedule I classification under the CSA. On August 29, 2023, HHS issued a letter to the DEA recommending that cannabis be reclassified as a Schedule III drug under the CSA. Should DEA agree with the HHS’s recommendation, it may initiate procedures to reschedule cannabis to Schedule III, potentially in 2024. A change to Schedule III would be beneficial to the state-regulated cannabis industry, but would not change the federal legality of those cannabis businesses. Finally, in December 2023, President Biden signed a new proclamation pardoning more federal marijuana possession offenses. Regardless of the ultimate outcome on CSA scheduling, these executive actions represent significant milestones in the evolution of federal cannabis policy; nonetheless, the implications of the potential re-scheduling are not entirely clear for state-regulated commercial cannabis operators.
At his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Garland stated that he did not see enforcement of federal cannabis law as a high priority use of resources for the DOJ: “This is a question of the prioritization of our resources and prosecutorial discretion. It does not seem to me a useful use of limited resources that we have, to be pursuing prosecutions in states that have legalized and that are regulating the use of marijuana, either medically or otherwise. I don’t think that’s a useful use. I do think we need to be sure there are no end-runs around the state laws that criminal enterprises are doing. So that kind of enforcement should be continued. But I don’t think it’s a good use of our resources, where states have already authorized. That only confuses people, obviously, within the state.” In April 2022, Attorney General Garland reiterated that prosecuting the possession of cannabis is “not an efficient use” of federal resources, especially “given the ongoing opioid and methamphetamine epidemic[s]” facing the nation. In March 2023, Attorney General Garland testified in a Congressional hearing that the DOJ was continuing its work on a new memorandum regarding cannabis enforcement. Attorney General Garland stated that the policy will be “very close to what was done in the Cole memorandum” but was yet to be finalized. While these statement are not promises to avoid federal interference with state cannabis laws, they do signal that the enforcement priorities of DOJ lie elsewhere. Notwithstanding the comments made by Attorney General Garland, there is no guarantee that the current presidential administration will not change its stated policy regarding the low-priority enforcement of U.S. federal cannabis laws that conflict with state laws. The Biden administration could reverse course and decide to enforce U.S. federal cannabis laws vigorously, or a new president in 2024 could take a different view on cannabis enforcement.
The basis for the federal government’s lack of recent enforcement with respect to the cannabis industry extends beyond the strong public support for cannabis legalization and ongoing prosecutorial discretion. The U.S. Congress has repeatedly enacted legislation to protect the medical marijuana industry from prosecution. Since 2014, versions of the U.S. omnibus spending bill have included a provision, known as the Joyce Amendment prohibiting the DOJ, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration, from using appropriated funds to prevent states from implementing their medical-use cannabis laws. In USA vs. McIntosh, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the provision prohibits the DOJ from spending funds to prosecute individuals who engage in conduct permitted by state medical-use cannabis laws and who strictly comply with such laws. The court noted that, if the provision were not continued, prosecutors could enforce against conduct occurring during the statute of limitations even while the provision were previously in force. Other courts that have considered the issue have ruled similarly, although courts disagree about which party bears the burden of proof of showing compliance or noncompliance with state law. The U.S. Congress has continued to include the Joyce Amendment in each subsequent omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal years 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Additionally, in 2021, President Joe Biden became the first president to propose a budget with the Joyce Amendment included. The Joyce Amendment was most recently extended on January 19, 2024, and is effective through March 8, 2024.
Notably, the Joyce Amendment has always applied only to medical cannabis programs, and does not expressly protect operators in the adult-use cannabis market. There have been attempts by Congressional supporters of cannabis legalization to extend the protections afforded by the Joyce Amendment to recreational cannabis activities, but those efforts have been unsuccessful.
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However, federal prosecutors have significant discretion, and no assurance can be given that the federal prosecutor in each judicial district where we make a loan will not choose to strictly enforce the federal laws governing cannabis manufacturing or distribution. Any change in the federal government’s enforcement posture with respect to state-licensed cultivation of cannabis, including the enforcement postures of individual federal prosecutors in judicial districts where we make our loans, could result in our inability to execute our business plan and significant losses with respect to our loans to cannabis industry participants in the United States, which would adversely affect our operations, cash flow and financial condition.
Our loans do not prohibit our borrowers from engaging in the cannabis business for adult-use that is permissible under state and local laws. Consequently, certain of our borrowers currently (and may in the future) cultivate adult-use cannabis, if permitted by such state and local laws now or in the future. This could subject our borrowers to greater and/or different federal legal and other risks as compared to businesses where cannabis is cultivated exclusively for medical use, which could materially adversely affect our business. Furthermore, any change in the federal government’s enforcement posture with respect to state-licensed cannabis sales, including the enforcement postures of individual federal prosecutors in judicial districts where we operate, would result in our inability to execute our business plan, and we would likely suffer significant losses with respect to our client base, which would adversely affect our operations, cash flow and financial condition.
While the timing of federal reform is unknown, there is bipartisan support for cannabis reform on the federal level. The Senate Banking Committee recently passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act (“SAFER”) Banking Act, which would protect financial institutions and other parties accepting money derived from the state-regulated cannabis industry by “creat[ing] protections for financial institutions that provide financial services to [state-regulated cannabis companies] and service providers for such businesses,” and also explicitly protects insurers. The SAFER Banking Act could be advanced for a vote in the Senate this year. Additionally, members of the U.S. Congress from the Democratic and Republican parties have introduced bills to end the federal cannabis prohibition, by de-scheduling cannabis completely and regulating it. In the 117th Congress, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) filed the Cannabis Administration And Opportunity Act, a bill that would regulate cannabis and expunge prior cannabis convictions; and in the current Congress, Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) filed the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States 2.0 Act, which would repeal the federal prohibition of and further regulate cannabis on the federal level. These sessions has seen additional incremental reform bills, including a bill that would direct the Attorney General of the United States to amend the CSA to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Act (the “Marijuana 1 to 3 Act”), and a bill to allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms (the “Second Amendment Protection Act”). While the timing of federal reform remains unknown, it is expected that federal policy on cannabis will continue becoming more, rather than less, permissive, and legislative efforts to legalize cannabis or cannabis banking at the national level are likely to continue in 2024. In the unlikely event that the federal government were to reverse its long-standing hands-off approach to the state-regulated cannabis markets and start more broadly enforcing federal law regarding cannabis, we would likely be unable to execute our business plan, and our business and financial results would be adversely affected. See “Business—Regulatory Environment.”
Our ability to grow or maintain our business depends in part on state laws pertaining to the cannabis industry. New laws that are adverse to our borrowers may be enacted, and current favorable state or national laws or enforcement guidelines relating to cultivation, production and distribution of cannabis may be modified or eliminated in the future, which would impede our ability to grow our business under our current business plan and could materially adversely affect our business.
Continued development of the cannabis industry depends upon continued legislative authorization of cannabis at the state level. The status quo of, or progress in, the regulated cannabis industry, while encouraging, is not assured and any number of factors could slow or halt further progress in this area. While there may be ample public support for legislative action permitting the manufacture and use of cannabis, numerous factors impact and can delay the legislative and regulatory processes. For example, many states that legalized medical-use and/or adult-use cannabis have seen significant delays in the drafting and implementation of industry regulations and issuance of licenses. In addition, burdensome regulations at the state level could slow or stop further development of the medical-use and/or adult-use cannabis industry, such as limiting the medical conditions for which medical-use cannabis can be recommended, restricting the form in which medical-use or adult-use cannabis can be consumed, or imposing significant taxes on the growth, processing and/or retail sales of cannabis, each of which could have the impact of dampening growth of the cannabis industry and making it difficult for cannabis businesses, including our borrowers, to operate profitably in those states. Any one of these factors could slow or halt additional legislative authorization of cannabis, which could harm our business prospects.
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Our investment opportunities are limited by the current illegality of cannabis under U.S. federal law; changes in the laws, regulations and guidelines that impact the cannabis industry may cause adverse effects on our ability to make loans.
We make loans to borrowers that we determine based on our due diligence are licensed in, and complying with, state-regulated cannabis programs, regardless of their status under U.S. federal law. Any such loans will be designed to be compliant with all applicable laws and regulations to which we are subject, including U.S. federal law, although the law in this area is not fully settled and there can be no assurances that federal authorities will consider such loans to be compliant with applicable law and regulations. In that regard, we have previously received an opinion of counsel that our proposed investment activities do not violate the CSA, the U.S. Money Laundering Control Act (18 U.S.C. § 1956), or the Drug Paraphernalia law contained in the CSA, (21 U.S.C. § 863), subject to certain assumptions, qualifications, and exceptions stated in the opinion. However, there can be no assurances that a court or federal authorities would agree with the conclusions reached in the opinion. Additionally, if federal legislation is enacted that provides protections from liability under U.S. federal law for other types of debt investments in borrowers or other target companies that are compliant with state, but not U.S. federal, laws and is determined to apply to us (or we otherwise determine that the debt investment is not prohibited), and such other types of debt investments are in compliance with Nasdaq’s listing policies and ongoing requirements, we may make other types of debt investments in such companies that do not comply with U.S. federal laws, subject to our investment policies and guidelines. There can be no assurance, however, that such type of legislation will be enacted or that we will otherwise be able to make loans that do not comply with U.S. federal law.
Risks related to the cannabis industry may directly or indirectly affect us or our borrowers engaged in the cannabis industry.
Our borrowers face several challenges unique to the state-regulated cannabis industry, which could negatively affect our revenues if it impedes their profitability or operations and their ability to continue to pay us. Some of these challenges include, but are not limited to, the following:
The manufacture, distribution, sale, or possession of cannabis that is not in compliance with the CSA is illegal under U.S. federal law. Strict enforcement of U.S. federal laws regarding cannabis would likely result in our borrowers’ inability to execute a business plan in the cannabis industry;
Laws and regulations affecting the regulated cannabis industry are varied, broad in scope and subject to evolving interpretations, and may restrict the use of the properties our borrowers acquire or require certain additional regulatory approvals, which could materially adversely affect our loans to such borrowers;
Our borrowers may have difficulty borrowing from or otherwise accessing the service of banks, which may inhibit our ability to open bank accounts or otherwise utilize traditional banking services;
Our borrowers may have a difficult time obtaining financing in connection with our investment strategy;
There may be no material aspect of our borrowers’ businesses that is protected by patents, copyrights, trademarks or trade names, and they may face strong competition from larger companies, including those that may offer similar products and services to our borrowers;
U.S. federal courts may refuse to recognize the enforceability of contracts pertaining to any business operations that are deemed illegal under U.S. federal law, including cannabis companies operating legally under state law;
Our borrowers may have a difficult time obtaining the various insurance policies that are needed to operate such businesses, which may expose us and our borrowers to additional risks and financial liabilities;
Our borrowers are subject to unfavorable U.S. tax treatment under Section 280E of the Code;
Our borrowers may be foreclosed from using bankruptcy courts;
Assets collateralizing loans to cannabis businesses may be forfeited to the U.S. federal government in connection with government enforcement actions under U.S. federal law;
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”) regulation of cannabis and the possible registration of facilities where cannabis is grown could negatively affect the cannabis industry, which could directly affect our financial condition and the financial condition of our borrowers;
The cannabis industry may face significant opposition from other industries that perceive cannabis products and services as competitive with their own, including but not limited to the hemp industry, pharmaceutical industry, adult beverage industry and tobacco industry, some of which have powerful lobbying and financial resources; and
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Consumer complaints and negative publicity regarding cannabis-related products and services could lead to political pressure on states to implement new laws and regulations that are adverse to the cannabis industry, to not modify existing, restrictive laws and regulations, or to reverse current favorable laws and regulations relating to cannabis.
We and our borrowers may have difficulty accessing the service of banks and other financial institutions, which may make it difficult to sell products and services, and we may be limited in our ability to provide debt to participants in the cannabis industry, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
Although we do not grow or sell cannabis products, our connection to the cannabis industry may hamper our efforts to do business or establish collaborative relationships with others that may fear disruption or increased regulatory scrutiny of their own activities. Certain financial transactions involving proceeds from the commercial sale of cannabis can form a basis for prosecution under the federal money laundering statutes, unlicensed money transmitter statute and the Bank Secrecy Act. Most federal and federally-insured state banks currently do not serve businesses that grow and sell cannabis products on the stated ground that growing and selling cannabis is illegal under federal law, even though the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued guidelines to banks in February 2014 that clarified how financial institutions can provide services to cannabis-related businesses, consistent with financial institutions’ obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act (the “FinCEN Memo”). While the federal government has not initiated financial crimes prosecutions against state-law compliant cannabis companies or their vendors, the government theoretically could, at least against companies in the adult-use markets. The continued uncertainty surrounding financial transactions related to cannabis activities may result in financial institutions discontinuing services to the cannabis industry or limit our ability to provide loans to the cannabis industry.
While the FinCEN Memo is presumptively still in effect, FinCEN could elect to rescind the FinCEN Memo at any time. Banks remain hesitant to offer banking services to cannabis-related businesses. Consequently, those businesses involved in the cannabis industry continue to encounter difficulty in establishing banking relationships, which would negatively affect the business, financial condition and results of operations of borrowers. Our inability or the inability of our borrowers to maintain bank accounts would make it difficult for us to operate our business, would increase our operating costs and pose additional operational, logistical and security challenges, and could result in our inability to implement our business plan.
The terms of our loans require that our borrowers make payments on such loans via check or wire transfer. Only a small percentage of financial institutions in the United States currently provide banking services to licensed companies operating in the cannabis industry. The inability of our current and potential borrowers to open accounts and continue using the services of banks will limit their ability to enter into debt arrangements with us or may result in their default under our debt agreements, either of which could materially harm our business, operations, cash flow and financial condition.
The medical and adult-use cannabis industry is highly competitive, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The market for businesses in the cannabis industry is highly competitive and evolving. In addition to other state-regulated competitors, our borrowers may face competition from (i) unlicensed and unregulated market participants; (ii) individuals who produce cannabis for their own use under personal cultivation laws; and (iii) entities creating hemp-derived or other synthetic products which emulate the effects of cannabis. These competitors could change the demand, volume and profitability of the cannabis industry. This could adversely affect the ability of a borrower to secure long-term profitability and success through the sustainable and profitable operation of the anticipated businesses and investment targets, and could have a material adverse effect on a borrower’s business, financial condition or results of operations, which in turn, could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
There can be no assurance that the cannabis industry will continue to exist or grow as currently anticipated.
There can be no assurance that the cannabis industry and market will continue to exist or grow as currently estimated or anticipated, or function and evolve in a manner consistent with our expectations and assumptions. Any event or circumstance that affects the medical or adult use cannabis industry and market could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, as well as the business, financial condition and results of operations of our borrowers.
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Marketing constraints under regulatory frameworks may limit a borrower’s ability to compete for market share in a manner similar to that of companies in other industries.
The development of a borrower’s business and operating results may be hindered by applicable restrictions on sales and marketing activities imposed by regulations applicable to the cannabis industry. For example, the regulatory environment in Illinois would limit a borrower’s ability to compete for market share in a manner similar to that of companies in other industries. Additionally, Illinois regulations impose restrictions on individual purchases in the adult-use cannabis market. If a borrower is unable to effectively market its products and compete for market share, or if the costs of compliance with government legislation and regulation cannot be absorbed through increased selling prices for its products, its sales and operating results could be adversely affected, which could impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
There is uncertainty in pricing and demand for cannabis and cannabis-based products.
Changes in the legal status of cannabis may result in surges in demand. As a result of such a surge, cannabis companies operating under such changed legal regime may not be able to produce enough cannabis to meet demand of the adult-use and medical markets, as applicable. This may result in lower than expected sales and revenues and increased competition for sales and sources of supply.
Likewise, cannabis producers may produce more cannabis than is needed to satisfy the collective demand of the adult-use and medical markets, as applicable, and they currently are unable to export that oversupply into other markets where cannabis use is fully legal under all applicable jurisdictional laws. As a result, the available supply of cannabis could exceed demand, resulting in a significant decline in the market price for cannabis. If such supply or price fluctuations were to occur, companies operating in the cannabis industry may see revenue and profitability fluctuate materially and their business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may be adversely affected, as could our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In the future, the pricing of cannabis products may differ substantially from current levels given changes in the competitive and regulatory landscape. A borrower’s business model may be susceptible to erosion of profitability should cannabis and cannabis-related products experience secular pricing changes. Potential sources of pricing changes include overproduction, regulatory action, increased competition or the emergence of new competitors. Additionally, even if pricing of the broader cannabis and cannabis-related product market is sustained, there is no guarantee that a borrower will be successful in creating and maintaining consumer demand and estimated pricing levels. To do this, the borrower may be dependent upon, among other things, continually producing desirable and effective cannabis and cannabis-related products and the continued growth in the aggregate number of cannabis consumers. Campaigns designed to enhance a borrower’s brand and attract consumers, subject to restrictions imposed by law, can be expensive and may not result in increased sales. If the borrower is unable to attract new consumers, it may not be able to increase its sales.
As a result of changing consumer preferences, many consumer products attain financial success for a limited period of time. Even if a borrower’s products find success at retail, there can be no assurance that such products will continue to be profitable. A borrower’s success will be significantly dependent upon its ability to develop new and improved product lines and adapt to consumer preferences. Even if a borrower is successful in introducing new products or developing its current products, a failure to gain consumer acceptance or to update products could cause a decline in the products’ popularity and impair the brands. In addition, a borrower may be required to invest significant capital in the creation of new product lines, strains, brands, marketing campaigns, packaging and other product features, none of which are guaranteed to be successful. Failure to introduce new features and product lines and to achieve and sustain market acceptance could result in the borrower being unable to satisfy consumer preferences and generate revenue which could have a material adverse effect on the business, financial condition and results of operations of such borrower, and, in turn, on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Synthetic or hemp-derived products may compete with cannabis use and products.
The hemp and pharmaceutical industry may attempt to compete with or dominate the cannabis industry, and in particular, state-regulated cannabis, through the development and distribution of hemp-derived or synthetic products which emulate the effects and treatment of cannabis. The widespread popularity of such products could change the demand, volume and profitability of the cannabis industry. This could adversely affect the ability of our clients to secure long-term profitability and success.
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Recently, there has been a proliferation of the extraction of delta-8-THC and other intoxicating cannabinoids from industrial hemp and infusion of these isomers into various saleable and finished products. Utilizing the legality of industrial hemp under U.S. federal law, many such products are available for sale through unlicensed channels and are shipped in interstate commerce. Additionally, some hemp companies sell hemp-derived THC products with state authorization. Given the similar intoxicating effects to cannabis-derived THC, which is an illegal substance under the CSA, and its substantially lower price point, patients and consumers may choose to consume hemp-derived products in lieu of cannabis-derived products. A report published by the research firm Whitney Economics claims that hemp-derived cannabinoid sales were greater than the total sales of state-regulated medical and adult use cannabis in 2022. According to the report, the hemp industry saw approximately $28.4 billion in sales, which, if accurate, exceeded state-regulated cannabis sales in the same period. At the same time, similar hemp-derived products are much less stringently regulated, increasing competition on state-regulated cannabis businesses. In light of the substantial investment our clients have made and continue to make in the state regulated cannabis industry, the widespread use of hemp-derived THC or synthetic products could adversely impact our clients, which could, in turn, have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our reputation and ability to do business, as well as the reputation of our borrowers and their ability to do business, may be negatively impacted by the improper conduct of third parties, including but not limited to business partners, employees or agents.
We cannot provide assurance that the internal controls and compliance systems of our borrowers will always protect us from acts committed by such companies’ employees, agents or business partners in violation of applicable laws and regulations in the jurisdictions in which they conduct operations, including those applicable to businesses in the cannabis industry. Any improper acts or allegations could damage our reputation, the reputation of our borrowers and subject us and our borrowers to civil or criminal investigations and related shareholder lawsuits, could lead to substantial civil and criminal monetary and non-monetary penalties, and could cause us or our borrowers to incur significant legal and investigatory fees.
Laws and regulations affecting the regulated cannabis industry are continually changing, which could materially adversely affect our proposed operations, and we cannot predict the impact that future regulations may have on us.
Local, state and federal cannabis laws and regulations have been evolving rapidly and are subject to varied interpretations, which could require us to incur substantial costs associated with compliance or alter our business plan and could negatively impact our borrowers or prospective borrowers, which in turn could negatively impact our business. It is also possible that regulations may be enacted in the future that will be directly applicable to our business, including with respect to climate change or other environmental, social, or governance topics, which may increase our regulatory burden, as well as result in enhanced disclosure obligations. We can know neither the nature of any future laws, regulations, interpretations or applications nor the effect additional governmental regulations or administrative policies and procedures, when and if promulgated, could have on our business. For example, if cannabis is no longer illegal under federal law, we may experience a significant increase in competition. Accordingly, any change in these laws or regulations, changes in their interpretation, or newly enacted laws or regulations and any failure by us to comply with these laws or regulations, could require changes to certain of our business practices, negatively impact our operations, cash flow or financial condition, impose additional costs on us or otherwise adversely affect our business. Violations of applicable laws, or allegations of such violations, could disrupt our borrowers’ businesses and result in a material adverse effect on their operations. We cannot predict the nature of any future laws, regulations, interpretations or applications, and it is possible that regulations may be enacted in the future that will be materially adverse to the business of our borrowers, as well as our business.
