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Table of Contents
 
 
UNITED STATE
S
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, 2020
 
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
1-14788
 
 
 
Blackstone Mortgage Trust, Inc.
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
Maryland
 
94-6181186
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
 
(I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)
345 Park Avenue
, 15th Floor
New York
,
New York 10154
(Address of principal executive offices)(Zip Code)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (212)
655-0220
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
Title of each class
  
Trading symbol(s)
  
Name of each exchange on which registered
Class A common stock
, par value $0.01 per share
  
BXMT
  
New York Stock Exchange
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   ☒      No   ☐
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   ☐     No   ☒
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 filer
 
  
Accelerated filer
 
       
Non-accelerated
filer
 
  
Smaller reporting company
 
       
        
Emerging 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’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control 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. 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in
Rule 12b-2
of the Act).
    
Yes
   
     
No
   
The aggregate market value of the outstanding class A common stock held by
non-affiliates
of the registrant was approximately $3.3 billion as of June 30, 2020 (the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter) based on the closing sale price on the New York Stock Exchange on that date.
As of February 3, 2021, there wer
e 147,039,855 o
utstanding shares of class A common stock.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Part III of this annual report on Form
10-K
incorporates information by reference from the registrant’s definitive proxy statement with respect to its 2021 annual meeting of stockholders to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days after the close of the registrant’s fiscal year.
 
 
 

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
 
          Page  
     
ITEM 1.
        3  
ITEM 1A.
        11  
ITEM 1B.
        65  
ITEM 2.
        65  
ITEM 3.
        65  
ITEM 4.
        65  
     
ITEM 5.
   MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES      66  
ITEM 6.
        67  
ITEM 7.
   MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS      68  
ITEM 7A.
        98  
ITEM 8.
        102  
ITEM 9.
   CHANGES IN AND DISAGREEMENTS WITH ACCOUNTANTS ON ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE      102  
ITEM 9A.
        102  
ITEM 9B.
        103  
     
ITEM 10.
        104  
ITEM 11.
        104  
ITEM 12.
   SECURITY OWNERSHIP OF CERTAIN BENEFICIAL OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT AND RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS      104  
ITEM 13.
   CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATED TRANSACTIONS, AND DIRECTOR INDEPENDENCE      104  
ITEM 14.
        104  
     
ITEM 15.
        105  
ITEM 16.
        115  
     116  
    
F-1
 

Table of Contents
Forward-Looking Information; Risk Factor Summary
This Annual Report on Form
10-K
contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Exchange Act, which involve certain known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements predict or describe our future operations, business plans, business and investment strategies and portfolio management and the performance of our investments. These forward-looking statements are generally identified by their use of such terms and phrases as “intend,” “goal,” “estimate,” “expect,” “project,” “projections,” “plans,” “seeks,” “anticipates,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “may,” “designed to,” “foreseeable future,” “believe,” “scheduled” and similar expressions. Our actual results or outcomes may differ materially from those anticipated. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date the statement was made. We assume no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.
Our actual results may differ significantly from any results expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. A summary of the principal risk factors that make investing in our securities risky and might cause our actual results to differ is set forth below. The following is only a summary of the principal risks that may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. This summary should be read in conjunction with the more complete discussion of the risk factors we face, which are set forth in the section entitled “Risk Factors” in this report.
 
   
Our lending and investment activities subject us to the general political, economic, capital markets, competitive and other conditions in the United States and foreign jurisdictions where we invest, including with respect to the effects of the
COVID-19
pandemic and other events that markedly impact United States or foreign financial markets.
 
   
Fluctuations in prevailing interest rates and credit spreads could reduce our ability to generate income on our loans and other investments, which could lead to a significant decrease in our results of operations, our cash flows and the market value of our investments, and ultimately limit our ability to pay distributions to our stockholders.
 
   
Adverse changes in the real estate and real estate capital markets, in North America, Europe and Australia in particular, could negatively impact our performance by making it more difficult for borrowers of our mortgage loans to satisfy their debt payment obligations, which could result in losses on our loan investments and/or make it more difficult for us to generate consistent or attractive risk-adjusted returns.
 
   
Our results of operations, financial condition and business could be materially adversely affected if we experience difficulty accessing financing or raising capital, including due to a significant dislocation in or shut-down of the capital markets, experience a reduction in the yield on our investments, experience an increase in the cost of our financing or experience defaults by borrowers in paying debt service on outstanding indebtedness.
 
   
Events giving rise to increases in our current expected credit loss reserve, including the impact of the
COVID-19
pandemic, have had an adverse effect on our business and results of operations and could in the future have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
   
Adverse legislative or regulatory developments, including with respect to tax laws, securities laws, and the laws governing financial and lending institutions, could increase our cost of doing business and/or reduce our operating flexibility and the price of our class A common stock.
 
   
Acts of God such as hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters, pandemics or outbreaks of infectious disease, acts of war and/or terrorism and other events that can markedly impact financial markets may cause unanticipated and uninsured performance declines and/or losses to us or the owners and operators of the real estate securing our investments.
 
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Deterioration in the performance of properties securing our investments may cause deterioration in the performance of our investments, instances of default or foreclosure on such properties and, potentially, principal losses to us.
 