Applicable state laws may prevent us from maximizing our potential income.
Depending on the state, and the laws of that particular state, we may not be able to fully realize our potential to generate profit. For example, some states have residency requirements for those directly involved in the cannabis industry, which may impede our ability to contract with cannabis businesses in those states. Furthermore, cities and counties are being given broad discretion to ban certain cannabis activities, even if these activities are legal under state law.
Borrowers operating in a highly regulated business require significant resources.
Our borrowers are involved in the production, distribution or sale of cannabis products and operate in a highly regulated business. In such a case, we would expect a significant amount of such borrower’s management’s time and external resources to be used to comply with the laws, regulations and guidelines that impact their business, and changes thereto, and such compliance may place a significant burden on such management and other resources of a borrower.
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Additionally, our borrowers may be subject to a variety of differing laws, regulations and guidelines in each of the jurisdictions in which they operate. Complying with multiple regulatory regimes will require additional resources and may limit a borrower’s ability to expand into certain jurisdictions. For example, even if cannabis were to become legal under U.S. federal law, companies operating in the cannabis industry would have to comply with all applicable state and local laws, which may vary greatly between jurisdictions, increasing costs for companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions. Any such diversion of resources could have a material adverse effect on the business, results of operation and financial condition of a borrower, which could in turn have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Any failure or significant delay in our borrowers obtaining necessary regulatory approvals could adversely affect the ability of borrowers to conduct their businesses.
The ability of our borrowers to meet their business objectives will be contingent, in part, upon compliance with the regulatory requirements enacted by applicable government authorities and obtaining all regulatory approvals, where necessary, for modifications or expansions of their business or the sale of new products. We cannot predict the time required to secure all appropriate regulatory approvals, additional restrictions that may be placed on our borrower’s business or the extent of testing and documentation that may be required by government authorities. Any delays in obtaining, or failure to obtain, regulatory approvals would significantly delay the development of markets and products and could have a material adverse effect on the business, results of operation and financial condition of any such borrower, or on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Borrowers may become involved in regulatory or agency proceedings, investigations and audits.
As previously stated, our borrowers are involved in the production, distribution or sale of cannabis products and operate in a highly regulated business. Failure to comply with relevant federal and state laws and regulations could subject our borrowers to regulatory or agency proceedings or investigations and could also lead to damage awards, fines and penalties. Our borrowers may become involved in a number of government or agency proceedings, investigations and audits. The outcome of any regulatory or agency proceedings, investigations, audits and other contingencies could harm our reputation, the reputations of our borrowers or the reputations of the brands that they may sell, require the borrowers to take, or refrain from taking, actions that could impact their operations, or require them to pay substantial amounts of money, harming their and our financial condition. There can be no assurance that any pending or future regulatory or agency proceedings, investigations and audits will not result in substantial costs or a diversion of borrower management’s attention and resources or have a material adverse impact on their and our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Loans to cannabis businesses may be forfeited to the federal government.
Any assets used by participants in the cannabis industry in conjunction with the violation of federal law, or that represent proceeds of such business or is traceable to proceeds of such business, are potentially subject to federal forfeiture, even in states that have legalized cannabis. Even if the owner of the property is never charged with a crime, the property in question could still be seized and subject to an administrative proceeding by which, with minimal due process, it could be subject to forfeiture. In July 2017, the DOJ issued a new policy directive regarding asset forfeiture, referred to as the “equitable sharing program.” This policy directive represents a reversal of DOJ’s policy under the Obama administration, and allows for forfeitures to proceed that are not in accord with the limitations imposed by state-specific forfeiture laws. This new policy directive could lead to increased use of asset forfeitures by local, state and federal enforcement agencies. If the federal government decides to initiate forfeiture proceedings against cannabis businesses, such as the cannabis facilities that are owned or utilized by our borrowers, our loans to our borrowers would likely be materially and adversely affected.
We may have difficulty accessing bankruptcy courts.
We currently have no need or plans to seek bankruptcy protection. Because cannabis is illegal under federal law, federal bankruptcy protection is currently not available to parties who engage in the cannabis industry or cannabis-related businesses. Recent bankruptcy rulings have denied bankruptcies for dispensaries upon the justification that businesses cannot violate federal law and then claim the benefits of federal bankruptcy for the same activity and upon the justification that courts cannot ask a bankruptcy trustee to take possession of, and distribute cannabis assets as such action would violate the CSA. Therefore, we may not be able to seek the protection of the bankruptcy courts, and this could materially affect our business or our ability to obtain credit.
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There may be difficulty enforcing certain of our commercial agreements and contracts.
Courts will not enforce a contract deemed to involve a violation of law or public policy. Because cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law, parties to contracts involving the state-regulated cannabis industry have argued that the agreement was void as federally illegal or against public policy. Some courts have accepted this argument in certain cases, usually against the company involved in commercial cannabis activity. While courts have enforced contracts related to activities by state-regulated cannabis companies, and the trend is generally to enforce contracts with state-regulated cannabis companies and their vendors, there remains doubt and uncertainty that we will be able to enforce our commercial agreements in court for this reason. We cannot be assured that we will have a remedy for breach of contract, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.
The loans that are in our Existing Portfolio, and that we expect to make in the future may, include Canadian entities within their corporate structure that have the ability to seek insolvency protections in Canada, which could materially and adversely affect our business.
The loans that are in our Existing Portfolio, and that we expect to make in the future may, include U.S.-based companies operating in the cannabis industry with at least one Canadian entity within their corporate structure for the purpose of listing on the CSE. In May 2020, a U.S.-based cannabis company that is listed on the CSE filed for, and was granted, insolvency protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act pursuant to Canadian law. In addition, in October 2022, the parent company of Public Company A, which is also a guarantor of the Public Company A loans, along with its Canadian subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act in Canada. The Public Company A Affiliates are in the process of restructuring their operations. If an applicable borrower obtains bankruptcy protections in Canada, it could restrict our ability, or create additional costs or delays involved in our efforts, to foreclose on the collateral, which will reduce the net proceeds realized and, thus, increase the potential for loss.
The loans that are in our Existing Portfolio are, and that we expect to make in the future may be, secured by properties, that are, and will be, subject to extensive regulations, such that if such collateral was foreclosed upon those regulations may result in significant costs and materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
The loans that are in our Existing Portfolio are, and that we expect to make in the future may be, secured by properties that are, and will be, subject to various local laws and regulatory requirements, and we would be subject to such requirements if such collateral was foreclosed upon. Local property regulations may restrict the use of collateral or our ability to foreclose on the collateral. Among other things, these restrictions may relate to cultivation of cannabis, the use of water and the discharge of waste water, fire and safety, seismic conditions, asbestos-cleanup or hazardous material abatement requirements. Due to current statutory prohibitions, we will not own any real estate used in cannabis-related operations. While our loan agreements and related mortgages provide for foreclosure remedies, receivership remedies and/or other remedies that would allow us to cause the sale or other realization of real property collateral, the regulatory requirements and statutory prohibitions related to real property used in cannabis-related operations may cause significant delays or difficulties in realizing the expected value of such real property collateral. We make no assurance that existing regulatory policies will not materially and adversely affect the value of such collateral, or that additional regulations will not be adopted that would increase such potential material adverse effect. The negative affect on such collateral could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
Certain assets of our borrowers may not be used as collateral or transferred to us due to applicable state laws and regulations governing the cannabis industry, and such restrictions could negatively impact our profitability.
Each state that has legalized cannabis in some form has adopted its own set of laws and regulations that differ from one another. In particular, laws and regulations differ among states regarding the collateralization or transferability of cannabis-related assets, such as cannabis licenses, cannabis inventory, and ownership interests in licensed cannabis companies. Some state laws and regulations where our borrowers operate may prohibit the collateralization or transferability of certain cannabis-related assets. Other states may allow the collateralization or transferability of cannabis-related assets, but with restrictions, such as meeting certain eligibility requirements, utilization of state receiverships, and/or upon approval by the applicable regulatory authority. Prohibitions or restrictions on our or others’ ability to acquire certain cannabis-related assets securing the loans of our borrowers could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
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To the extent real estate collateral is still being used in cannabis-related activities, we will not foreclose and take title to such real estate to the extent doing so would violate Nasdaq listing standards. With respect to equipment, receivables and cash accounts, there are no prohibitions under state law regarding our ability to foreclose on such collateral. Foreclosing on pledged equity would trigger a change of control and such an action might also require approval of state regulators. Our loans are often secured by liens on equity, including the equity in the entity that holds the state-issued license to cultivate, process, distribute, and/or retail cannabis, as the case may be, but we will not take title to such equity as doing so would violate Nasdaq listing standards. We also cannot foreclose on liens on state licenses as they are generally not transferable, and we do not have liens on cannabis inventory.
Our ability to force a sale of our real estate collateral differs based on the state in which such real estate collateral is located and the security instruments used to secure such real estate collateral in each state. In Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Arkansas, for example, the ability to force such sales is governed by judicial foreclosure in such states pursuant to each state’s foreclosure laws. Under judicial foreclosure, we can enforce a judgment in foreclosure by (i) in the case of Arkansas, a public sale or (ii) for all other states, a writ of execution. In a judgment in foreclosure by public sale, the judgment directs the circuit clerk of the county in which the real property is located to sell the real property at a properly noticed public auction. A judgment in foreclosure by writ of execution directs a sheriff, clerk, special master, referee or other authorized person, as the case may be, to levy on and sell the real property, commonly at a properly noticed public auction. In Arizona, Maryland, and Massachusetts, a trustee or appointed auctioneer sells the property at a public sale through a non-judicial foreclosure pursuant to each state’s non-judicial foreclosure laws. In Missouri, we may force a sale of our real estate collateral either through judicial foreclosure or through a sale administered by a trustee at our discretion. In New Mexico, we can force a sale of real estate collateral through a judicial foreclosure or a non-judicial foreclosure, depending upon the security instruments used to secure the real estate collateral. Under judicial foreclosure in New Mexico, we can enforce a judgment in foreclosure by a public sale. Under non-judicial foreclosure in New Mexico, a trustee or appointed auctioneer sells the property at a public sale. In Iowa, we can also force a sale of real estate collateral through a judicial foreclosure or a non-judicial foreclosure. Under judicial foreclosure in Iowa, we can enforce a judgment in foreclosure by a writ of execution. A judgment in foreclosure by writ of execution directs the sheriff of the county in which the real property is located to sell the real property at a properly noticed public auction. Under non-judicial foreclosure in Iowa, we may enforce our mortgage by either (i) recording an agreement that is entered into between borrower and lender to surrender the property with a 30 day notice served on junior lienholders to either redeem or surrender their lien(s), or (ii) by serving a 30 day notice on mortgagor and junior lienholders, subject to rejection by mortgagor or cure by either mortgagor or junior lienholder.
Equipment, receivables, and cash in deposit accounts may be collected under state Uniform Commercial Code (‘‘UCC’’). In all states, we are permitted for non-real estate collateral (e.g., equipment) to pursue a judicial action and execute on a judgment via sheriffs’ sale. While we currently cannot foreclose under UCC and take title or sell equity in a licensed cannabis business, a potential purchaser of a delinquent or defaulted loan could. However, the transfer of ownership of equity in a licensed cannabis business requires state regulator approval, which can take significant time. In addition, because the sale of collateral may be forced upon the borrower at such point when time may be of the essence and the assets may be made available to a limited number of potential purchasers, particularly in those limited-license states in which we focus, the sales prices may be less than the prices obtained with more time in a larger market. As a result, the sale of such collateral may not result in sufficient proceeds to repay our loan and could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
Liability relating to environmental matters may impact the value of properties that we may acquire upon foreclosure of the properties securing our loans.
To the extent we foreclose on properties securing our loans, we may be subject to environmental liabilities arising from such foreclosed properties. In particular, cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facilities may present environmental concerns of which we are not currently aware. Under various 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 its property. These laws often impose liability without regard to whether the owner or operator knew of, or was responsible for, the release of such hazardous substances. Accordingly, if environmental contamination exists on properties we acquire or develop after acquisition, we could become subject to liability for the contamination.
The presence of hazardous substances may adversely affect an owner’s ability to sell real estate or borrow using real estate as collateral. To the extent that an owner of a property securing one of our loans becomes liable for removal costs, the ability of the owner to make payments to us may be reduced, which in turn may adversely affect the value of the relevant loan held by us and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
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If we foreclose on any properties securing our loans, the presence of hazardous substances on a property may adversely affect our ability to sell the property and we may incur substantial remediation costs, thus harming our financial condition. The discovery of material environmental liabilities attached to any properties securing our loans could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
The market value of properties securing our loans acquired by us upon foreclosure may decrease if they cannot be used for cannabis related operations.
Properties used for cannabis operations, particularly cultivation and manufacturing facilities, are generally more valuable than if used for other purposes. If we foreclose on any properties securing our loans, our inability to sell the property to a licensed cannabis company for a similar use may significantly decrease the market value of the foreclosed property thereby having a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
FDA regulation of cannabis could negatively affect the cannabis industry, which would directly affect our financial condition.
Should the federal government legalize cannabis for adult-use and/or medical-use, it is possible that the FDA would seek to regulate it under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938. Indeed, after the U.S. government removed hemp and its extracts from the CSA as part of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2008, then FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement reminding the public of the FDA’s continued authority “to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (the “FD&C Act”) and section 351 of the Public Health Service Act.” He also reminded the public that “it’s unlawful under the FD&C Act to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into interstate commerce, or to market CBD or THC products, as, or in, dietary supplements, regardless of whether the substances are hemp-derived,” and regardless of whether health claims are made, because CBD and THC entered the FDA testing pipeline as the subject of public substantial clinical investigations for GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex (THC and CBD) and Epidiolex (CBD). The memo added that, prior to introduction into interstate commerce, any cannabis product, whether derived from hemp or otherwise, marketed with a disease claim (e.g., therapeutic benefit, disease prevention, etc.) must first be approved by the FDA for its intended use through one of the drug approval pathways. Notably, the FDA can look beyond the product’s express claims to find that a product is a “drug.” The definition of “drug” under the FDCA includes, in relevant part, “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals” as well as “articles intended for use as a component of [a drug as defined in the other sections of the definition].” 21 U.S.C. ● 321(g)(1). In determining “intended use,” the FDA has traditionally looked beyond a product’s label to statements made on websites, on social media, or orally by the company’s representatives.
The FDA has sent numerous warning letters to sellers of CBD products making health claims. The FDA could turn its attention to the cannabis industry. In addition to requiring FDA approval of cannabis products marketed as drugs, the FDA could issue rules and regulations including certified good manufacturing practices related to the growth, cultivation, harvesting and processing of cannabis. It is also possible that the FDA would require that facilities where cannabis is grown register with the FDA and comply with certain federally prescribed regulations. Cannabis facilities are currently regulated by state and local governments. In the event that some or all of these federal enforcement and regulations are imposed, we do not know what the impact would be on the cannabis industry, including what costs, requirements and possible prohibitions may be enforced. If we or our borrowers are unable to comply with the regulations or registration as prescribed by the FDA, we and/or our borrowers may be unable to continue to operate our and their business in its current form or at all.
Research in the United States, Canada and internationally regarding the medical benefits, viability, safety, efficacy and dosing of cannabis or isolated cannabinoids may cause adverse effects on our or borrowers’ operations.
Historically stringent regulations related to cannabis have made conducting medical and academic studies challenging. Many statements concerning the potential medical benefits of cannabinoids are based on published articles and reports, and as a result, such statements are subject to the experimental parameters, qualifications and limitations in the studies that have been completed. Future research and clinical trials may draw different or negative conclusions regarding the medical benefits, viability, safety, efficacy, dosing or other facts and perceptions related to medical cannabis, which could adversely affect social acceptance of cannabis and the demand for their products.
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There can be no assurance that future scientific research, findings, regulatory proceedings, litigation, media attention, or other research findings or publicity will be favorable to the cannabis market or any particular cannabis product or will be consistent with earlier publicity. Adverse future scientific research reports, findings and regulatory proceedings that are, or litigation, media attention or other publicity that is, perceived as less favorable than, or that questions, earlier research reports, findings or publicity (whether or not accurate or with merit) could result in a significant reduction in the demand for the cannabis products of a borrower. Further, adverse publicity reports or other media attention regarding the safety, efficacy and quality of cannabis, or the products of a borrower specifically, or associating the consumption of cannabis with illness or other negative effects or events, could adversely affect such borrower. This adverse publicity could arise even if the adverse effects associated with cannabis products resulted from consumers’ failure to use such products legally, appropriately or as directed.
The cannabis industry is subject to the risks inherent in an agricultural business, including the risk of crop failure.
The growing of cannabis is an agricultural process. As such, a borrower with operations in the cannabis industry is subject to the risks inherent in the agricultural business, including risks of crop failure presented by weather, insects, plant diseases and similar agricultural risks. Although some cannabis production is conducted indoors under climate controlled conditions, cannabis continues to be grown outdoors and there can be no assurance that artificial or natural elements, such as insects and plant diseases, will not entirely interrupt production activities or have an adverse effect on the production of cannabis and, accordingly, the operations of a borrower, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Many cannabis businesses are dependent on key personnel with sufficient experience in the cannabis industry.
The success of businesses in the cannabis industry is largely dependent on the performance of their respective management teams and key employees and their continuing ability to attract, develop, motivate and retain highly qualified and skilled employees. Qualified individuals are in high demand, and significant costs may be incurred to attract and retain them. The loss of the services of any key personnel, or an inability to attract other suitably qualified persons when needed, could prevent a borrower from executing on its business plan and strategy, and the borrower may be unable to find adequate replacements on a timely basis, or at all. Such events and circumstances could have a material adverse effect on the operations of a borrower, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our borrowers may be vulnerable to rising energy costs.
Cannabis growing operations consume considerable energy, which makes a borrower vulnerable to rising energy costs and/or the availability of stable energy sources. Accordingly, rising or volatile energy costs or the inability to access stable energy sources may have a material adverse effect on the borrower’s business, financial condition and results of operations, which could also adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Third-parties with whom we do business may perceive themselves as being exposed to reputational risk by virtue of their relationship with us and may ultimately elect not to do business with us.
By lending to borrowers in the cannabis industry, the parties with which we do business may perceive that they are exposed to reputational risk as a result of our loans to cannabis businesses. Failure to establish or maintain business relationships could have a material adverse effect on us.
The cannabis industry faces significant opposition, and any negative trends may cause adverse effects on the operations of our borrowers, which could cause adverse effects on our business.
By lending to borrowers in the cannabis industry, we are substantially dependent on the continued market acceptance, and the proliferation of consumers, of cannabis. We believe that with further legalization, cannabis will become more accepted, resulting in growth in consumer demand. However, we cannot predict the future growth rate or future market potential, and any negative outlook on the cannabis industry may adversely affect our business operations and the operations of our borrowers.
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Large, well-funded industries that perceive cannabis products and services as competitive with their own, including but not limited to the pharmaceutical industry, adult beverage industry and tobacco industry, all of which have powerful lobbying and financial resources, may have strong economic reasons to oppose the development of the cannabis industry. For example, should cannabis displace other drugs or products, the medical cannabis industry could face a material threat from the pharmaceutical industry, which is well-funded and possesses a strong and experienced lobby. Any inroads the pharmaceutical, or any other potentially displaced, industry or sector could make in halting or impeding the cannabis industry could have a detrimental impact on our business and the business of our borrowers.
Risks Related to Sources of Financing Our Business
Our growth depends on external sources of capital, which may not be available on favorable terms or at all.
We intend to grow by expanding our portfolio of loans, which we intend to finance primarily through newly issued equity or debt. We may not be in a position to take advantage of attractive lending opportunities for growth if we are unable, due to global or regional economic uncertainty, changes in the state or federal regulatory environment relating to our business, our own operating or financial performance or otherwise, to access capital markets on a timely basis and on favorable terms or at all. In addition, U.S. federal income tax law generally requires that a REIT distribute annually at least 90% of its REIT taxable income, without regard to the deduction for dividends paid and excluding net capital gain and certain non-cash income, and that it pay U.S. federal income tax at regular corporate rates to the extent that it annually distributes less than 100% of such taxable income. Because we intend to grow our business, this limitation may require us to raise additional equity or incur debt at a time when it may be disadvantageous to do so.
Our access to capital will depend upon a number of factors over which we have little or no control, including, but not limited to:
general economic or market conditions;
the market’s view of the quality of our assets;
the market’s perception of our growth potential;
the current regulatory environment with respect to our business; and
our current and potential future earnings and cash distributions.
If general economic instability or downturn leads to an inability to borrow at attractive rates or at all, our ability to obtain capital to finance our loans to borrowers could be negatively impacted. In addition, while we do not consider our Company to be engaged in the cannabis industry, banks and other financial institutions may be reluctant to enter into lending transactions with us, particularly secured lending, because we intend to invest in companies involved in the cultivation, manufacturing and sale of cannabis. To date, we have been unable to obtain outside debt financing on terms and conditions better or equivalent to our current, affiliated debt financing. If debt financing with competitive rates continues to be unavailable to us on acceptable terms, our growth may be limited and our levered return on the loans we make may be lower.
If we are unable to obtain capital on terms and conditions that we find acceptable, we likely will have to reduce the loans we make. In addition, our ability to refinance all or any debt we may incur in the future, on acceptable terms or at all, is subject to all of the above factors, and will also be affected by our future financial position, results of operations and cash flows, which additional factors are also subject to significant uncertainties, and therefore we may be unable to refinance any debt we may incur in the future, as it matures, on acceptable terms or at all. All of these events would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations.
Relatedly, due to the growth in the cannabis industry, the continued development and operation of businesses in the cannabis industry may require additional financing. The failure of our borrowers to raise such capital could result in the delay or indefinite postponement of current business objectives or the cessation of business, which could materially and adversely affect our debt investments in, or loans to borrowers.
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Global economic, political and market conditions could have a significant adverse effect on our business, financial condition, liquidity and results of operations, including a negative impact on our ability to access the debt markets on favorable terms.
Downgrades by rating agencies to the U.S. government’s credit rating or concerns about its credit and deficit levels in general could cause interest rates and borrowing costs to rise, which may negatively impact both the perception of credit risk associated portfolio and our ability to access the debt markets on favorable terms. In addition, a decreased U.S. government credit rating could create broader financial turmoil and uncertainty, which may weigh heavily on our financial performance and the value of our equity. Additionally, concerns regarding a potential increase in inflation would likely cause interest rates and borrowing costs to rise.
Deterioration in the economic conditions in the Eurozone and globally, including instability in financial markets, may pose a risk to our business. In recent years, financial markets have been affected at times by a number of global macroeconomic and political events, including the following: large sovereign debts and fiscal deficits of several countries in Europe and in emerging markets jurisdictions, levels of non-performing loans on the balance sheets of European banks, the potential effect of any European country leaving the Eurozone, and market volatility and loss of investor confidence driven by political events. Market and economic disruptions have affected, and may in the future affect, consumer confidence levels and spending, personal bankruptcy rates, levels of incurrence and default on consumer debt and home prices, among other factors. We cannot assure you that market disruptions in Europe, including the increased cost of funding for certain governments and financial institutions, will not impact the global economy, and we cannot assure you that assistance packages will be available, or if available, be sufficient to stabilize countries and markets in Europe or elsewhere affected by a financial crisis. To the extent uncertainty regarding any economic recovery in Europe negatively impacts consumer confidence and consumer credit factors, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be significantly and adversely affected.
The Chinese capital markets have also experienced periods of instability over the past several years. The current political climate has also intensified concerns about (i) a potential trade war between the U.S. and China in connection with each country’s recent or proposed tariffs on the other country’s products and (ii) military conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and Israel and Hamas. These market and economic disruptions, the potential trade war with China and the military conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and Israel and Hamas have affected, and may in the future affect, the U.S. capital markets, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.
The year ended December 31, 2023 has been characterized by steep declines and significant volatility in global markets, driven by investor concerns over inflation, continued rising interest rates, slowing economic growth and geopolitical uncertainty. Inflation across many key economies reached generational highs, prompting central banks to take monetary policy tightening actions that are likely to create headwinds to economic growth. The ongoing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and Israel and Hamas are also contributing to economic and geopolitical uncertainty.
The current global financial market situation, as well as various social and political circumstances in the U.S. and around the world (including wars and other forms of conflict, terrorist acts, security operations and catastrophic events such as fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and global health epidemics), may contribute to increased market volatility and economic uncertainties or deterioration in the U.S. and worldwide. Additionally, the U.S. government’s credit and deficit concerns, the European sovereign debt crisis, the potential trade war with China and military conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and Israel and Hamas could cause interest rates to be volatile, which may negatively impact our ability to access the debt markets on favorable terms.
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Subject to the terms of the Indenture governing our 2027 Senior Notes, we may incur significant debt, which may subject us to restrictive covenants and increased risk of loss and may reduce cash available for distributions to our shareholders, and our governing documents and current credit facility contain no limit on the amount of debt we may incur.
Subject to market conditions, availability and the terms of the Indenture governing our 2027 Senior Notes, we may incur significant debt through bank credit facilities (including term loans and revolving facilities), public and private debt issuances and derivative instruments, in addition to transaction or asset specific funding arrangements. The percentage of leverage we employ will vary depending on our available capital, our ability to obtain and access financing arrangements with lenders, debt restrictions contained in those financing arrangements and the lenders’ and rating agencies’ estimate of the stability of our portfolio’s cash flow. Our governing documents and our Revolving Credit Agreement contain no limit on the amount of debt we may incur, and, subject to the covenants contained in the Indenture, we may significantly increase the amount of leverage we utilize at any time without approval of our shareholders. Leverage can enhance our potential returns but can also exacerbate our losses. Incurring substantial debt could subject us to many risks that, if realized, would materially and adversely affect us, including, but not limited to, the risks that:
our cash flow from operations may be insufficient to make required payments of principal of and interest on the debt we incur or we may fail to comply with all of the other covenants contained in such debt, which is likely to result in (i) acceleration of such debt (and any other debt containing a cross-default or cross-acceleration provision) that we may be unable to repay from internal funds or to refinance on favorable terms, or at all, (ii) our inability to borrow unused amounts under our financing arrangements, even if we are current in payments on borrowings under those arrangements, and/or (iii) the loss of some or all of our assets to foreclosure or sale;
we may be unable to borrow additional funds as needed or on favorable terms, or at all;
to the extent we borrow debt that bears interest at variable rates, increases in interest rates could materially increase our interest expense;
our default under any loan with cross-default provisions could result in a default on other indebtedness;
incurring debt may increase our vulnerability to adverse economic and industry conditions with no assurance that loan yields will increase with higher financing costs;
we may be required to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to payments on the debt we may incur, thereby reducing funds available for operations, future business opportunities, shareholder distributions, including distributions currently contemplated or necessary to satisfy the requirements for REIT qualification, or other purposes; and
we are not able to refinance debt that matures prior to the loan it was used to finance on favorable terms, or at all.
There can be no assurance that a leveraging strategy will be successful. If any one of these events were to occur, our financial condition, results of operations, cash flow, and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders could be materially and adversely affected.
Our indebtedness may affect our ability to operate our business, and may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
As of December 31, 2023, our total consolidated indebtedness, including that of our subsidiaries, was approximately $132.0 million (excluding debt issuance costs and accrued interests), including $42.0 million that we had drawn under our Revolving Credit Facility. On December 29, 2023, we drew $42.0 million on our Revolving Credit Facility and all outstanding borrowings under the Revolving Credit Facility were subsequently repaid in full on January 2, 2024. Our indebtedness could have significant adverse consequences to us, such as:
limiting our ability to satisfy our financial obligations,;
limiting our ability to obtain additional financing to fund our working capital needs, acquisitions, capital expenditures or other debt service requirements or for other purposes;
limiting our ability to use operating cash flow in other areas of our business because we must dedicate a substantial portion of these funds to service debt;
limiting our ability to compete with other companies who are not as highly leveraged, as we may be less capable of responding to adverse economic and industry conditions;
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restricting us from making strategic acquisitions, developing properties or exploiting business opportunities;
restricting the way in which we conduct our business because of financial and operating covenants;
covenants in the agreements governing our and our subsidiaries’ existing and future indebtedness;
exposing us to potential events of default (if not cured or waived) under financial and operating covenants contained in our or our subsidiaries’ debt instruments that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results;
increasing our vulnerability to a downturn in general economic conditions; and
limiting our ability to react to changing market conditions in our industry and in our borrowers’ industries.
In addition to our debt service obligations, our operations may require substantial investments. Our ability to make scheduled debt payments, to refinance our obligations with respect to our indebtedness and to fund capital and non-capital expenditures necessary to maintain the condition of our properties, as well as to provide capacity for the growth of our business, depends on our financial and operating performance, which, in turn, is subject to prevailing economic conditions and financial, business, competitive, legal and other factors.
We may not be able to generate sufficient cash flow to meet our debt service obligations.
Our ability to make payments on our outstanding debt, and to fund our operations, working capital and capital expenditures, depends on our ability to generate cash in the future. To a certain extent, our cash flow is subject to general economic, industry, financial, competitive, operating, legislative, regulatory and other factors, many of which are beyond our control.
Holders of the 2027 Senior Notes have the right to require us to repurchase such 2027 Senior Notes for cash upon the occurrence of designated events. We expect that our future debt agreements or securities may contain similar provisions. We may not have sufficient funds to make the required repurchase or settlement, as applicable, of the 2027 Senior Notes in cash at the applicable time and, in such circumstances, may not be able to arrange the necessary financing on favorable terms, or at all. Similarly, our future subsidiary guarantors of the 2027 Senior Notes, if any, may not have sufficient funds with which to pay such amounts in respect of their guarantees of the 2027 Senior Notes, if any. In addition, our ability to make the required repurchase or settlement may be limited by law or the terms of other debt agreements or securities, as may be any subsidiary guarantor’s ability to make payments in respect of its guarantee on such 2027 Senior Notes, if any. However, our failure to make the required repurchase or settlement, as applicable, of the 2027 Senior Notes, and any subsidiary guarantor’s failure to pay such amounts pursuant to its guarantee of the 2027 Senior Notes, if any, would constitute an event of default under the applicable indenture which, in turn, could constitute an event of default under other debt agreements, thereby resulting in the acceleration and required prepayment of such other debt agreements and further restricting our ability to make such payments and repurchases.
We cannot assure you that our business will generate sufficient cash flow from operations or that future sources of cash will be available to us in an amount sufficient to enable us to pay amounts due on our indebtedness, including the 2027 Senior Notes and the Revolving Credit Facility, or to fund our other liquidity needs. Additionally, if we incur additional indebtedness in connection with future acquisitions or development projects or for any other purpose, our debt service obligations could increase.
We may need to refinance all or a portion of our indebtedness, including the 2027 Senior Notes and the Revolving Credit Facility, on or before maturity. Our ability to refinance our indebtedness or obtain additional financing will depend on, among other things:
our financial condition and market conditions at the time; and
restrictions in the agreements governing our indebtedness.
As a result, we may not be able to refinance any of our indebtedness, including the 2027 Senior Notes and the Revolving Credit Facility, on commercially reasonable terms, or at all. If we do not generate sufficient cash flow from operations, and additional borrowings or refinancings or proceeds of asset sales or other sources of cash are not available to us, we may not have sufficient cash to enable us to meet all of our obligations, including payments on the 2027 Senior Notes and the Revolving Credit Facility. Accordingly, if we cannot service our indebtedness, we may have to take actions such as seeking additional equity or delaying capital expenditures, or strategic acquisitions and alliances, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our operations. We cannot assure you that we will be able to effect any of these actions on commercially reasonable terms, or at all.
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Monetary policy actions by the Federal Reserve could adversely impact both our borrowers and our financial condition.
We, as well as our borrowers, are affected by the fiscal and monetary policies of the United States Government and its agencies, including the policies of the Federal Reserve, which regulates the supply of money and credit in the United States. In an effort to combat rising inflation levels, the Federal Reserve steadily began increasing the target federal funds rate in the first quarter of 2022 and continued to do so through the third quarter of 2023. The Federal Funds Target Rate increased by 5.25 percentage points between March 2022 and December 2023. Changes in the federal funds rate as well as the other policies of the Federal Reserve affect interest rates, which have a significant impact on the demand for debt capital. Changes in fiscal and monetary policies are beyond our control, are difficult to predict and could materially adversely affect us and our borrowers.
Any lending facilities will impose restrictive covenants.
Any lending facilities which we enter would be expected to contain, customary negative covenants and other financial and operating covenants, that among other things, may affect our ability to incur additional debt, make certain loans or acquisitions, reduce liquidity below certain levels, make distributions to our shareholders, redeem debt or equity securities and impact our flexibility to determine our operating policies and loan and investment strategies. For example, such loan documents typically contain negative covenants that limit, among other things, our ability to repurchase our equity, distribute more than a certain amount of our net income or funds from operations to our shareholders, employ leverage beyond certain amounts, sell assets, engage in mergers or consolidations, grant liens, and enter into transactions with affiliates. If we fail to meet or satisfy any such covenants, we would likely be in default under these agreements, and the lenders could elect to declare outstanding amounts due and payable, terminate their commitments, require the posting of additional collateral and enforce their interests against existing collateral. We could also become subject to cross-default and acceleration rights and, with respect to collateralized debt, the posting of additional collateral and foreclosure rights upon default. Further, such restrictions could also make it difficult for us to satisfy the qualification requirements necessary to maintain our status as a REIT.
Interest rate fluctuations could increase our financing costs, which could lead to a significant decrease in our results of operations, cash flows and the market value of our loans.
Our primary interest rate exposures will relate to the financing cost of our debt. To the extent that our financing costs will be determined by reference to floating rates, the amount of such costs will depend on a variety of factors, including, without limitation, (i) for collateralized debt, the value and liquidity of the collateral, and for non-collateralized debt, our credit, (ii) the level and movement of interest rates, and (iii) general market conditions and liquidity. In a period of rising interest rates, our interest expense on floating-rate debt would increase, while any additional interest income we earn on our floating-rate loans may not compensate for such increase in interest expense. At the same time, the interest income we earn on our fixed-rate loans would not change, the duration and weighted average life of our fixed-rate loans would increase and the market value of our fixed-rate loans would decrease. Similarly, in a period of declining interest rates, our interest income on floating-rate loans would decrease, while any decrease in the interest we are charged on our floating-rate debt may not compensate for such decrease in interest income and interest we are charged on our fixed-rate debt would not change. Any such scenario could materially and adversely affect us.
Any bank credit facilities that we may use in the future to finance our operations may require us to provide collateral or pay down debt.
We may utilize bank credit facilities (including term loans and revolving facilities) to finance our loans if they become available on acceptable terms. We may not have the funds available to repay our debt at that time, which would likely result in defaults unless we are able to raise the funds from alternative sources, which we may not be able to achieve on favorable terms or at all. If we cannot meet these requirements, lenders could accelerate our indebtedness, increase the interest rate on advanced funds and terminate our ability to borrow funds from it, which could materially and adversely affect our financial condition and ability to implement our investment strategy. In addition, if a lender files for bankruptcy or becomes insolvent, our loans may become subject to bankruptcy or insolvency proceedings, thus depriving us, at least temporarily, of the benefit of such loans. Such an event could restrict our access to bank credit facilities and increase our cost of capital. The providers of bank credit facilities may also require us to maintain a certain amount of cash or set aside assets sufficient to maintain a specified liquidity position that would allow us to satisfy our collateral obligations. As a result, we may not be able to obtain leverage as fully as we would choose, which could reduce the return on our loans. If we are unable to meet these collateral obligations, our financial condition and prospects could deteriorate rapidly.
In addition, there can be no assurance that we will be able to obtain bank credit facilities on favorable terms, or at all. Banks and other financial institutions may be reluctant to enter into lending transactions with us.
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Adoption of the Basel III standards and other proposed supplementary regulatory standards may negatively impact our access to financing or affect the terms of our future financing arrangements.
In response to various financial crises and the volatility of financial markets, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (the “Basel Committee”) adopted the Basel III standards several years ago to reform, among other things, bank capital adequacy, stress testing, and market liquidity risk. United States regulators have elected to implement substantially all of the Basel III standards and have even implemented rules requiring enhanced supplementary leverage ratio standards, which impose capital requirements more stringent than those of the Basel III standards for the most systematically significant banking organizations in the United States. Adoption and implementation of the Basel III standards and the supplemental regulatory standards adopted by United States regulators may negatively impact our access to financing or affect the terms of our future financing arrangements due to an increase in capital requirements for, and constraints on, the financial institutions from which we may borrow.
Moreover, in January 2019, the Basel Committee published its revised capital requirements for market risk, known as Fundamental Review of the Trading Book (“FRTB”), which are expected to generally result in higher global capital requirements for banks that could, in turn, reduce liquidity and increase financing and hedging costs. The impact of FRTB will not be known until after any resulting rules are finalized and implemented by the United States federal bank regulatory agencies.
Risks Related to the Spin-Off
Following the Separation, our financial profile will change, and we will be a smaller, less diversified company than prior to the Separation.
The separation of our commercial real estate lending business (the “Separation”) will result in each of Sunrise Realty Trust, Inc. (“SUNS”) and us being smaller, less diversified companies with more limited businesses concentrated in our respective industries. As a result, we and SUNS may be more vulnerable to changing market conditions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, the diversification of our revenues, costs, and cash flows will diminish as a standalone company, such that our results of operations, cash flows, working capital and financing requirements may be subject to increased volatility and our ability to fund capital expenditures and investments may be diminished.
We may not achieve some or all of the expected benefits of the Separation and Distribution, and the Separation and Distribution may materially adversely affect our business.
We may not be able to achieve the full strategic and financial benefits expected to result from the Separation and the distribute all of the outstanding shares of SUNS common stock (“SUNS Common Stock”) on the distribution date to our stockholders as of the record date on a pro rata basis (the “Distribution”), or such benefits may be delayed or not occur at all. The Separation and Distribution is expected to provide the following benefits, among others: (1) enabling each company’s management to more effectively pursue its own distinct investment priorities and strategies; (2) permitting us to allocate our financial resources to meet the unique needs of our business, which will allow us to specialize on our distinct strategic priorities and to more effectively pursue our own distinct capital allocation and portfolio management strategies; (3) allowing each company to more effectively articulate a clear investment thesis to attract a long-term investor base suited to our business and providing investors with a distinct and targeted investment opportunity; and (4) enhancing access to financing to support SUNS, which will no longer be subject to the current regulatory environment with respect to lending to cannabis industry operators.
We may not achieve these and other anticipated benefits for a variety of reasons, including, among others: (1) following the Separation and Distribution, we may be more susceptible to market fluctuations and other adverse events than if SUNS were still a part of the Company because our business will be less diversified than prior to the completion of the Separation; (2) the Separation and Distribution will demand management’s time and effort, which may divert management’s attention from operating and growing our business; (3) the Separation may require us to pay costs that could be substantial and material to our financial resources, including accounting, tax, legal and other professional services costs, recruiting costs, and tax costs; and (4) after the Separation and Distribution, we cannot predict the trading prices of SUNS Common Stock or know whether the combined trading prices of our common stock and SUNS Common Stock will be less than, equal to or greater than the market value of our common stock prior to the Separation and Distribution. If we fail to achieve some or all of the benefits expected to result from the Separation, or if such benefits are delayed, it could have a material adverse effect on our competitive position, business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
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Our plan to separate into two publicly-traded companies is subject to various risks and uncertainties and may not be completed in accordance with the expected plans or anticipated timeline, or at all, and will involve significant time and expense, which could disrupt or adversely affect our business.
The Separation and Distribution is subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions (or waiver by us in our sole and absolute discretion), including final approval by our Board of the final terms of the Separation and Distribution. Furthermore, unanticipated developments or changes, including changes in the law, the macroeconomic environment, competitive conditions of our markets could delay or prevent the completion of the proposed Separation and Distribution, or cause the Separation and Distribution to occur on terms or conditions that are different or less favorable than expected.
The process of completing the proposed Separation and Distribution has been and is expected to continue to be time-consuming and involves significant costs and expenses. The costs may be significantly higher than what we currently anticipate and may not yield a discernible benefit if the Separation and Distribution is not completed or is not well-executed, or the expected benefits of the Separation and Distribution are not realized.
We expect to share accounting and other management systems and resources, including our Chief Financial Officer, with SUNS, which may make it more challenging for us to comply with our financial reporting requirements generally and in a timely manner.
Prior to the Distribution, the Company believes that SUNS reporting and control systems have been appropriate for those of a subsidiary of a public company. However, SUNS has not been directly subject to the reporting and other requirements of the Exchange Act. As a result of the Distribution, SUNS will be directly subject to reporting and other obligations under the Exchange Act. These reporting and other obligations will place significant demands on SUNS management and administrative and operational resources, including accounting resources. Our Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer, Brandon Hetzel, is expected to be SUNS’ expected Chief Financial Officer and expected Chief Accounting Officer. His financial reporting staff that he will manage is expected to also spend time supporting both companies. As a result, it may be more challenging for us to comply with the various financial reporting requirements generally and in a timely manner. Further, Mr. Hetzel and his financial reporting staff will not be our employees and, instead, will be employees of Sunrise Manager LLC, an investment adviser with overlapping ownership to our Manager and certain shared services (the “SUNS Manager”). As a result, he and the staff members may provide services to additional entities that are affiliated with the SUNS Manager, which will further divert resources Mr. Hetzel and his financial reporting staff could provide to us. We may not have sufficient time following the Separation to meet these obligations by the applicable deadlines.
In connection with the separation into two public companies, each of the Company and SUNS will indemnify each other for certain liabilities. If we are required to pay under these indemnities to SUNS, our financial results could be negatively impacted. In addition, the SUNS indemnities may not be sufficient to hold us harmless from the full amount of liabilities for which SUNS will be allocated responsibility, and SUNS may not be able to satisfy its indemnification obligations in the future.
Pursuant to the separation and distribution agreement and certain other agreements between SUNS and us, each party will agree to indemnify the other for certain liabilities. Third parties could also seek to hold us responsible for any of the liabilities that SUNS has agreed to retain. Any amounts we are required to pay pursuant to these indemnification obligations and other liabilities could require us to divert cash that would otherwise have been used in furtherance of our operating business. Further, the indemnities from SUNS for our benefit may not be sufficient to protect us against the full amount of such liabilities, and SUNS may not be able to fully satisfy its indemnification obligations.
Moreover, even if we ultimately succeed in recovering from SUNS any amounts for which we are held liable, we may be temporarily required to bear these losses ourselves. Each of these risks could negatively affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our agreements with SUNS involve potential conflicts of interest.
The agreements we will enter into with SUNS in connection with the Separation were prepared in the context of the Separation while SUNS was still a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company. Accordingly, during the period in which the terms of those agreements were prepared, SUNS did not have an independent Board of Directors or a management team that was independent of the Company. As a result, the terms of those agreements may not reflect terms that would have resulted from arm’s-length negotiations between unaffiliated third parties. For example, the allocation of assets, liabilities, rights, indemnification and other obligations between SUNS and us under the separation and distribution agreement may have been different if agreed to by two unaffiliated parties.
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After the Separation and Distribution, some of our directors and officers may have actual or potential conflicts of interest because of their equity ownership in SUNS.
Because of their current or former positions with SUNS, following the Separation and Distribution, some of our directors and executive officers may own shares of SUNS Common Stock, and the individual holdings may be significant for some of these individuals compared to their total assets. This ownership may create, or may create the appearance of, conflicts of interest when these directors and officers are faced with decisions that could have different implications for SUNS or us. For example, potential conflicts of interest could arise in connection with the resolution of any dispute that may arise between SUNS and us regarding the terms of the agreements governing the Separation and the relationship thereafter between the companies.
The distribution of SUNS Common Stock will not qualify for tax-free treatment and may be taxable to you as a dividend.
The distribution of SUNS Common Stock will not qualify for tax-free treatment. An amount equal to the fair market value of the SUNS Common Stock received by you on the distribution date (plus any cash received in connection with, or at or around the time of, the Distribution) will be treated as a taxable dividend to the extent of your ratable share of any current or accumulated earnings and profits of the Company, with the excess treated first as a non-taxable return of capital to the extent of your tax basis in SUNS Common Stock and then as capital gain. There can be no assurances that the Company or SUNS will make cash distributions in an amount sufficient to satisfy any tax liability resulting from the Distribution. In that case, you may be required to satisfy that tax liability from other funds.
Additionally, the Company’s current earnings and profits are measured as of the end of the tax year and are generally allocated to all distributions made during such tax year on a pro rata basis. As a result, the Company expects that a proportionate part of the Company’s current earnings and profits for the entire taxable year of the Separation and Distribution, as well as any accumulated earnings and profits for previous taxable years, will be allocated to the Distribution. That proportionate part will be treated as dividend income to you even if you have not held our common stock for the entire taxable year of the Company in which the Separation and Distribution occurs. Thus, if you did not hold our common stock for the entire taxable year of the Company in which the Spin-Off occurs, you may be allocated current or accumulated earnings and profits of the Company derived from periods during which you did not own our common stock.
The Company or other applicable withholding agents may be required or permitted to withhold at the applicable rate on all or a portion of the distribution payable to non-U.S. Holders (as defined below), and there can be no assurances that cash distributions from the Company or SUNS will be sufficient to satisfy that withholding tax liability. In such case, with respect to non-U.S. holders, the Company or other withholding agent may be required or permitted to satisfy any withholding tax liability by selling a portion of the SUNS Common Stock otherwise distributable to the applicable holder, by withholding from other property held in the non-U.S. holder’s account with the withholding agent or otherwise. In addition, because the Company will not be able to advise stockholders of the amount of its earnings and profits allocable to the Distribution until after the end of 2024, the applicable withholding agent may withhold an amount with respect to the Distribution that is substantially more than the non-U.S. Holder’s ultimate withholding tax liability. Non-U.S. Holders may seek a refund from the IRS of any amounts withheld if it is subsequently determined that the amounts withheld exceeded the holder's U.S. tax liability for the year in which the Distribution occurred.
Your tax basis in shares of the Company held at the time of the distribution will be reduced (but not below zero) if the fair market value of SUNS Common Stock distributed by the Company to you in the distribution (plus any cash received in connection with, or at or around the time of, the Distribution) exceeds your ratable share of our current and accumulated earnings and profits. Your holding period for our common stock will not be affected by the distribution.
Although the Company will be ascribing a value to our shares in the Distribution for tax purposes, this valuation is not binding on the Internal Revenue Service or any other tax authority. These taxing authorities could ascribe a higher valuation to SUNS shares, particularly if SUNS Common Stock trades at prices significantly above the value ascribed to the shares by us in the period following the Separation and Distribution. Such a higher valuation may cause a larger reduction in the tax basis of our common stock or may cause you to recognize additional dividend or capital gain income. You should consult your own tax advisor as to the particular tax consequences of the distribution to you.
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Risks Related to Our Organization and Structure
Provisions in our Charter and our amended and restated bylaws (our “Bylaws”) may have anti-takeover effects that could discourage an acquisition of us by others, even if an acquisition would be beneficial to our shareholders, and may prevent attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management.
Our Charter and our Bylaws contain provisions that may have the effect of delaying or preventing a change in control of us or changes in our management. Our Charter and Bylaws include, among others, provisions that:
authorize our Board, without your approval, to cause us to issue additional shares of our common stock or to raise capital through the creation and issuance of our preferred stock, debt securities convertible into common stock, options, warrants and other rights, on terms and for consideration as our Board in its sole discretion may determine;
authorize “blank check” preferred stock, which could be issued by our Board without shareholder approval, subject to certain specified limitations, and may contain voting, liquidation, dividend and other rights senior to our common stock;
establish a classified Board such that not all members of the Board are elected at each annual meeting of shareholders, which may delay the ability of our stockholders to change the membership of a majority of our Board;
specify that only our Board, the chairman of our Board, our chief executive officer or president or, upon the written request of shareholders entitled to cast not less than a majority of the votes entitled to be cast, our secretary can call special meetings of our shareholders;
establish advance notice procedures for shareholder proposals to be brought before an annual meeting of our shareholders, including proposed nominations of individuals for election to our Board;
provide that a majority of directors then in office, even though less than a quorum, may fill any vacancy on our Board, whether resulting from an increase in the number of directors or otherwise;
specify that no shareholder is permitted to cumulate votes at any election of directors;
provide our Board the exclusive power to adopt, alter or repeal any provision of our Bylaws and to make new Bylaws; and
require supermajority votes of the holders of our common stock to amend specified provisions of our Charter.
These provisions, alone or together, could delay or prevent hostile takeovers and changes in control or changes in our management.
Any provision of our Charter or Bylaws that has the effect of delaying or deterring a change in control could limit your opportunity to receive a premium for your shares of our common stock, and could also affect the price that some investors are willing to pay for our common stock. Any person or entity purchasing or otherwise acquiring any interest in shares of our capital stock shall be deemed to have notice of and to have consented to the provisions of our Charter and Bylaws described above.
Our authorized but unissued shares of common stock and preferred stock may prevent a change in control of our Company.
The Charter authorizes us to issue shares of our common stock and preferred stock without shareholder approval, subject to certain specified limitations. In addition, subject to certain voting rights specifically provided in our Charter or by state statute, our Board may, without shareholder approval, amend the Charter from time to time to increase or decrease the aggregate number of shares of our stock or the number of shares of stock of any class or series that we have authority to issue and classify or reclassify any unissued shares of our common stock and preferred stock and set the preferences, rights and other terms of the classified or reclassified shares. As a result, our Board may, subject to certain specified limitations, establish a class or series of shares of our common stock and preferred stock that could delay or prevent a merger, third-party tender offer, change of control or similar transaction or a change in incumbent management that might involve a premium price for shares of our common stock or otherwise be in the best interests of our shareholders.
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The Maryland General Corporation Law prohibits certain business combinations, which may make it more difficult for us to be acquired.
We are a Maryland corporation and subject to the Maryland General Corporation Law (“MGCL”). Under the MGCL, “business combinations” between a Maryland corporation and an “interested stockholder” or an affiliate of an interested stockholder are prohibited for five years after the most recent date on which the interested stockholder becomes an interested stockholder. These business combinations include a merger, consolidation, share exchange or, in circumstances specified in the statute, an asset transfer or issuance or reclassification of equity securities. An interested stockholder is defined as: (a) any person who beneficially owns, directly or indirectly, 10% or more of the voting power of the then-outstanding voting stock of a corporation; or (b) an affiliate or associate of a corporation who, at any time within the two-year period prior to the date in question, was the beneficial owner, directly or indirectly, of 10% or more of the voting power of the then-outstanding stock of such corporation.
A person is not an interested stockholder under the statute if the board of directors approved in advance the transaction by which the person otherwise would have become an interested stockholder. However, in approving a transaction, the board of directors may provide that its approval is subject to compliance, at or after the time of approval, with any terms and conditions determined by the board of directors.
After the expiration of the five-year period described above, any business combination between a Maryland corporation and an interested stockholder must generally be recommended by the board of directors of such corporation and approved by the affirmative vote of at least:
80% of the votes entitled to be cast by holders of the then-outstanding shares of voting stock of such corporation; and
two-thirds of the votes entitled to be cast by holders of voting stock of such corporation, other than shares held by the interested stockholder with whom or with whose affiliate the business combination is to be effected, or held by an affiliate or associate of the interested stockholder.
These supermajority vote requirements do not apply if the corporation’s common shareholders receive a minimum price, as defined under the MGCL, for their shares in the form of cash or other consideration in the same form as previously paid by the interested stockholder for its shares. The MGCL also permits various exemptions from these provisions, including business combinations that are exempted by the board of directors before the time that the interested stockholder becomes an interested stockholder. Pursuant to the statute, our Board has adopted a resolution exempting any business combination with Leonard M. Tannenbaum, or any of his affiliates. Consequently, the five-year prohibition and the supermajority vote requirements will not apply to a business combination between us and Leonard M. Tannenbaum or any of his affiliates. As a result, Leonard M. Tannenbaum or any of his affiliates may be able to enter into business combinations with us that may not be in the best interest of our shareholders, without compliance with the supermajority vote requirements and the other provisions of the statute. The business combination statute may discourage others from trying to acquire control of our Company and increase the difficulty of consummating any offer.
In addition, under the MGCL, holders of our “control shares” (defined as voting shares of stock that, if aggregated with all other shares of stock owned or controlled by the acquirer, would entitle the acquirer to exercise one of three increasing ranges of voting power in electing directors) acquired in a “control share acquisition” (defined as the direct or indirect acquisition of issued and outstanding “control shares”) have no voting rights except to the extent approved by our shareholders by the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of all of the votes entitled to be cast on the matter, excluding all interested shares. Our Bylaws contain a provision exempting from the Maryland Control Share Acquisition Act any and all acquisitions by any person of shares of our capital stock. There can be no assurance that this exemption will not be amended or eliminated at any time in the future.
The Charter contains provisions that make removal of our directors difficult, which could make it difficult for our shareholders to effect changes to management.
The Charter provides that a director may only be removed for cause upon the affirmative vote of holders of a majority of the votes entitled to be cast generally in the election of directors. This requirement makes it more difficult to change our management by removing and replacing directors and may prevent a change of control that is in the best interests of our shareholders.
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Our Bylaws designate the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland as the sole and exclusive forum for certain types of actions and proceedings that may be initiated by our shareholders and provide that claims relating to causes of action under the Securities Act may only be brought in federal district courts, which could limit shareholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees, if any, and could discourage lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and employees, if any.
Our Bylaws provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland, or, if that court does not have jurisdiction, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, will be the sole and exclusive forum for (a) any Internal Corporate Claim, as such term is defined in the MGCL, (b) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf (other than actions arising under federal securities laws), (c) any action asserting a claim of breach of any duty owed by any of our directors, officers or other employees to us or to our shareholders, (d) any action asserting a claim against us or any of our directors, officers or other employees arising pursuant to any provision of the MGCL or our Charter or Bylaws or (e) any other action asserting a claim against us or any of our directors, officers or other employees that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine. These choice of forum provisions will not apply to suits brought to enforce a duty or liability created by the Securities Act, the Exchange Act, or any other claim for which federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction. Furthermore, our Bylaws provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the federal district courts of the United States of America shall, to the fullest extent permitted by law, be the sole and exclusive forum for the resolution of any claim arising under the Securities Act.
These exclusive forum provisions may limit the ability of our shareholders to bring a claim in a judicial forum that such shareholders find favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or employees, if any, which may discourage such lawsuits against us and our directors, officers, and employees, if any. Alternatively, if a court were to find the choice of forum provisions contained in our Bylaws to be inapplicable or unenforceable in an action, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, and operating results. For example, under the Securities Act, federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction over all suits brought to enforce any duty or liability created by the Securities Act, and investors cannot waive compliance with the federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder. In addition, the exclusive forum provisions described above do not apply to any actions brought under the Exchange Act.
Ownership limitations contained in the Charter may restrict change of control or business combination opportunities in which our shareholders might receive a premium for their shares.
In order for us to qualify as a REIT, for each taxable year after our first REIT taxable year, no more than 50% in value of our outstanding capital stock may be owned, directly or indirectly, by five or fewer individuals during the last half of any taxable year (other than the first year for which an election to be a REIT has been made). “Individuals” for this purpose include natural persons, private foundations, some employee benefit plans and trusts, and some charitable trusts. To preserve our REIT qualification, the Charter includes ownership limits based on the value and number of outstanding shares of our capital stock. Subject to certain exceptions, (i) (i) no person, other than a Qualified Institutional Investor (as defined in our Charter) or an Excepted Holder (as defined in our charter), shall beneficially own or constructively own shares of our capital stock in excess of the aggregate stock ownership limit set forth in our Charter, (ii) no Qualified Institutional Investor, other than an Excepted Holder, shall beneficially own or constructively own shares of our capital stock in excess of the aggregate stock ownership limit applicable to Qualified Institutional Investor as set forth in our Charter and (iii) no Excepted Holder shall beneficially own or constructively own shares of our capital stock in excess of the stock ownership limit applicable to such Excepted Holder. Leonard M. Tannenbaum is an Excepted Holder and may maintain an equity interest up to 29.9% in value or number of shares, whichever is more restrictive, of our Company. These ownership limitations could have the effect of discouraging a takeover or other transaction in which our shareholders might receive a premium for their shares over the then prevailing market price or which holders might believe to be otherwise in their best interests.
Maintenance of our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act may impose significant limits on our operations. Your investment return in our common stock may be reduced if we are required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.
We intend to conduct our operations so that we will be exempt from the provisions of the Investment Company Act pursuant to an exemption contained in 3(c)(5) thereunder. The Investment Company Act provides certain protection to investors and imposes certain restrictions on registered investment companies (including, for example, limitations on the ability of registered investment companies to incur leverage), none of which will be applicable to us.
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We classify our assets for purposes of our 3(c)(5)(C) exemption based upon no-action positions taken by the SEC staff and interpretive guidance provided by the SEC and its staff. These no-action positions are based on specific factual situations that may be substantially different from the factual situations we may face. No assurance can be given that the SEC or its staff will concur with our classification of our assets. In addition, the SEC or its staff may, in the future, issue further guidance that may require us to re-classify our assets for purposes of the Investment Company Act. If we are required to reclassify our assets, we may no longer be in compliance with the exemption from the definition of an investment company provided by Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the Investment Company Act.
A change in the value of any of our assets could negatively affect our ability to maintain our exemption from regulation under the Investment Company Act. To maintain compliance with the applicable exemption under the Investment Company Act, we may be unable to sell assets we would otherwise want to sell and may need to sell assets we would otherwise wish to retain. In addition, we may have to acquire additional assets that we might not otherwise have acquired or may have to forego opportunities to acquire assets that we would otherwise want to acquire and would be important to our investment strategy.
A failure by us to maintain this exemption would require us to significantly restructure our investment strategy. For example, because affiliate transactions are generally prohibited under the Investment Company Act, we would not be able to enter into 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 the business and pay distributions. 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 such entity and liquidate its business.
Rapid and steep declines in the values of our real estate-related investments may make it more difficult for us to maintain our qualification as a REIT or exemption from the Investment Company Act.
If the market value or income potential of real estate-related investments declines as a result of increased interest rates or other factors, we may need to increase our real estate loans and income and/or liquidate our non-qualifying assets in order to maintain our REIT qualification or exemption from the Investment Company Act. If the decline in real estate asset values and/or income occurs quickly, this may be especially difficult to accomplish. This difficulty may be exacerbated by the illiquid nature of any non-qualifying assets that we may own. We may have to make investment decisions that we otherwise would not make absent REIT and Investment Company Act considerations.
Our rights and the rights of our shareholders to recover on claims against our directors and officers are limited, which could reduce our and our shareholders’ recovery against them if they negligently cause us to incur losses.
The MGCL provides that a director has no liability in such capacity if he performs his duties in good faith, in a manner he reasonably believes to be in our best interests and with the care that an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances. A director who performs his or her duties in accordance with the foregoing standards should not be liable to us or any other person for failure to discharge his or her obligations as a director.
The Charter and Bylaws permit and require us, to the maximum extent permitted by Maryland law, to indemnify and, without requiring a preliminary determination of the ultimate entitlement to indemnification, pay or reimburse reasonable costs, fees and expenses in advance of final disposition of a proceeding to any individual who is a present or former director or officer and who is made or threatened to be made a party to, or witness in, the proceeding by reason of his or her service in that capacity or any individual who, while a director or officer and at our request, serves or has served as a director, officer, partner, trustee, member or manager of another corporation, REIT, limited liability company, partnership, joint venture, trust, employee benefit plan or other enterprise and who is made or threatened to be made a party to, or witness in, the proceeding by reason of his or her service in that capacity. With the approval of our Board, we may provide such indemnification and advance for expenses to any individual who served a predecessor of our Company in any of the capacities described above and any employee or agent of our Company or a predecessor of our Company, including our Manager and its affiliates. In addition to the indemnification provided by the Charter and Bylaws, we have entered into indemnification agreements to indemnify, and advance certain fees, costs and expenses to, our directors and officers, subject to certain standards to be met and certain other limitations and conditions as set forth in such indemnification agreements.
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While we do not currently do so, we are permitted, to the fullest extent permitted by law, to purchase and maintain insurance on behalf of any of our directors, officers, employees and agents, including our Manager and its affiliates, against any liability asserted against such person. Alternatively, we may in the future establish a sinking fund to contribute a specified amount of cash on a monthly basis towards insuring such persons against liability. Any such insurance or sinking fund may result in us having to expend significant funds, which will reduce the available cash for distribution to our shareholders. Additionally, while we do not have directors and officers insurance, regardless of whether we have a sinking fund, we may also have to expend significant funds to cover our commitments to indemnify our directors and officers.
Risks Related to Our Relationship with Our Manager and its Affiliates
Our future success depends on our Manager and its key personnel and investment professionals. We may not find a suitable replacement for our Manager if the Management Agreement is terminated or if such key personnel or investment professionals leave the employment of our Manager or otherwise become unavailable to us.
We rely on the resources of our Manager to manage our day-to-day operations, as we do not separately employ any personnel. We rely completely on our Manager to provide us with investment advisory services and general management services. Each of our executive officers also serve as officers or employees of our Manager. Our Manager has significant discretion as to the implementation of our investment and operating policies and strategies. Accordingly, we believe that our success depends to a significant extent upon the efforts, experience, diligence, skill and network of business contacts of the officers, key personnel and investment professionals of our Manager as well as the information and deal flow generated by such individuals. The officers, key personnel and investment professionals of our Manager source, evaluate, negotiate, close and monitor our loans; therefore, our success depends on their continued service. The departure of any of the officers, key personnel and investment professionals of our Manager could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our Manager is not obligated to dedicate any specific personnel exclusively to us. None of our officers are obligated to dedicate any specific portion of their time to our business. Each of them may have significant responsibilities for other investment vehicles managed by affiliates of our Manager. As a result, these individuals may not always be able to devote sufficient time to the management of our business. Further, when there are turbulent conditions in the real estate markets or distress in the credit markets, the attention of our Manager’s personnel and our executive officers and the resources of our Manager may also be required by other investment vehicles managed by affiliates of our Manager.
In addition, we offer no assurance that our Manager will remain our manager or that we will continue to have access to our Manager’s officers, key personnel and investment professionals due to the termination of the Management Agreement, our Manager being acquired, our Manager being internalized by another client of our Manager, or due to other circumstances. Currently, we are managed by our Board and its officers and by our Manager, as provided for under the Management Agreement. Currently, the Management Agreement automatically renews every year on July 31st for a one-year period, unless otherwise terminated. Furthermore, our Manager may decline to renew the Management Agreement with 180 days’ written notice prior to the expiration of the renewal term. If the Management Agreement is terminated and we are unable to find a suitable replacement for our Manager, we may not be able to execute its investment strategy.
Our growth depends on the ability of our Manager to make loans on favorable terms that satisfy our investment strategy and otherwise generate attractive risk-adjusted returns initially and consistently from time to time.
Our ability to achieve our investment objectives depends on our ability to grow, which depends, in turn, on the management and investment teams of our Manager and their ability to identify and to make loans on favorable terms in accordance with our investment strategy as well as on our access to financing on acceptable terms. The demands on the time of the professional staff of our Manager will increase as our portfolio grows and the management of our existing portfolio may divert our Manager’s attention from future potential loans or otherwise slow our rate of investment. Our Manager may be unable to successfully and efficiently integrate new loans into our existing portfolio or otherwise effectively manage our assets or our future growth effectively. We cannot assure you that our Manager will be able to hire, train, supervise, manage and retain new officers and employees to manage future growth effectively, and any such failure could have a material adverse effect on our business. The failure to consummate loans on advantageous terms without substantial expense or delay would impede our growth, would negatively affect our results of operations and our ability to generate cash flow and make distributions to our shareholders, and could cause the value of our common stock to decline.
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There are various conflicts of interest in our relationship with our Manager that could result in decisions that are not in the best interests of our shareholders.
We are subject to conflicts of interest arising out of our relationship with our Manager and its affiliates. We are managed by our Manager and our executive officers are employees of our Manager or one or more of its affiliates. There is no guarantee that the policies and procedures adopted by us, the terms and conditions of the Management Agreement or the policies and procedures adopted by our Manager and its affiliates, will enable us to identify, adequately address or mitigate these conflicts of interest.
Some examples of conflicts of interest that may arise by virtue of our relationship with our Manager include:
Manager’s advisory activities. While our Manager and its affiliates have agreed that for so long as our Manager is managing us, neither it nor any of its affiliates will sponsor or manage any other mortgage REIT that invests primarily in loans of the same kind as our Company, our Manager and its affiliates may otherwise manage other investment vehicles that have investment objectives that compete or overlap with, and may from time to time invest in, our target asset classes. This may apply to existing investment vehicles or investment vehicles that may be organized in the future. For example, our Manager and/or its affiliates (i) provide investment advisory and other management services to a recently formed investment vehicle focused on investing in operators and ancillary companies in the cannabis industry by providing debt and equity capital to such operators and companies and (ii) provide investment advisory and other management services to a recently formed investment vehicle focused on providing debt and equity capital to commercial real estate owners, operators and related companies.
Allocation of loans. Our Manager and its affiliates endeavor to allocate loan opportunities in a fair and equitable manner, subject to their internal policies. The internal policies of our Manager and its affiliates, which may be amended without our consent, are intended to enable us to share equitably with any other investment vehicles that are managed by our Manager or affiliates of our Manager. In general, loan opportunities are allocated taking into consideration various factors, including, among others, the relevant investment vehicles’ available capital, their investment objectives or strategies, their risk profiles and their existing or prior positions in a borrower or particular loan, their potential conflicts of interest, the nature of the opportunity and market conditions, certain regulatory considerations as well as the rotation of loan opportunities. Nevertheless, it is possible that we may not be given the opportunity to participate in certain loans made by investment vehicles managed by our Manager or affiliates of our Manager. In addition, there may be conflicts in the allocation of loan opportunities among us and the investment vehicles managed by our Manager or affiliates of our Manager.
Co-investments. Other investment vehicles managed by our Manager or affiliates of our Manager may co-invest with us or hold positions in a loan where we have also invested, including by means of splitting commitments, participating in loans or other means of syndicating loans. Such loans may raise potential conflicts of interest between us and such other investment vehicles. To the extent such investment vehicles seek to acquire the same target assets as us, subject to the internal policies of our Manager and its affiliates described above, the scope of opportunities otherwise available to us may be adversely affected and/or reduced. In such circumstances, the size of the investment opportunity in loans otherwise available to us may be less than it would otherwise have been, and we may participate in such opportunities on different and potentially less favorable economic terms than such other parties if our Manager deems such participation as being otherwise in our best interests. Furthermore, when such other investment vehicles have interests or requirements that do not align with our interests, including differing liquidity needs or desired investment horizons, conflicts may arise in the manner in which any voting or control rights are exercised with respect to the relevant borrower, potentially resulting in an adverse impact on us. If we participate in a co-investment with an investment vehicle managed by our Manager or an affiliate of our Manager and such vehicle fails to fund a future advance on a loan, we may be required to, or we may elect to, cover such advance and invest additional funds. In addition, if we and such other investment vehicles invest in different classes or types of debt, equity or other investments relating to the same borrower, actions may be taken by such other investment vehicles that are adverse to our interests, including, but not limited to, during a work-out, restructuring or insolvency proceeding or similar matter occurring with respect to such loan. Subject to applicable internal policies of our Manager and its affiliates, our Manager and/or its affiliates may also from time to time serve as administrative agent to all lenders of such co-invested loans. In such a case, there may arise potential conflicts of interest between us, such other investment vehicles and/or such affiliated administrative agent.
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Loans in which other investment vehicles managed by our Manager or affiliates of our Manager hold different loans. We may invest in, acquire, sell assets to or provide financing to investment vehicles managed by our Manager or affiliates of our Manager and their borrowers or purchase assets from, sell assets to, or arrange financing from any such investment vehicles and their borrowers. Any such transactions will require approval by a majority of our independent directors. There can be no assurance that any procedural protections will be sufficient to ensure that these transactions will be made on terms that will be at least as favorable to us as those that would have been obtained in an arm’s-length transaction.
Fees and expenses. We will be responsible for certain fees and expenses as determined by our Manager, including due diligence costs, legal, accounting and financial advisor fees and related costs, incurred in connection with evaluating and consummating loan opportunities, regardless of whether such loans are ultimately consummated by the parties thereto.
The ability of our Manager and its officers and employees to engage in other business activities may reduce the time our Manager spends managing our business and may result in certain conflicts of interest.
Certain of our officers and directors and the officers and other personnel of our Manager also serve or may serve as officers, directors or partners of certain affiliates of our Manager, as well as investment vehicles sponsored by such affiliates, including investment vehicles or managed accounts not yet established, whether managed or sponsored by affiliates or our Manager. Accordingly, the ability of our Manager and its officers and employees to engage in other business activities may reduce the time our Manager spends managing our business. These activities could be viewed as creating a conflict of interest insofar as the time and effort of the professional staff of our Manager and its officers and employees will not be devoted exclusively to our business; instead it will be allocated between our business and the management of these other investment vehicles.
In the course of our investing activities, we will pay Base Management Fees to our Manager and will reimburse our Manager for certain expenses it incurs. As a result, investors in our common stock will invest on a “gross” basis and receive any distributions on a “net” basis after expenses, resulting in, among other things, a lower rate of return than one might achieve through direct loans. As a result of this arrangement, our Manager’s interests may be less aligned with our interests.
Our Management Agreement with our Manager was not negotiated on an arm’s-length basis and may not be as favorable to us as if they had been negotiated with an unaffiliated third party, and the manner of determining the Base Management Fees may not provide sufficient incentive to our Manager to maximize risk-adjusted returns for our portfolio since it is based on the book value of our equity per annum and not on our performance.
We rely completely on our Manager to provide us with investment advisory services and general management services. Our executive officers also serve as officers or employees of our Manager. Our Management Agreement was negotiated between related parties and their terms, including fees payable, may not be as favorable to us as if they had been negotiated with an unaffiliated third party.
We pay our Manager substantial Base Management Fees regardless of the performance of our portfolio. Pursuant to the terms of our Management Agreement, our Manager receives Base Management Fees that are calculated and payable quarterly in arrears in cash, in an amount equal to 0.375% of our Equity (as defined below), subject to certain adjustments, less 50% of the aggregate amount of any Outside Fees, including any agency fees relating to our loans, but excluding the Incentive Compensation and any diligence fees paid to and earned by our Manager and paid by third parties in connection with our Manager’s due diligence of potential loans. Such Base Management Fees will be calculated and payable quarterly in arrears in cash, subject to certain adjustments. Our Manager’s entitlement to the Base Management Fees, which are not based upon performance metrics or goals, might reduce its incentive to devote its time and effort to seeking loans that provide attractive risk-adjusted returns for our portfolio. Further, the Base Management Fee structure gives our Manager the incentive to maximize the book value of our equity raised by the issuance of new equity securities or the retention of existing equity value, regardless of the effect of these actions on existing shareholders. In other words, the Base Management Fee structure will reward our Manager primarily based on the size of our equity raised and not necessarily on our financial returns to shareholders. This in turn could hurt both our ability to make distributions to our shareholders and the market price of our common stock.
Currently, the Management Agreement automatically renews every year on July 31st for a one-year period, unless otherwise terminated. Furthermore, our Manager may decline to renew either Management Agreement with 180 days’ written notice prior to the expiration of the renewal term. If our Management Agreement is terminated and we are unable to find a suitable replacement for our Manager, we may not be able to continue to execute our investment strategy.
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Terminating our Management Agreement for unsatisfactory performance of our Manager or electing not to renew the Management Agreement may be difficult and terminating our Management Agreement in certain circumstances requires payment of a substantial termination fee.
Terminating our Management Agreement without cause is difficult and costly. Our independent directors and the Audit and Valuation Committee of our Board will review our Manager’s performance and the applicable Base Management Fees and Incentive Compensation at least annually. Upon 180 days’ written notice prior to the expiration of any renewal term, our Management Agreement may be terminated upon the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of our independent directors, based upon unsatisfactory performance by our Manager that is materially detrimental to us. The Management Agreement provides that upon any termination as described in the foregoing, we will pay our Manager a Termination Fee equal to three times the sum of the annual Base Management Fees and annual Incentive Compensation received from us during the 12-month period immediately preceding the most recently completed fiscal quarter prior to such termination. This provision increases the cost to us of terminating the Management Agreement and adversely affects our ability to terminate our Manager without cause.
Even if we terminate our Management Agreement for cause, we may be required to continue to retain our Manager for 30 days following the occurrence of events giving rise to a for-cause termination.
While we have the right to terminate our Management Agreement for cause without paying a Termination Fee, we must provide 30 days’ notice to our Manager in advance of any such termination, including in the event of our Manager’s fraud, misappropriation of funds, embezzlement or bad faith, willful misconduct, gross negligence or reckless disregard in the performance of its duties. As a result, we would be forced to continue to pay our Manager during such 30-day period and we may not be able to find a suitable replacement for our Manager during this period or, if we were able to find a suitable replacement, we may be required to compensate the new manager while continuing to pay our terminated Manager during this 30-day period, unless our Manager waives the notice requirement. This could have an adverse effect on our business and operations, which could adversely affect our operating results and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
The Incentive Compensation payable to our Manager under the Management Agreement may cause our Manager to select riskier loans to increase its Incentive Compensation.
In addition to the Base Management Fees, our Manager is entitled to receive Incentive Compensation under our Management Agreement. Under our Management Agreement, we pay Incentive Compensation to our Manager based upon our achievement of targeted levels of Core Earnings. “Core Earnings” is generally defined in our Management Agreement as, for a given period, the net income (loss) computed in accordance with GAAP, excluding (i) non-cash equity compensation expense, (ii) the Incentive Compensation, (iii) depreciation and amortization, (iv) any unrealized gains, losses or other non-cash items recorded in net income (loss) for the period, regardless of whether such items are included in other comprehensive income or loss, or in net income (loss); provided that Core Earnings does not exclude, in the case of loans with a deferred interest feature (such as OID, debt instruments with PIK interest and zero coupon securities), accrued income that we have not yet received in cash, and (v) one-time events pursuant to changes in GAAP and certain non-cash charges after discussions between our Manager and our independent directors and after approval by a majority of such independent directors.
In evaluating loans and other management strategies, the opportunity to earn Incentive Compensation based on Core Earnings and realized profits, as applicable, may lead our Manager to place undue emphasis on the maximization of Core Earnings and realized profits at the expense of other criteria, such as preservation of capital, in order to achieve higher Incentive Compensation. Loans with higher yield potential are generally riskier or more speculative. This could result in increased risk to the value of our portfolio.
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Our Manager manages our portfolio in accordance with very broad investment guidelines and our Board does not approve each loan and financing decision made by our Manager, which may result in us making riskier loans than those currently comprising our Existing Portfolio.
While our Board periodically reviews our portfolios, it does not review all proposed investments. In addition, in conducting periodic reviews, such directors may rely primarily on information provided to them by our Manager. Our Investment Guidelines may be changed from time to time upon recommendation by our Manager and approval by a majority of our Board (which must include a majority of the independent directors of our Board) and our Manager. Furthermore, our Manager may use complex strategies and loans entered into by our Manager that may be difficult or impossible to unwind by the time they are reviewed by our Board. Our Manager has great latitude in determining the types of loans that are proper for us, which could result in loan returns that are substantially below expectations or that result in losses, which would materially and adversely affect our business operations and results. In addition, our Manager is not subject to any limits or proportions with respect to the mix of target investments that we make or that we may in the future acquire other than as necessary to maintain our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act and our qualification as a REIT. Decisions made and loans entered into by our Manager may not fully reflect your best interests.
Our Manager may change its investment process, or elect not to follow it, without the consent of our shareholders and at any time, which may adversely affect our loans.
Our Manager may change its investment process without the consent of our shareholders and at any time. In addition, there can be no assurance that our Manager will follow its investment process in relation to the identification and underwriting of prospective loans. Changes in our Manager’s investment process may result in inferior, among other things, due diligence and underwriting standards, which may adversely affect the performance of our portfolio.
We do not have a policy that expressly prohibits our directors, managers, officers, shareholders or affiliates, as applicable, from engaging for their own account in business activities of the types conducted by us.
We do not have a policy that expressly prohibits our directors, officers, shareholders or affiliates from engaging for their own account in business activities of the types conducted by us. For example, certain of our officers and directors and employees of our Manager also have a relationship with our borrowers or other clients as part of their outside business activities. Additionally, (i) some of our officers and directors are equity holders of AFC Warehouse, which invested in the equity of certain of our borrowers, (ii) Mr. Kalikow, a former director and officer, controls a recently formed investment vehicle focused on acquiring, among other things, equity securities of companies in the cannabis industry, which may from time to time include our existing or target borrowers and (iii) Mr. Tannenbaum, our Executive Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, and Mrs. Tannenbaum, our President, are the ultimate beneficial owners of FLH, and collectively hold over a majority of the ownership of the external manager of AFCIF, and FLH and AFCIF each may lend to our borrowers, and (iv) Mr. and Mrs. Tannenbaum own and control AFC Agent, an entity that provides services as an administrative agent to lenders under certain credit facilities, including credit facilities in which we are currently acting, or may in the future act as lenders. However, our conflicts of interest policies prohibit our directors and officers as well as employees of our Manager from engaging in any transaction that involves a potential or actual conflict of interest with us without the approval of the Audit and Valuation Committee of our Board. In addition, our Management Agreement has limited restrictions on our Manager’s and its affiliates’ respective ability to engage in additional management or loan opportunities, which could result in our Manager or its affiliates engaging in management and investment activities that compete with us, and our conflict of interest policies acknowledge that such activities shall not be deemed a conflict of interest.
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Our Manager is subject to extensive regulation as an investment adviser, which could adversely affect its ability to manage our business.
Our Manager is currently an investment adviser under the Advisers Act. Our Manager and its affiliates, as applicable, are subject to regulation as an investment adviser by various regulatory authorities that are charged with protecting the interests of its clients. Instances of criminal activity and fraud by participants in the investment management industry and disclosures of trading and other abuses by participants in the financial services industry have led the United States Government and regulators to increase the rules and regulations governing, and oversight of, the United States financial system. This activity resulted in changes to the laws and regulations governing the investment management industry and more aggressive enforcement of the existing laws and regulations. Our Manager could be subject to civil liability, criminal liability, or sanction, including revocation of its registration as an investment adviser (if relevant), revocation of the licenses of its employees, censures, fines, or temporary suspension or permanent bar from conducting business, if it is found to have violated any of these laws or regulations. Any such liability or sanction could adversely affect the ability of our Manager and any of its applicable affiliates to manage their respective business. Additionally, our Manager and any of its applicable affiliates must continually address conflicts between their respective interests and those of their respective clients, including us. In addition, the SEC and other regulators have increased their scrutiny of potential conflicts of interest. Our Manager has procedures and controls that we believe are reasonably designed to address these issues. However, appropriately dealing with conflicts of interest is complex and difficult and if our Manager or any of its applicable affiliates fail, or appears to fail, to deal appropriately with conflicts of interest, such entity could face litigation or regulatory proceedings or penalties, any of which could adversely affect such entity’s ability to manage our business.
While we believe that we benefit from our Manager’s key personnel and investment professionals expertise and experience, (i) we may not replicate the historical performance of our Manager’s key personnel and investment professionals or that of our Manager’s affiliates, (ii) we and our Manager have not previously managed a REIT vehicle or any investment vehicle focused on providing loans for cannabis industry operators and (iii) we can provide no assurance that, in certain circumstances, their prior experience will not cause reputational harm for us.
We believe that we will benefit from the extensive and diverse expertise and significant financing industry experience of the key personnel and investment professionals of our Manager and its affiliates. However, investors should understand that we and our Manager are recently formed entities that have limited prior operating history upon which to evaluate our and our Manager’s likely performance and we and our Manager have not previously managed a REIT vehicle or any investment vehicle focused on providing loans for cannabis industry operators.
Additionally, in connection with their prior experience, certain of our Manager’s key personnel and its affiliates and our officers and directors have been named defendants in litigation or other legal proceedings involving their managed entities. For example, in 2015, Fifth Street Finance Corporation (“FSC”) and Fifth Street Asset Management (“Fifth Street”) and certain officers and directors of FSC and Fifth Street, including Mr. Tannenbaum and Alexander C. Frank, one of our directors, were named as defendants in actions alleging violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Exchange Act regarding statements about the value of FSC’s assets and Fifth Street and certain officers and directors, including Mr. Tannenbaum and Mr. Frank, were named as defendants in actions alleging that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties by causing FSC to enter into an unfair Investment Advisory Agreement with Fifth Street and engaging in a scheme designed to artificially inflate FSC’s assets. In addition, in 2018, Fifth Street Management, LLC (“FSM”), during a time in which Mr. Tannenbaum was an affiliate, was subject to a cease and desist order from the SEC (the “Order”) relating to allegations of improper allocation of expenses to clients and failures relating to its review of a client’s valuation model. The Order was limited to FSM and no individual or FSM affiliated entity was subject to the Order at any time. Additionally, each of these matters have been resolved with no admission of wrongdoing by any party and the dismissals of all claims against each of the named individuals but we cannot provide assurance that these prior legal proceedings or future legal proceedings involving us, our Manager, our Manager’s key personnel or investment professionals or its affiliates or our officers or directors will not cause reputational harm for us.
In addition to other analytical tools, our Manager may utilize financial models to evaluate loan opportunities, the accuracy and effectiveness of which cannot be guaranteed.
In addition to other analytical tools, our Manager may utilize financial models to evaluate loan opportunities, 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 our Manager’s projected results will be attained 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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Our Manager’s and its affiliates’ liability is limited under the Management Agreement, and we have agreed to indemnify our Manager against certain liabilities. As a result, we could experience poor performance or losses for which our Manager and its affiliates would not be liable.
Pursuant to the Management Agreement, our Manager does not assume any responsibility other than to render the services called for thereunder in good faith and will not be responsible for any action of our Board in following or declining to follow its advice or recommendations. Under the terms of the Management Agreement, our Manager, its affiliates, and any of their respective members, shareholders, managers, partners, trustees, personnel, officers, directors, employees, consultants and any person providing sub-advisory services to our Manager (collectively, the “Manager Parties”) will not be liable to us for acts or omissions performed in accordance with and pursuant to the Management Agreement, except by reason of acts constituting bad faith, willful misconduct, gross negligence, or reckless disregard of their duties under the relevant Management Agreement. In addition, we have agreed to indemnify the Manager Parties with respect to all losses, damages, liabilities, demands, charges and claims of any nature whatsoever, and any and all expenses, costs and fees related thereto, arising from acts or omissions of the Manager Parties not constituting bad faith, willful misconduct, gross negligence, or reckless disregard of duties, performed in good faith in accordance with and pursuant to the Management Agreement. We have also entered into indemnification agreements with the members of the Investment Committee of our Manager to indemnify and advance certain fees, costs and expenses to such individuals, subject to certain standards to be met and certain other limitations and conditions as set forth in such indemnification agreements. These protections may lead our Manager to act in a riskier manner when acting on our behalf than it would when acting for its own account.
Risks Related to Our Taxation as a REIT
Failure to qualify as a REIT would cause us to be taxed as a regular corporation, which would substantially reduce funds available for distributions to our shareholders.
We intend to operate in a manner so as to continue to qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes. We believe that we have qualified, and our organization and current and proposed method of operation will enable us to continue to qualify as a REIT. However, no assurances can be given that our beliefs or expectations will be fulfilled. This is because qualification as a REIT involves the application of highly technical and complex provisions of the Code, and regulations promulgated by the U.S. Treasury Department thereunder (“Treasury Regulations”) as to which there are only limited judicial and administrative interpretations and involves the determination of facts and circumstances not entirely within our control. In addition, while we intend to take the position that we and certain of our affiliates are treated as separate entities for purposes of determining whether we qualify as a REIT, there can be no guarantee that the IRS will agree with our position. If we and certain of our affiliates are treated as the same entity for this purpose, we may not qualify as a REIT. Furthermore, future legislation, new regulations, administrative interpretations or court decisions may significantly change the U.S. tax laws or the application of the U.S. tax laws with respect to qualification as a REIT for federal income tax purposes or the federal income tax consequences of such qualification.
If we fail to qualify as a REIT in any taxable year, we will face serious tax consequences that will substantially reduce the funds available for distributions to our shareholders because:
we would not be allowed a deduction for distributions paid to shareholders in computing our taxable income and would be subject to U.S. federal income tax at regular corporate rates;
we could be subject to increased state and local taxes; and
unless we are entitled to relief under statutory provisions, we would not be able to re-elect to be taxed as a REIT for four taxable years following the year in which we were disqualified.
In addition, if we fail to qualify as a REIT, we will no longer be required to make distributions to remain qualified as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes. As a result of all these factors, our failure to qualify as a REIT could impair our ability to expand our business and raise capital, and it could adversely affect the value of our common stock.
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Even if we qualify as a REIT, we may face other tax liabilities that reduce our cash flows.
Even if we qualify for taxation as a REIT, we may be subject to certain federal, state and local taxes on our income and assets, including taxes on any undistributed income, tax on income from some activities conducted as a result of a foreclosure, and state or local income, property and transfer taxes. In addition, in order to meet the REIT qualification requirements or to avert the imposition of a 100% tax that applies to certain gains derived by a REIT from dealer property or inventory, we currently hold certain assets through TRS1, a taxable REIT subsidiary, and may hold additional assets through TRS1 or one or more to-be-formed taxable REIT subsidiaries that will be subject to corporate-level income tax at regular rates. In addition, if we lend money to a taxable REIT subsidiary (including loans to partnerships or limited liability companies in which a taxable REIT subsidiary owns an interest), the taxable REIT subsidiary may be unable to deduct all or a portion of the interest paid to us, which could result in an increased corporate-level tax liability. Any of these taxes would decrease cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
REIT distribution requirements could adversely affect our ability to execute our business plan and liquidity and may force us to borrow funds during unfavorable market conditions.
In order to maintain our REIT status and to meet the REIT distribution requirements, we may need to borrow funds on a short-term basis or sell assets, even if the then-prevailing market conditions are not favorable for these borrowings or sales. In addition, we may need to reserve cash to satisfy our REIT distribution requirements, even though attractive lending opportunities may be available. To qualify as a REIT, we must distribute to our shareholders at least 90% of our net taxable income each year, without regard to the deduction for dividends paid and excluding capital gains and certain non-cash income. In addition, we will be subject to corporate income tax to the extent we distribute less than 100% of our taxable income, including any net capital gain. We intend to make distributions to our shareholders to comply with the requirements of the Code for REITs and to minimize or eliminate our corporate income tax obligation to the extent consistent with our business objectives. Our cash flows from operations may be insufficient to fund required distributions as a result of differences in timing between the actual receipt of income and the recognition of income for U.S. federal income tax purposes, or the effect of non-deductible capital expenditures, the creation of reserves or required debt service or amortization payments. In addition, if the IRS were to disallow certain of our deductions, such as management fees, depreciation or interest expense, by alleging that we, through our business operations and/or loan agreements with state-licensed cannabis borrowers, are subject to Section 280E of the Code or otherwise, we could be unable to meet the distribution requirements and would fail to qualify as a REIT. Likewise, any governmental fine on us would not be deductible, and the inability to deduct such fines could cause us to be unable to satisfy the distribution requirement.
The insufficiency of our cash flows to cover our distribution requirements could have an adverse impact on our ability to raise short- and long-term debt or sell equity securities in order to fund distributions required to maintain our REIT status. In addition, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax on the amount, if any, by which distributions paid by us in any calendar year are less than the sum of 85% of our ordinary income, 95% of our capital gain net income and 100% of our undistributed income from prior years. To address and/or mitigate some of these issues, we may make taxable distributions that are in part paid in cash and in part paid in our equity. In such cases, our shareholders may have tax liabilities from such distributions in excess of the cash they receive. The treatment of such taxable stock distributions is not entirely clear, and it is possible the taxable stock distribution will not count towards our distribution requirement, in which case adverse consequences could apply.
Complying with REIT requirements may cause us to forego otherwise attractive opportunities or to liquidate otherwise attractive loans.
To qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes, we must continually satisfy tests concerning, among other things, the sources of our income, the nature and diversification of our assets and the amounts we distribute to our shareholders. In order to meet these tests, we may be required to forego loans that we might otherwise make or liquidate loans we might otherwise continue to hold. Thus, compliance with the REIT requirements may hinder our performance by limiting our ability to make and/or maintain ownership of certain otherwise attractive loans.
Temporary investment of available capital in short-term securities and income from such investment generally will allow us to satisfy various REIT income and asset qualifications, but only during the one-year period beginning on the date we receive such capital. If we are unable to invest a sufficient amount of such capital in qualifying real estate assets within such one-year period, we could fail to satisfy the gross income tests and/or we could be limited to investing all or a portion of any remaining funds in cash or cash equivalents. If we fail to satisfy such income test, unless we are entitled to relief under certain provisions of the Code, we could fail to qualify as a REIT.
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The tax on prohibited transactions will limit our ability to engage in certain loans involving the sale or other disposition of property or that would otherwise subject us to a 100% penalty tax.
A REIT’s net income from prohibited transactions is subject to a 100% tax. In general, prohibited transactions are sales or other dispositions of property, other than foreclosure property, held as inventory or primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business. Although we do not intend to hold a significant amount of assets as inventory or primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of our business, the characterization of an asset sale as a prohibited transaction depends on the particular facts and circumstances. The Code provides a safe harbor that, if met, allows a REIT to avoid being treated as engaged in a prohibited transaction. We may sell certain assets in transactions that do not meet all of the requirements of such safe harbor if we believe the transaction would nevertheless not be a prohibited transaction based on an analysis of all of the relevant facts and circumstances. If the IRS were to successfully argue that such a sale was in fact a prohibited transaction, we would be subject to a 100% penalty tax with respect to such sale. In addition, in order to avoid the prohibited transactions tax, we may choose not to engage in certain sales, even though the sales might otherwise be beneficial to us.
Legislative, regulatory or administrative tax changes related to REITs could materially and adversely affect our business.
At any time, the U.S. federal income tax laws or Treasury Regulations governing REITs, or the administrative interpretations of those laws or regulations, may be changed, possibly with retroactive effect. We cannot predict if or when any new U.S. federal income tax law, regulation or administrative interpretation, or any amendment to any existing U.S. federal income tax law, regulation or administrative interpretation, will be adopted, promulgated or become effective or whether any such law, regulation or interpretation may take effect retroactively. We and our shareholders could be adversely affected by any such change in, or any new, U.S. federal income tax law, regulation or administrative interpretation.
Dividends payable by REITs generally do not qualify for reduced tax rates applicable to qualified dividend income.
The maximum U.S. federal income tax rate for certain qualified dividends payable to individual U.S. shareholders is 20%. Dividends payable by REITs, however, are generally not qualified dividends and therefore are not eligible for taxation at the reduced rates. However, to the extent such dividends are attributable to certain dividends that we receive from a taxable REIT subsidiary or to income from a prior year that was retained by us and subject to corporate tax, such dividends generally will be eligible for the reduced rates that apply to qualified dividend income. The more favorable rates applicable to regular corporate dividends could cause investors who are individuals to perceive investments in REITs to be relatively less attractive than investments in the stocks of non-REIT corporations that pay dividends, which could adversely affect the value of the stock of REITs, including our equity. However, through the 2025 tax year, individual U.S. shareholders may be entitled to claim a deduction in determining their taxable income of 20% of ordinary REIT dividends (dividends other than capital gain dividends and dividends attributable to qualified dividend income received by us, if any), which temporarily reduces the effective tax rate on these dividends to a maximum federal income tax rate of 29.6% for those years. If we fail to qualify as a REIT, such dividends will no longer be ordinary REIT dividends, and shareholders may not claim this deduction with respect to dividends paid by us. Shareholders are urged to consult tax advisers regarding the effect of this change on the effective tax rate with respect to REIT dividends.
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If we were considered to have actually or constructively paid a “preferential dividend” to certain of our shareholders, our status as a REIT could be adversely affected.
In order to qualify as a REIT, we must annually distribute to our shareholders at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, determined without regard to the deduction for dividends paid and excluding net capital gain and certain non-cash income. In order for distributions to be counted as satisfying the annual distribution requirements for REITs, and to provide us with a REIT-level tax deduction, the distributions must not be “preferential dividends,” unless we are a “publicly offered REIT,” which we became upon our IPO. A dividend is not a preferential dividend if the distribution is pro rata among all outstanding shares of stock within a particular class, and in accordance with the preferences among different classes of stock as set forth in our organizational documents. Currently, there is uncertainty as to the IRS’s position regarding whether certain arrangements that REITs have with their shareholders could give rise to the inadvertent payment of a preferential dividend (e.g., the pricing methodology for stock purchased under a distribution reinvestment program inadvertently causing a greater than 5% discount on the price of such stock purchased). There is no de minimis exception with respect to preferential dividends; therefore, if the IRS were to take the position that we inadvertently paid a preferential dividend prior to our IPO, we may be deemed to have failed the 90% distribution test, and our status as a REIT could be terminated for the year in which such determination is made if we were unable to cure such failure. While we believe that our operations prior to the IPO had been structured in such a manner that we will not be treated as inadvertently having paid preferential dividends, we can provide no assurance to this effect.
The ability of our Board to revoke our REIT election without shareholder approval may cause adverse consequences to our shareholders.
The Charter provides that our Board may revoke or otherwise terminate our REIT election, without the approval of our shareholders, if our Board determines that it is no longer in our best interest to attempt to, or continue to, qualify as a REIT. If we cease to qualify as a REIT, we would become subject to U.S. federal income tax on our net taxable income, and we generally would no longer be required to distribute any of our net taxable income to our shareholders, which may have adverse consequences on the total return to our shareholders.
Complying with REIT requirements may limit our ability to hedge our operational risks effectively and may cause us to incur tax liabilities.
The REIT provisions of the Code may limit our ability to hedge risks relating to our operations. Any income from a hedging transaction that we enter into to manage risk of interest rate changes, price changes or currency fluctuations with respect to borrowings made or to be made, if properly identified under applicable Treasury Regulations, does not constitute “gross income” for purposes of the 75% or 95% gross income tests. To the extent that we enter into other types of hedging transactions, the income from those transactions will likely be treated as non-qualifying income for purposes of both of the gross income tests.
To the extent the business interest deductions of our subsidiaries, if any, are deferred or disallowed, our taxable income may exceed our cash available for distributions to shareholders.
Code Section 163(j) limits the deductibility of “business interest” for both individuals and corporations. Certain real property trades or businesses are permitted to elect out of this limitation, but we do not expect it to be available to us. To the extent our interest deductions or those of our subsidiaries, if any, are deferred or disallowed under Code Section 163(j) or any other provision of law, our taxable income may exceed our cash available for distribution to our shareholders. As a result, there is a risk that we may have taxable income in excess of cash available for distribution. In that event, we may need to borrow funds or take other action to satisfy the REIT distribution requirements for the taxable year in which this “phantom income” is recognized.
Risk Related to Ownership of Our Common Stock
The market price for our common stock may be volatile, which could contribute to the loss of all or part of your investment.
The trading price of our common stock is likely to be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations in response to various factors, some of which are beyond our control. Some of the factors that could negatively affect or result in fluctuations in the market price of our common stock include:
our actual or projected operating results, financial condition, cash flows and liquidity or changes in business strategy or prospects;
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changes in governmental policies, regulations or laws;
loss of a major funding source or inability to obtain new favorable funding sources in the future;
equity issuances by us, or share resales by our shareholders, or the perception that such issuances or resales may occur;
actual, anticipated or perceived accounting or internal control problems;
publication of research reports about us, the real estate industry or the cannabis industry;
our value of the properties securing our loans;
changes in market valuations of similar companies;
adverse market reaction to any increased indebtedness we may incur in the future;
additions to or departures of the executive officers or key personnel supporting or assisting us from our Manager or its affiliates, including our Manager’s investment professionals;
speculation in the press or investment community about us or other similar companies;
our failure to meet, or the lowering of, our earnings estimates or those of any securities analysts;
increases in market interest rates, which may lead investors to demand a higher distribution yield for our common stock (if we have begun to make distributions to our shareholders) and which could cause the cost of our interest expenses on our debt to increase;
failure to qualify or maintain our qualification as a REIT or exemption from the Investment Company Act;
price and volume fluctuations in the stock market generally; and
general market and economic conditions, including the state of the credit and capital markets.
Any of the factors listed above could materially adversely affect your investment in our common stock, and our common stock may trade at prices significantly below the public offering price, which could contribute to a loss of all or part of your investment. In such circumstances the trading price of our common stock may not recover and may experience a further decline.
In addition, broad market and industry factors could materially adversely affect the market price of our common stock, irrespective of our operating performance. The stock market in general, and Nasdaq and the market for cannabis-related companies and REITs have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of the particular companies affected. The trading prices and valuations of these stocks, and of ours, may not be predictable. A loss of investor confidence in the market for finance companies or for those companies in the cannabis industry or the stocks of other companies which investors perceive to be similar to us, the opportunities in the finance or cannabis market or the stock market in general, could depress our stock price regardless of our business, financial condition, results of operations or growth prospects.
The value of our equity securities could be materially and adversely affected by our level of cash distributions.
The value of the equity securities of a company whose principal business is similar to ours is based primarily upon investors’ perception of its growth potential and its current and potential future cash distributions, whether from operations, sales or refinancings, and is secondarily based upon the market value of its underlying assets. For that reason, our equity may be valued at prices that are higher or lower than our net asset value per share. To the extent we retain operating cash flow for investment purposes, working capital reserves or other purposes, these retained funds, while increasing the value of our underlying assets, may not correspondingly increase the price at which our equity could trade. Our failure to meet investors’ expectations with regard to future earnings and cash distributions likely would materially and adversely affect the valuation of our equity.
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Future offerings of debt securities, which would rank senior to our common stock upon a bankruptcy liquidation, and future offerings of equity securities that may be senior to our common stock for the purposes of dividend and liquidating distributions, may adversely affect the value of our capital stock.
In the future, we intend to attempt to increase our capital resources by making offerings of debt or equity securities. As the cannabis industry continues to evolve and to the extent that additional states legalize cannabis, the demand for capital continues to increase as operators seek to enter and build out new markets. We expect the principal amount of the loans we originate to increase and that we will need to raise additional equity and/or debt funds to increase our liquidity in the near future. Upon bankruptcy or liquidation, holders of our debt securities, lenders with respect to any of our borrowings and holders of our preferred stock, if any, will receive a distribution of our available assets prior to the holders of our common stock. Equity offerings by us may dilute the holdings of our existing shareholders or reduce the valuation of our common stock. Our decision to issue securities in any future offering will depend on market conditions and other factors beyond our control.
We may in the future pay distributions from sources other than our cash flow from operations, including borrowings, offering proceeds or the sale of assets, which means we will have less funds available for investments or less income-producing assets and your overall return may be reduced.
We may in the future pay distributions from sources other than from our cash flow from operations. We intend to fund the payment of regular distributions to our shareholders entirely from cash flow from our operations. However, we may from time to time not generate sufficient cash flow from operations to fully fund distributions to shareholders. Therefore, if we choose to pay a distribution, we may choose to use cash flows from financing activities, including borrowings (including borrowings secured by our assets) and net proceeds of this or a prior offering, from the sale of assets or from other sources to fund distributions to our shareholders.
To the extent that we fund distributions from sources other than cash flows from operations, including borrowings, offering proceeds or proceeds from asset sales, the value of your investment will decline, and such distributions may constitute a return of capital and we may have fewer funds available for the funding of loans or less income-producing assets and your overall return may be reduced. Further, to the extent distributions exceed our earnings and profits, a shareholder’s basis in our stock will be reduced and, to the extent distributions exceed a shareholder’s basis, the shareholder will be required to recognize capital gain.
There is a risk that shareholders may not receive distributions or that such dividends may not grow over time.
We intend to make to make regular quarterly distributions to our shareholders, consistent with our intention to qualify as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes. However, any future determination to actually pay dividends will be at the discretion of our Board, subject to compliance with applicable law and any contractual provisions, including under agreements for indebtedness, that restrict or limit our ability to pay dividends, and will depend upon, among other factors, our results of operations, financial condition, earnings, capital requirements and other factors that our Board deems relevant. We therefore cannot assure our shareholders that we will achieve investment results and other circumstances that will allow us to make a specified level of cash distributions or year-to-year increases in cash distributions.
As one of our significant shareholders and a significant beneficial owner of our Manager, Leonard M. Tannenbaum, can exert significant influence over our corporate actions and important corporate matters.
Our founder, Chief Investment Officer and Executive Chairman, Leonard M. Tannenbaum, beneficially owned approximately 25.6% of our outstanding equity as of March 1, 2024. Currently, Mr. Tannenbaum owns 3,744.638 shares of our common stock and has been granted options to purchase up to 1,906,958 shares of our common stock, which are fully vested and exercisable. Mr. Tannenbaum also owns 75% of the outstanding equity of the Parent Manager. Similarly, Robyn Tannenbaum, our President, Mr. Berman, a member of our Investment Committee, and Mr. Neville, our Chief Executive Officer, currently own 10.0%, 3.0% and 1.6%, respectively, of the Parent Manager.
Mr. Tannenbaum and, to a lesser extent, Mrs. Tannenbaum, could therefore exert substantial influence over our corporate matters, such as electing directors and approving material mergers, acquisitions, strategic partnerships or other business combination transactions, as applicable. This concentration of ownership may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control which could have the dual effect of depriving our shareholders from an opportunity to receive a premium for their equity as part of a sale of AFC Gamma, Inc. and otherwise reducing the price of such equity.
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We are an “emerging growth company” and a “smaller reporting company” and we cannot be certain if the reduced disclosure requirements applicable to emerging growth companies and smaller reporting companies will make shares of our common stock less attractive to investors.
We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (“JOBS Act”), and we are eligible to take advantage of certain exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not “emerging growth companies” including, but not limited to, not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements, and exemptions from the requirements of holding a non-binding advisory vote on executive compensation and shareholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved. In addition, Section 107 of the JOBS Act also provides that an “emerging growth company” can take advantage of the extended transition period provided in Section 7(a)(2)(B) of the Securities Act for complying with new or revised accounting standards. In other words, an “emerging growth company” can delay the adoption of certain accounting standards until those standards would otherwise apply to private companies. We have elected to take advantage of the extended transition period to comply with new or revised accounting standards and to adopt certain of the reduced disclosure requirements available to emerging growth companies. As a result of the accounting standards election, we will not be subject to the same implementation timing for new or revised accounting standards as other public companies that are not emerging growth companies which may make comparison of our financials to those of other public companies more difficult.
We could remain an “emerging growth company” for up to five years from our initial public offering, or until the earliest of (i) the last day of the first fiscal year in which our annual gross revenues exceed $1.235 billion, (ii) the date that we become a “large accelerated filer” as defined in Rule 12b-2 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, which would occur if the market value of our common stock that is held by non-affiliates exceeds $700.0 million as of the last business day of our most recently completed second fiscal quarter, or (iii) the date on which we have issued more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during the preceding three-year period.
Similarly, as a “smaller reporting company” under federal securities laws, we may take advantage of certain exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not smaller reporting companies, including, but not limited to, reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements. We may be a smaller reporting company even after we are no longer an emerging growth company.
We cannot predict if investors will find our common stock less attractive because we will rely on these exemptions. If some investors find our common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock and our stock price may be more volatile. We may take advantage of these reporting exemptions until we are no longer an emerging growth company and/or smaller reporting company, as applicable.
We incur significant costs as a result of being a public company, and such costs may increase when we cease to be an emerging growth company and/or smaller reporting company.
As a public company, we incur significant legal, accounting, insurance and other expenses that we have not incurred as a private company, including costs associated with public company reporting requirements of the Exchange Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, as amended (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), the listing requirements of Nasdaq and other applicable securities rules and regulations. Compliance with these rules and regulations may significantly increase our legal and financial compliance costs, make some activities more difficult, time-consuming or costly and increase demand on our systems and resources. As a result, our executive officers’ attention may be diverted from other business concerns, which could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Furthermore, the expenses incurred by public companies generally for reporting and corporate governance purposes have been increasing. We expect compliance with these public reporting requirements and associated rules and regulations to increase expenses, particularly after we are no longer an emerging growth company nor a smaller reporting company, although we are currently unable to estimate these costs with any degree of certainty. We could be an emerging growth company for up to five full fiscal years, although circumstances could cause us to lose that status earlier as discussed above, which could result in our incurring additional costs applicable to public companies that are not emerging growth companies. We may be a smaller reporting company even after we are no longer an emerging growth company.
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In addition, changing laws, regulations and standards relating to corporate governance and public disclosure are creating uncertainty for public companies, increasing legal and financial compliance costs and making some activities more time consuming. These laws, regulations and standards are subject to varying interpretations, in many cases due to their lack of specificity, and, as a result, their application in practice may evolve over time as new guidance is provided by regulatory and governing bodies. This could result in continuing uncertainty regarding compliance matters and higher costs necessitated by ongoing revisions to disclosure and governance practices. If our efforts to comply with new laws, regulations and standards differ from the activities intended by regulatory or governing bodies due to ambiguities related to their application and practice, regulatory authorities may initiate legal proceedings against us and our business may be adversely affected.
General Risk Factors
Ineffective internal controls could impact our business and operating results.
Our internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements because of its inherent limitations, including the possibility of human error, the circumvention or overriding of controls, or fraud. Even effective internal controls can provide only reasonable assurance with respect to the preparation and fair presentation of financial statements. If we fail to maintain the adequacy of our internal controls, including any failure to implement required new or improved controls, or if we experience difficulties in their implementation, our business and operating results could be harmed and the reliability of our consolidated financial statements could be compromised.
Future sales of our capital stock or other securities convertible into our capital stock could cause the value of our common stock to decline and could result in dilution of your shares of our common stock.
Our Board is authorized, without your approval, to cause us to issue additional shares of our common stock or to raise capital through the creation and issuance of our preferred stock, debt securities convertible into common stock, options, warrants and other rights, on terms and for consideration as our Board in its sole discretion may determine.
Sales of substantial amounts of our capital stock or other securities convertible into our capital stock could cause the valuation of our capital stock to decrease significantly. We cannot predict the effect, if any, of future sales of our equity, or the availability of our equity for future sales, on the value of our equity. Sales of substantial amounts of our equity by any large shareholder, or the perception that such sales could occur, may adversely affect the valuation of our equity.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud. As a result, shareholders could lose confidence in our financial and other public reporting, which would materially adversely affect our business and the trading price of our common stock.
Effective internal controls over financial reporting are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports and are designed to prevent fraud. Any failure to implement required new or improved controls, or difficulties encountered in their implementation could cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations. When we lose our status both as an emerging growth company and a smaller reporting company, our independent registered public accounting firm will be required to attest to the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. The rules governing the standards that must be met for management to assess our internal control over financial reporting are complex and require significant documentation, testing and possible remediation. Any testing by us conducted in connection with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or any subsequent testing by our independent registered public accounting firm, may reveal deficiencies in our internal controls over financial reporting that are deemed to be material weaknesses or that may require prospective or retroactive changes to our consolidated financial statements or identify other areas for further attention or improvement. Inadequate internal controls could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could materially adversely affect the trading price of our common stock.
Our disclosure controls and procedures may not prevent or detect all errors or acts of fraud.
We are subject to the periodic reporting requirements of the Exchange Act. We designed our disclosure controls and procedures to reasonably assure that information we must disclose in reports we file or submit under the Exchange Act is accumulated and communicated to management, and recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods specified in the rules and forms of the SEC. We believe that any disclosure controls and procedures or internal controls and procedures, no matter how well-conceived and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the objectives of the control system are met.
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These inherent limitations include the realities that judgments in decision-making can be faulty, and that breakdowns can occur because of simple error or mistake. For example, our directors or executive officers could inadvertently fail to disclose a new relationship or arrangement causing us to fail to make any related party transaction disclosures. Additionally, controls can be circumvented by the individual acts of some persons, by collusion of two or more people or by an unauthorized override of the controls. Accordingly, because of the inherent limitations in our control system, misstatements due to error or fraud may occur and not be detected.
Item 1B.    Unresolved Staff Comments
None.
Item 1C.    Cybersecurity
The Company has no employees and is externally managed by our Manager. Pursuant to the terms of the Management Agreement, our Manager manages, operates and administers our day-to-day operations, business and affairs, subject to the direction and supervision of the Board. The Board recognizes the critical importance of maintaining the trust and confidence of our business partners. The Board plays an active role in overseeing management of our risks, and cybersecurity represents an important component of the Company’s overall approach to risk management and oversight. The Company and our Manager are committed to protecting the confidentiality of all nonpublic information related to the Company’s borrowers, shareholders and their personnel.
Risk Management and Strategy
As an externally managed company, the Company relies on our Manager’s corporate information technology, accounting and financial reporting platforms, enterprise applications and related systems (our “Information Systems”) in connection with the Company’s day-to-day operations. Our Manager has adopted a written information security program (the “Written Information Security Policy”), which is designed to address applicable requirements under Regulation S-P and the FTC Safeguards Rule. Consequently, the Company also relies on the processes for assessing, identifying, and managing material risks from cybersecurity threats under the Manager’s Written Information Security Policy. The processes include, among other things, maintaining secure digital or physical access to information assets, using manual and automated detection methods for malicious code, due diligence of third-party vendors, and engaging a leading provider of cybersecurity services to assess and manage cybersecurity risk. For third-party service vendors that perform a variety of important functions for our business, we seek to engage reliable, reputable service vendors that maintain cybersecurity programs.
All of the Company’s officers and employees are employees of the Manager and subject to its policies and procedures. Our Manager utilizes a third-party managed & cybersecurity services provider (the “MSSP”) for cybersecurity services, including threat detection and response, vulnerability assessment and monitoring, security incident response and recovery and general cybersecurity education and awareness. Our Manager and the MSSP engage in periodic assessment and training regarding the policies, standards and practices designed to address cybersecurity threats and incidents. Our cybersecurity risk management is integrated into our overall enterprise risk management and shares common methodologies, reporting channels and governance processes that apply across our enterprise risk management
To date, we have not experienced any cybersecurity threats, including as a result of any previous cybersecurity incidents, that have materially affected the Company and we are not aware of any cybersecurity threats that are reasonably likely to affect the Company, including its business strategy, results of operations or financial condition. For additional discussion of the risks posed by cybersecurity threats, see “Risk Factors—General Risk Factors—We rely on information technology in our operations, and security breaches and other disruptions in our systems could compromise our information and expose us to liability, which would cause our business and reputation to suffer.”
Governance
The Company’s Audit and Valuation Committee oversees the Company’s cybersecurity risk management process. The Audit and Valuation Committee has adopted a charter that provides that the Audit and Valuation Committee must periodically review and discuss with the Company’s management team the Company’s guidelines and policies with respect to risk assessment and risk management of cybersecurity and other risk exposures relevant to the Company’s computerized information system controls and security. The Audit and Valuation Committee may receive additional training in cybersecurity and data privacy matters to enable its oversight of such risks. The Audit and Valuation Committee will report to the Board on the substance of such reviews and discussions and, as necessary, recommend to the Board such actions as the Audit and Valuation Committee deems appropriate.
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As noted above, the Company relies on our Manager’s Information Systems in connection with the Company’s day-to-day operations. The Company relies on the MSSP’s processes for assessing, identifying, and managing material risks from cybersecurity threats.
The Company’s Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, Chief Legal Officer and Secretary, and Head of IT work collaboratively with other employees of our Manager and the MSSP to ensure the MSSP’s services protect the Company’s Information Systems from cybersecurity threats and to promptly respond to any cybersecurity incidents. These members of the Company’s management team, together with the MSSP, monitor the prevention, detection, mitigation and remediation of cybersecurity threats and incidents and report such threats and incidents to the Audit and Valuation Committee when appropriate. These members of the Company’s management team meet periodically to assess cybersecurity risks and discuss with the Audit and Valuation Committee. They have gained relevant knowledge, skills and experience in information technology and cybersecurity risk management, including overseeing third-party vendors in such areas, over their careers at the Company or other organizations.
Item 2.    Properties
We currently maintain our executive office in West Palm Beach, Florida. Our Florida office is leased by our Manager or one of its affiliates from a third party and pursuant to the terms of our Management Agreement, we reimburse our Manager (or its affiliate, as applicable) for certain expenses relating to such offices (including our pro-rata portion of rent, telephone, printing, mailing, utilities, office furniture, equipment, machinery and other office, internal and overhead expenses), as well as expenses relating to disaster backup recovery sites and facilities maintained for us, our affiliates, our loans or our Manager or its affiliates, in each case, as required for our operation.
Item 3.     Legal Proceedings
From time to time, we may become involved in litigation or other legal proceedings relating to claims arising from the ordinary course of business. Furthermore, third parties may try to seek to impose liability on us in connection with our loans. As of December 31, 2023, we were not subject to any material legal proceedings.
Item 4.     Mine Safety Disclosures
Not applicable.
PART II
Item 5.    Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Our common stock is listed for trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol “AFCG.” On March 1, 2024, the closing price of our common stock, as reported on the Nasdaq, was $11.52 per share. There were 52 holders of record of our common stock as of March 1, 2024. This number does not include beneficial owners who hold shares of our common stock in street name. However, because many of our common shares are held by brokers and other institutions, we believe that there are many more beneficial holders of our common shares than record holders.
Distribution Policy
U.S. federal income tax law generally requires that a REIT distribute annually at least 90% of its REIT taxable income, without regard to the deduction for dividends paid and excluding net capital gains and certain non-cash income, and that it pay tax at regular corporate rates to the extent that it annually distributes less than 100% of such REIT taxable income. If we distribute less than the sum of (i) 85% of our ordinary income for the calendar year, (ii) 95% of our capital gain net income for the calendar year, and (iii) any undistributed shortfall from our prior calendar year (the “Required Distribution”) to our shareholders during any calendar year (including any distributions declared by the last day of the calendar year but paid in the subsequent year), then we are required to pay a non-deductible excise tax equal to 4% of any shortfall between the Required Distribution and the amount that was actually distributed.
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As a result, in order to satisfy the requirements for us to qualify as a REIT and generally not be subject to U.S. federal income and excise tax, we intend to make regular quarterly distributions of all or substantially all of our REIT taxable income to our shareholders out of assets legally available therefor. REIT taxable income as computed for purposes of the foregoing tax rules will not necessarily correspond to our net income as determined for financial reporting purposes, or our Distributable Earnings as described under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Key Financial Measures and Indicators—Distributable Earnings.”
Any future determination to actually pay dividends or other distributions will be at the discretion of our Board, subject to compliance with applicable law and any contractual provisions, including under agreements for indebtedness we may incur, that restrict or limit our ability to pay dividends, and will depend upon, among other factors, our results of operations, financial condition, earnings, capital requirements, the annual distribution requirements under the REIT provisions of the Code, our REIT taxable income and other factors that our Board deems relevant. Under the MGCL, we generally may only pay a dividend or other distribution if, after giving effect to the distribution, we would be able to pay our indebtedness as it becomes due in the usual course of business and our total assets exceed our total liabilities.
To the extent that our cash available for distribution is less than the amount required to be distributed under the REIT provisions of the Code, we may be required to fund distributions from working capital or through equity, equity-related or debt financings or, in certain circumstances, asset sales, as to which our ability to consummate loans in a timely manner on favorable terms, or at all, cannot be assured, or we may make a portion of the Required Distribution in the form of a taxable stock distribution or distribution of debt securities.
Equity Compensation Plan Information
See Note 11 to our consolidated financial statements for the year ending December 31, 2023 included in this Annual Report for information regarding our 2020 Stock Incentive Plan.
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
None.
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
On June 13, 2023, our Board authorized a share repurchase program providing for the repurchase of up to $20.0 million of our outstanding common stock (the “Repurchase Program”). The timing, price, and volume of repurchases will be based on our stock price, general market conditions, applicable legal requirements and other factors. The repurchase of our common stock may be made from time to time in the open market, in privately negotiated transactions or otherwise in compliance with Rule 10b-18 and Rule 10b5-1 under the Exchange Act. We expect to finance any share repurchases under the Repurchase Program using cash on hand, capacity available under our Revolving Credit Facility and cash flows from operations. The Repurchase Program is authorized until December 31, 2025 and may be discontinued, modified or suspended at any time. During the three months December 31, 2023, we did not repurchase any shares of our common stock pursuant to the Repurchase Program.
PeriodTotal Number of Shares PurchasedAverage Price Paid per ShareTotal Number of Shares Purchased as Part of Publicly Announced Plans or ProgramsMaximum Approximate Dollar Value of Shares that May Yet Be Purchased Under the Program
October 1, 2023 to October 31, 2023
— $— — $20,000,000 
November 1, 2023 to November 30, 2023
— — — 20,000,000 
December 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023
— — — 20,000,000 
— — 
Item 6.    Reserved
None.
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Item 7.     Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and our accompanying notes and other information included in this Annual Report. This discussion and analysis contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties which could cause our actual results to differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, risks and uncertainties discussed under the heading “Risk Factors,” in this Annual Report. Unless the context otherwise requires, as used in this section the terms “we,” “us,” “our,” or “AFCG,” refers to AFC Gamma, Inc.
Business Overview
AFC Gamma, Inc. is an institutional lender to the commercial real estate sector that was founded in July 2020 by a veteran team of investment professionals. We primarily originate, structure, underwrite, invest in and manage senior secured loans and other types of commercial real estate loans and debt securities, with a specialization in loans to cannabis industry operators in states that have legalized medical and/or adult-use cannabis. We have recently expanded our investment guidelines to deploy capital in attractive lending opportunities secured by commercial real estate. Our expanded investment guidelines now include (i) first and second lien loans secured by mortgages to commercial real estate owners, operators and related businesses that are not related to the cannabis industry, (ii) the ownership of non-cannabis related real property assets, and (iii) mortgage-backed securities, in addition to our prior sole focus on first lien loans secured by mortgages to cannabis operators in states that have legalized medical and/or adult use cannabis. We expect the underwriting and investment process for these investments under our expanded guidelines to be substantially similar to the process we deploy for our loans to cannabis operators.
Our objective is to provide attractive risk-adjusted returns over time through cash distributions and capital appreciation primarily by providing loans to real estate developers and state law compliant cannabis companies. The loans we originate are primarily structured as senior loans secured by real estate, equipment, value associated with licenses (where applicable) and/or other assets of the loan parties to the extent permitted by applicable laws and the regulations governing such loan parties. Some of our cannabis-related borrowers have their equity securities listed for public trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange (“CSE”) in Canada and/or over-the-counter (“OTC”) in the United States.
Spin-Off
On February 22, 2024, we announced that our Board unanimously approved a plan to spin-off (the “Spin-Off”) our commercial real estate (“CRE”) portfolio into an independent, publicly traded REIT, named Sunrise Realty Trust, Inc. (“SUNS”).
The separation and the resulting Spin-Off is expected to be implemented in two steps. First, we expect to contribute, and SUNS expects to accept and assume, all of the assets, liabilities and business related to our CRE lending business not related to our business of structuring, underwriting, origination and investing in loans to and debt securities of cannabis industry operators, as currently conducted by SUNS, including the operations, properties, services and activities of such business (the “Contribution”), to the extent such assets, liabilities and business are not already held at SUNS. Then, we plan to distribute all of the outstanding shares of SUNS common stock (“SUNS Common Stock”) on the distribution date to our stockholders as of the record date on a pro rata basis. We and SUNS expect that $115 million of assets in the aggregate, in a combination of loans and cash, will either be contributed to SUNS in the Contribution or be held by SUNS immediately following the Contribution. Following the distribution, we and SUNS expect the SUNS Common Stock to be listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market.
SUNS has filed a registration statement on Form 10 with the Securities and Exchange Commission which provides additional details about the Spin-Off.
Net interest income
We operate as one operating segment and are primarily focused on financing senior secured loans and other types of commercial real estate loans and debt securities, with a specialization in loans to established cannabis industry operators in states that have legalized medical and/or adult-use cannabis. These loans are generally held for investment and are secured by real estate, equipment, value associated with licenses (where applicable) and/or other assets of the loan parties to the extent permitted by the applicable laws and the regulations governing such loan parties.
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We generate revenue primarily in the form of interest income on loans. The majority of our loans currently accrue interest at a variable rate. As of December 31, 2023, seven of our loans, representing approximately 68% of our portfolio based on aggregate outstanding principal balances, paid interest at a variable rate tied to either SOFR or U.S. prime rate. Interest on our loans is generally payable monthly or quarterly. The principal amount of our loans and any accrued but unpaid interest thereon generally become due at the applicable maturity date. In many cases, our interest income includes a paid-in-kind (“PIK”) component for a portion of the total interest. The PIK interest, computed at the contractual rate specified in each applicable loan agreement, is accrued in accordance with the terms of such loan agreement and added to the principal balance of the loan and recorded as interest income. The PIK interest added to the principal balance is typically amortized and paid in accordance with the applicable loan agreement. In cases where the loans do not amortize, the PIK interest is collected upon repayment of the outstanding principal. We also generate revenue from OID, which is also recognized as interest income from loans over the initial term of the applicable loans. Delayed draw loans may also earn unused fees on the undrawn portion of the loan, which is recognized as interest income in the period earned. Other fees, including prepayment fees and exit fees, are also recognized as interest income when received. Any such fees will be generated in connection with our loans and recognized as earned in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”) in the United States.
Net interest income primarily consists of the interest income we earn on loans, less the interest expense we incur on our debt. Interest expense is incurred based on the terms of our 2027 Senior Notes and Revolving Credit Agreement.
Expenses
Our primary operating expenses are the payment of Base Management Fees and Incentive Compensation under our Management Agreement with our Manager and the allocable portion of overhead and other expenses paid or incurred on our behalf, including reimbursing our Manager for a certain portion of the compensation of certain personnel of the Manager who assist in the management of our affairs, excepting only those expenses that are specifically the responsibility of our Manager pursuant to our Management Agreement. We bear all other costs and expenses of our operations and transactions, including (without limitation) fees and expenses relating to:
organizational and offering expenses;
quarterly valuation expenses;
fees payable to third parties relating to, or associated with, making loans and valuing loans (including third-party valuation firms);
fees and expenses associated with investor relations and marketing efforts (including attendance at investment conferences and similar events);
federal and state registration fees;
any exchange listing fees;
federal, state and local taxes;
independent directors’ fees and expenses;
brokerage commissions;
costs of proxy statements, shareholders’ reports and notices; and
costs of preparing government filings, including periodic and current reports with the SEC.
Prior to the consummation of our IPO, we were not obligated to reimburse our Manager or its affiliates, as applicable, for any compensation paid to Mr. Tannenbaum, Mr. Kalikow or Mrs. Tannenbaum. For the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, our Manager did not seek reimbursement for our allocable share of Mr. Kalikow and Mr. Tannenbaum’s compensation, but did seek reimbursement for our allocable share of Mrs. Tannenbaum’s compensation.
Income Taxes
We are a Maryland corporation and have elected to be taxed as a REIT under the Code, commencing with our taxable year ended December 31, 2020. We believe that we have qualified, and our organization and current and proposed method of operation will enable us to continue to qualify, as a REIT. However, no assurances can be given that our beliefs or expectations will be fulfilled, since qualification as a REIT depends on us satisfying numerous asset, income and distribution tests which depend, in part, on our operating results.
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To qualify as a REIT, we must meet a number of organizational and operational requirements, including a requirement that we distribute annually to our shareholders at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, as adjusted, prior to the deduction for dividends paid. To the extent that we distribute less than 100% of such REIT taxable income in any tax year (taking into account any distributions made in a subsequent tax year under Sections 857(b)(9) or 858 of the Code), we will pay tax at regular corporate rates on that undistributed portion. Furthermore, if we distribute less than the sum of (i) 85% of our ordinary income for the calendar year, (ii) 95% of our capital gain net income for the calendar year, and (iii) any Required Distribution to our shareholders during any calendar year (including any distributions declared by the last day of the calendar year but paid in the subsequent year), then we are required to pay a non-deductible excise tax equal to 4% of any shortfall between such Required Distribution and the amount that was actually distributed. Any of these taxes would decrease cash available for distribution to our shareholders. The 90% distribution requirement does not require the distribution of net capital gains. However, if we elect to retain any of our net capital gain for any tax year, we must notify our shareholders and pay tax at regular corporate rates on the retained net capital gain. Our shareholders must include their proportionate share of the retained net capital gain in their taxable income for the tax year, and they will be deemed to have paid the REIT’s tax on their proportionate share of the retained capital gain. Furthermore, such retained capital gain may be subject to the nondeductible 4% excise tax.
Our wholly-owned subsidiary, TRS1, operates as a TRS and began operating in July 2021. A TRS is an entity taxed as a corporation that has not elected to be taxed as a REIT, in which a REIT directly or indirectly holds equity, and that has made a joint election with such REIT to be treated as a TRS. A TRS generally may engage in any business, including investing in assets and engaging in activities that could not be held or conducted directly by us without jeopardizing our qualification as a REIT. A TRS is subject to applicable United States federal, state and local income tax on its taxable income. In addition, as a REIT, we also may be subject to a 100% excise tax on certain transactions between us and our TRS that are not conducted on an arm’s-length basis. If it is determined that our estimated current year taxable income (including net capital gain) will be in excess of estimated dividend distributions (including capital gains dividends) for the current year from such income, we accrue excise tax on a portion of the estimated excess taxable income as such taxable income is earned. The annual expense is calculated in accordance with applicable tax regulations. The income tax provision is included in the line item income tax expense, including excise tax in the consolidated statements of operations included in this Annual Report.
Developments During the Year Ended December 31, 2023:
Updates to Our Loan Portfolio During the Year Ended December 31, 2023
In January 2023, TRS1 agreed with Private Company I, subject to certain terms and conditions (including payment of full cash interest, rather than partial PIK interest, which was previously agreed to), to defer an upcoming principal payment. In March 2023, TRS1 agreed, subject to certain terms and conditions, to defer an upcoming principal payment and permit a portion of an upcoming cash interest payment to instead be paid in kind. In May 2023, Private Company I failed to pay its full principal and interest payments due May 1, 2023. The agent on the credit facility, AFC Agent LLC (“AFC Agent”), promptly delivered a notice of an event of default based on this payment default and certain other defaults under the credit agreement, accelerated all obligations due thereunder and subsequently initiated a foreclosing procedure in the State of Maryland. In June 2023, we sold two-thirds of the Private Company I credit facility at par plus accrued interest to a multi-state cannabis operator and we have a put right on the remaining one-third immediately prior to the transfer of one of the borrower’s cannabis licenses. As of December 31, 2023, our outstanding principal balance was approximately $3.8 million, which is fully funded.
In February 2023, the Company entered into an amendment with Private Company K, which reduced its total loan commitment under the credit facility with Private Company K from approximately $25.2 million to $14.5 million. Among other things, the amendment increased the PIK rate from 0.0% to 2.0%, removed the unused fee going forward on the remaining undrawn commitment, and established a $1.5 million interest reserve. In August 2023, we entered into an amendment with Private Company K, which among other things, (i) amended the minimum cash balance financial covenant, (ii) delayed the start date for amortization payments and (iii) the total loan commitment under the credit facility with Private Company K was reduced from approximately $14.5 million to $13.2 million, which is fully funded. In November 2023, the Company entered into an amendment with Private Company K to, among other things, terminate the remaining unfunded portion of the total loan commitment.
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In February 2023, we sold $15.0 million of our investment in Subsidiary of Public Company M, which was purchased at a blended weighted-average discount of 90.9% and sold for 91.4% of face value. The sale proceeds approximated the carrying value at the time of sale. In June 2023, TRS1 purchased $12.0 million in outstanding principal amount of Subsidiary of Public Company M, issued at a blended weighted-average discount of 19.3%, from a third party lender and the third party lender assigned all rights, title and interest to the Company. The term loans under the Subsidiary of Public Company M Credit Facility accrue interest at a fixed rate per annum of 9.5%. In December 2023, TRS1 sold $2.0 million of our investment in Subsidiary of Public Company M, which was purchased at a discount of 91.3% and sold for 90.0% of face value, resulting in a realized loss of approximately $(0.1) million.
In March 2023, we entered into a forbearance and modification agreement with Private Company B, pursuant to which we agreed to, subject to additional 4.0% capitalized PIK interest and certain other terms and conditions, forbear from exercising our rights and remedies with respect to specified defaults under the applicable Private Company B loan documents until the earlier of (i) April 30, 2023, (ii) certain refinancing or cash equity contribution events, and (iii) any new event of default thereunder. In connection with such forbearance and modification agreement, the Company also agreed to, subject to certain terms and conditions, waive compliance with certain covenants for one fiscal quarter and defer specified principal payments. The maturity date passed on the credit facility to Private Company B without repayment. The agent on the credit facility sent the borrower a notice of default and Private Company B was placed into receivership to maintain the borrower’s operations that were disrupted as a result of a management dispute. We have been in discussion with the borrower regarding refinancing the credit facility and with the receiver regarding a potential sale of the business in order to repay the loan. Until the loan is repaid, the borrower is obligated to pay interest at a base weighted average interest rate of 14.7% and PIK interest rate of 4.0%, plus a default interest rate of 4.0%. As amended by the forbearance and modification agreement entered into with Private Company B in February 2023, the 4.0% default interest rate is applicable from January 15, 2023 and is paid in kind. Outstanding principal balance also includes a protective advance of approximately $0.2 million made in September 2023 to cover certain expenses and was repaid in November 2023. Interest on the protective advance was calculated at the same rate as standard monthly cash interest and PIK interest, plus default interest.
In March 2023, the credit facility with Private Company A was amended to, among other things and subject to certain terms and conditions, (i) increase the interest rate of certain tranches such that the facility has a uniform interest rate of 13.0% across certain tranches; (ii) reprioritize the allocation of principal and interest payments to first be applied to a specific tranche under the facility; and (iii) establish the requirement for a blocked account to hold the cash proceeds from the sale of certain assets and distribute such proceeds to the lenders. In October 2023, AFC Agent delivered a notice of default to Private Company A based on certain financial and other covenant defaults and, as of July 1, 2023, began charging additional default interest of 5.0% in accordance with the terms of the Private Company A Credit Facility. In November 2023, Private Company A was placed into receivership to maintain the borrower’s operations and maximize value for the benefit of its creditors. The court-appointed receiver began liquidating certain assets for the benefit of the creditors. During the year ended December 31, 2023, AFC Agent received approximately $48.2 million in total loan principal prepayments and $1.4 million in related exit fees from the borrower’s sale of some of its collateral assets, of which approximately $34.7 million in principal prepayments and $1.1 million in related exit fees were allocated to us relating to our pro rata portion of the Private Company A Credit Facility and was applied to the outstanding principal balance. As of December 31, 2023, our outstanding principal balance was approximately $53.4 million, which is fully funded.
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In April 2023, the credit facility with Subsidiary of Private Company G was amended to, among other things and subject to certain other terms and conditions, (i) amend certain cash equity capital contribution requirements, (ii) add additional real property to the collateral, (iii) extend the draw period, (iv) permit 75% of accrued cash interest due and owing to instead be paid in kind until and including the payment due May 1, 2023, subject to a monthly fee, and (v) modify the excess cash flow sweep. Subsidiary of Private Company G failed to make its cash interest payment due July 1, 2023 in arrears for the month of June, and we placed the borrower on non-accrual from June 1, 2023 to August 31, 2023. In connection therewith, we initiated a consensual foreclosure proceeding with respect to certain of the borrower’s assets in Pennsylvania, with the expectation that the net cash proceeds of the public auction would be used to prepay a portion of the principal outstanding under the credit facility. On September 6, 2023, the foreclosure proceeding was adjourned indefinitely. We subsequently entered into a forbearance agreement with Subsidiary of Private Company G in September 2023, pursuant to which we agreed to forbear from exercising certain remedies as a result of certain defaults under the credit agreement. In exchange for such forbearance, Subsidiary of Private Company G agreed to, among other things, sell certain assets, including certain collateral, the proceeds of which will be applied to the outstanding obligations under the credit agreement with Private Company G, to provide certain additional collateral, and to contribute additional cash equity to be held in escrow by AFC Agent. As amended by the forbearance agreement entered into with Subsidiary of Private Company G, the borrower was required to pay interest of $0.8 million pro rata to the lender group for the month of September and to pay $1.0 million pro rata to the lender group for each of the months of October, November, and December 2023. Subsidiary of Private Company G paid September, October, and November interest in accordance with the terms of the forbearance agreement, which was due October 1, 2023, November 1, 2023, and December 1, 2023, respectively, and the credit facility was restored to accrual status. During the fourth quarter of 2023, AFC Agent received $1.5 million from the sale of some of the collateral assets of Subsidiary of Private Company G, of which approximately $1.3 million was allocated to us and applied to the outstanding interest balance. Subsidiary of Private Company G did not make its cash interest payment due January 1, 2024 in arrears for the month of December, and we placed the borrower on non-accrual status as of December 1, 2023. As of December 31, 2023, our outstanding principal balance under the credit facility with Subsidiary of Private Company G was approximately $79.2 million, which is fully funded.
In April 2023, the credit agreement with Subsidiary of Public Company H was amended to, among other things, (i) reduce the total loan commitment by $10.0 million ratably amongst the lenders, including us, of which $6.0 million of the reduced commitment was allocated to us and $9.0 million of additional principal was funded by us, (ii) strengthen the real estate coverage covenants and (iii) require certain conditions precedent be met prior to disbursing funds to construction projects. Following the amendment, we held $84.0 million in commitments. As of December 31, 2023, our outstanding principal balance under the credit facility with Subsidiary of Public Company H was $84.0 million, which is fully funded.
In June 2023, Subsidiary of Private Company H repaid its loan in full. The outstanding principal of Subsidiary of Private Company H on the date of repayment was approximately $5.8 million. We received exit fees of approximately $0.2 million.
In July 2023, TRS1 purchased a secured seller promissory note from Private Company A (the “seller note”) that was issued by Private Company M in favor of Private Company A as a portion of the total purchase price for certain of Private Company A and its subsidiaries’ assets and operations in Arizona. The seller note is for an amount equal to $30.0 million and is secured by substantially all the assets of Private Company M. The seller note is also guaranteed by the parent company of Private Company M. The seller note matures on July 31, 2026 and accrues interest at a rate of 9.0% per annum until February 2026, and at a rate of 15.0% per annum thereafter. TRS1 purchased the seller note from Private Company A at a discount of approximately 16.0% for a purchase price equal to approximately $25.2 million.
In September 2023, we entered into an amendment with Private Company L, which, among other things, (i) amended the interest rate to a base interest rate of 8.4% per annum plus SOFR, with a SOFR floor of 5.0%, (ii) amend the draw procedures and conditions, (iii) push back the start date for amortization payments, (iv) require certain excess cash flow and equity contribution payments, and (v) amend the financial covenant requirements.
In September 2023, the credit facility with Public Company A matured without repayment. The agent on the credit facility has placed the borrower in default, and the Company has recorded a realized loss of approximately $(1.2) million.
In October 2023, the Board appointed Daniel Neville as the Chief Executive Officer of the Company and a member of its Investment Committee, effective as of November 13, 2023. Mr. Neville succeeds Leonard Tannenbaum as Chief Executive Officer, and Mr. Tannenbaum has transitioned from his role as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer to Executive Chairman and Chief Investment Officer as of the effective date.
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At-the-Market Offering Program
In April 2022, we filed our shelf registration statement on Form S-3 with the SEC, registering the offer and sale of up to $1.0 billion of securities (the “Shelf Registration Statement”). The Shelf Registration Statement enables us to issue shares of common stock, preferred stock, debt securities, warrants, rights, as well as units that include one or more of such securities. The Shelf Registration Statement also included a prospectus for the ATM Program to sell up to an aggregate of $75.0 million of shares of our common stock that may be issued and sold from time to time under the Sales Agreement, dated April 5, 2022 (the “Sales Agreement”), with Jefferies LLC and JMP Securities LLC, as Sales Agents. Under the terms of the Sales Agreement, we have agreed to pay the Sales Agents a commission of up to 3.0% of the gross proceeds from each sale of common stock under the Sales Agreement.
During the year ended December 31, 2023, we did not sell any shares of our common stock under the Sales Agreement.
Share Repurchase Program
On June 13, 2023, our Board authorized the Repurchase Program. The timing, price, and volume of repurchases will be based on our stock price, general market conditions, applicable legal requirements and other factors. The repurchase of our common stock may be made from time to time in the open market, in privately negotiated transactions or otherwise in compliance with Rule 10b-18 and Rule 10b5-1 under the Exchange Act. We expect to finance any share repurchases under the Repurchase Program using cash on hand, capacity available under our line of credit and cash flows from operations. The Repurchase Program is authorized until December 31, 2025 and may be discontinued, modified or suspended at any time. During the year ended December 31, 2023, we did not repurchase any shares of our common stock pursuant to the Repurchase Program.
Dividends Declared Per Share
For the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, we paid the following cash dividends:
Date DeclaredPayable to Shareholders of Record at the Close of Business onDate PaidAmount per ShareAggregate Amount Paid
March 10, 2022March 31, 2022April 15, 2022$0.55 $10.9 million
June 15, 2022June 30, 2022July 15, 20220.56 11.1 million
September 15, 2022September 30, 2022October 14, 20220.56 11.4 million
December 15, 2022December 31, 2022January 13, 20230.56 11.4 million
2022 Period Subtotal$2.23 $44.8 million
March 2, 2023March 31, 2023April 14, 2023$0.56 $11.5 million
June 15, 2023June 30, 2023July 14, 20230.48 9.8 million
September 15, 2023September 30, 2023October 13, 20230.48 9.8 million
December 15, 2023December 31, 2023January 12, 20240.48 9.8 million
2023 Period Subtotal$2.00 $40.9 million
Recent Developments
On December 29, 2023, we drew $42.0 million on our Revolving Credit Facility. All outstanding borrowings on the Revolving Credit Facility were subsequently repaid in full on January 2, 2024.
In January 2024, the Company and an affiliate entered into a secured mezzanine loan with CRE Private Company A that was syndicated by the affiliate, consisting of an aggregate of $56.4 million in loan commitments, of which $28.2 million was funded by us and another $28.2 million was provided by an affiliate. The Company and affiliate are each 50.0% syndicate lenders in the secured mezzanine loan. The secured mezzanine loan bears interest at an annual rate of Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) plus 15.31% spread, subject to a SOFR floor of 2.42%. At the end of January 2024, the Company and affiliate entered into an amendment to the secured mezzanine loan with CRE Private Company A, which among other things, (1) extended the maturity date to May 31, 2024 and (2) amended the SOFR floor from 2.42% to 4.00%. Pursuant to the amendment, the Company and affiliate expect to receive an extension fee of approximately $0.1 million each, respectively.
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In January 2024, the Company and an affiliate entered into a secured mezzanine loan with CRE Private Company B that was syndicated by the affiliate, consisting of an aggregate of $56.4 million in loan commitments, of which $20.7 million was funded by us and another $20.7 million was provided by an affiliate. The secured mezzanine loan was purchased by us and an affiliate at a discount of 1.0% for a purchase price of approximately $20.4 million each, respectively. Approximately $15.0 million was established as an unfunded commitment, available to be drawn to pay interest on the secured mezzanine loan, of which we are responsible for $7.5 million. The Company and affiliate are each 50.0% syndicate lenders in the secured mezzanine loan. The secured mezzanine loan bears interest at an annual fixed rate of 13.00% and matures in May 2027.
In January 2024, we entered into a partial release and amendment with Private Company L to, among other things, (i) permit the sale and release of certain collateral located in Missouri, subject to the terms and conditions contained therein and (ii) amend certain of the draw and prepayment requirements. In January 2024, we received approximately $11.4 million prepayment from Private Company L’s sale of certain collateral assets and $0.3 million prepayment premium.
In January 2024, we delivered a reservation of rights letter to Private Company K with respect to the occurrence of certain events of default, including the failure to make principal and interest payments when due and deliver monthly statements as required under the credit agreement with Private Company K. In March 2024, we entered into a forbearance agreement with Private Company K, pursuant to which we agreed to forbear from exercising certain remedies as a result of the certain defaults under the credit agreement. In exchange for such forbearance, Private Company K agreed to, among others, (i) additional reporting requirements and (ii) contribute additional cash equity in an aggregate amount of up to $3.5 million in increments on or before June 30, 2024 or obtain a combination of additional equity and debt financing in an aggregate amount of up to $8.5 million in increments on or before August 31, 2024, certain of the proceeds of which shall be applied to the outstanding obligations under the credit agreement. The existing credit agreement was amended by the forbearance agreement entered into with Private Company K to require (a) 20% of the interest payable for December 2023 and January 2024 to be payable in cash in arrears and 80% paid in kind, (b) 35% of the interest payable for February 2024 to be payable in cash in arrears and 65% to be paid in kind, (c) 50% of the interest payable for March 2024, April 2024 and May 2024 to be payable in cash in arrears and 50% to be paid in kind, (d) interest for the remainder of the months during the term of the forbearance agreement to be payable in cash in arrears and (e) payments of principal during the term of the forbearance to be deferred during the term of the forbearance agreement. We placed Private Company K on non-accrual status effective December 1, 2023 and will recognize income related to loan activity only upon receipt of cash.
In February 2024, AFC Agent received approximately $4.7 million in total loan principal prepayments and $0.1 million in related exit fees from Private Company A’s sale of its collateral assets, of which approximately $3.9 million in principal prepayments and $0.1 million in related exit fees were allocated to us relating to our pro rata portion of the Private Company A Credit Facility and was applied to the outstanding principal balance. Following the prepayment, our outstanding principal balance under the Private Company A Credit Facility was approximately $49.8 million. AFC Agent continues to monitor the court-appointed receivership installed to maintain the borrower’s operations and maximize value for the benefit of its creditors.
On February 22, 2024, we announced that our Board unanimously approved a plan to spin-off our commercial real estate portfolio into an independent, publicly traded REIT, named Sunrise Realty Trust, Inc. See “—Spin-off” above.
In March 2024, we entered into a forbearance agreement with Subsidiary of Private Company G, pursuant to which we agreed to forbear from exercising certain remedies as a result of certain events of default under the credit agreement and under the forbearance agreement entered into with Subsidiary of Private Company G in September 2023. In exchange for such forbearance, Subsidiary of Private Company G agreed to, among other things, (i) contribute additional cash equity in an aggregate amount of not less than $3.0 million before April 30, 2024, (ii) sell certain assets, the proceeds of which will be applied to pay down outstanding obligations under the credit agreement, (iii) enter into a management services agreement with a third party with respect to Subsidiary of Private Company G’s operations in Pennsylvania, (iv) enter into a consulting or similar agreement with a third party with respect to Subsidiary of Private Company G’s operations in New Jersey, and (v) deliver additional reporting requirements. In addition, the existing credit agreement was amended by the forbearance agreement entered into with Subsidiary of Private Company G to, for the remaining life of the loan (so long as Subsidiary of Private Company G complies with its obligations under the forbearance agreement), (a) remove the financial covenants, (b) revise the existing cash flow sweep such that 75% of excess cash flow is paid toward current interest, accrued interest, lender expenses and principal, (c) change the interest rate on the loans to 12.5% per annum, a minimum portion of which is payable in cash pursuant to the excess cash flow sweep, and the remainder of which, if any, is paid in kind, and (d) remove required amortization payments. We placed Subsidiary of Private Company G on non-accrual effective December 1, 2023 and will recognize income related to loan activity only upon receipt of cash.
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In March 2024, we declared a regular cash dividend of $0.48 per share of our common stock, relating to the first quarter of 2024, which will be paid on April 15, 2024 to shareholders of record as of March 31, 2024. The estimated aggregate amount of the regular cash dividend payment is approximately $9.9 million.
Key Financial Measures and Indicators
As a commercial real estate finance company, we believe the key financial measures and indicators for our business are Distributable Earnings, book value per share and dividends declared per share.
Non-GAAP Metrics
Distributable Earnings
In addition to using certain financial metrics prepared in accordance with GAAP to evaluate our performance, we also use Distributable Earnings to evaluate our performance excluding the effects of certain transactions and GAAP adjustments we believe are not necessarily indicative of our current loan activity and o