   
Adverse developments in the availability of desirable investment opportunities whether they are due to competition, regulation or otherwise, could adversely affect our results of operations.
 
   
Difficulty in redeploying the proceeds from repayments of our existing loans and investments may cause our financial performance and returns to investors to decline.
 
   
Increased competition from entities engaged in mortgage lending and/or investing in our target assets may limit our ability to originate or acquire desirable loans and investments or dispose of assets we target, and could also affect the yields of these assets and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
   
Loans or investments involving international real estate-related assets are subject to special risks that we may not manage effectively, including currency exchange risk, the burdens of complying with international regulatory requirements, risks related to taxation and certain economic and political risks, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition and our ability to make distributions to our stockholders.
 
   
If we do not maintain our qualification as a REIT, we will be subject to tax as a regular corporation and could face a substantial tax liability.
Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements. We caution you not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. All written and oral forward-looking statements attributable to us or persons acting on our behalf are qualified in their entirety by these cautionary statements. Moreover, unless we are required by law to update these statements, we will not necessarily update or revise any forward-looking statements included or incorporated by reference in this Annual Report after the date hereof, either to conform them to actual results or to changes in our expectations. We urge you to carefully consider the foregoing summary together with the risks discussed in Part I., Item 1A.
Risk Factors
and Part II, Item 7.
Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
.
 
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PART I.
 
ITEM 1.
BUSINESS
References herein to “Blackstone Mortgage Trust,” “company,” “we,” “us,” or “our” refer to Blackstone Mortgage Trust, Inc., a Maryland corporation, and its subsidiaries unless the context specifically requires otherwise.
Our Company
Blackstone Mortgage Trust is a real estate finance company that originates senior loans collateralized by commercial real estate in North America, Europe, and Australia. Our investment objective is to preserve and protect shareholder capital while producing attractive risk-adjusted returns primarily through dividends generated from current income from our loan portfolio. We are externally managed by BXMT Advisors L.L.C., or our Manager, a subsidiary of The Blackstone Group Inc., or Blackstone, and are a real estate investment trust, or REIT, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, under the symbol “BXMT.” Our principal executive offices are located at 345 Park Avenue, 15
th
Floor, New York, New York 10154. We were incorporated in Maryland in 1998, when we reorganized from a California common law business trust into a Maryland corporation.
We conduct our operations as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes. We generally will not be subject to U.S. federal income taxes on our taxable income to the extent that we annually distribute all of our net taxable income to stockholders and maintain our qualification as a REIT. We also operate our business in a manner that permits us to maintain an exclusion from registration under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, or the Investment Company Act. We are organized as a holding company and conduct our business primarily through our various subsidiaries. We operate our business as one segment, which originates and acquires commercial mortgage loans and related investments.
Our Manager
We are externally managed and advised by our Manager, which is responsible for administering our business activities,
day-to-day
operations, and providing us the services of our executive management team, investment team, and appropriate support personnel.
Our Manager is a part of Blackstone’s alternative asset management business, which includes the management of investment vehicles focused on private equity, real estate, public debt and equity,
non-investment
grade credit, real assets, and secondary funds, all on a global basis. Through its different businesses, Blackstone had total assets under management of $618.6 billion as of December 31, 2020.
In connection with the performance of its duties, our Manager benefits from the resources, relationships, and expertise of the 541 professionals in Blackstone’s global real estate group, which is one of the largest real estate investment managers in the world with $187.2 billion of investor capital under management as of December 31, 2020. Kenneth Caplan and Kathleen McCarthy, who are the global
co-heads
of Blackstone’s real estate group, are members of our Manager’s investment committee.
Blackstone Real Estate Debt Strategies, or BREDS, was launched in 2008 within Blackstone’s global real estate group to pursue opportunities relating to real estate debt investments globally, with a focus primarily on North America and Europe. Michael Nash, the global chairman of BREDS, serves as the executive chairman of our board of directors and is a member of our Manager’s investment committee.
In addition, Jonathan Pollack, the global head of BREDS, serves as one of our directors and is also a member of our Manager’s investment committee. As of December 31, 2020, 113 dedicated BREDS professionals, including 15 investment professionals based in London and Australia, managed $28.3 billion of investor capital.
 
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Our chief executive officer, president, chief financial officer, and other executive officers are senior Blackstone real estate professionals. None of our Manager, our executive officers, or other personnel supplied to us by our Manager is obligated to dedicate any specific amount of time to our business. Our Manager is subject to the supervision and oversight of our board of directors and has only such functions and authority as our board of directors delegates to it. Pursuant to a management agreement between our Manager and us, or our Management Agreement, our Manager is entitled to receive a base management fee, an incentive fee, and expense reimbursements. See Notes 12 and 17 to our consolidated financial statements and the information disclosed pursuant to Item 13 “Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence” in our definitive proxy statement with respect to our 2021 annual meeting of shareholders, which is incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form
10-K
for more detail on the terms of the Management Agreement.
Our Investment Strategy
Our investment strategy is to originate loans and invest in debt and related instruments supported by institutional quality commercial real estate in attractive locations. Through our Manager, we draw on Blackstone’s extensive real estate debt investment platform and its established sourcing, underwriting, and structuring capabilities in order to execute our investment strategy. In addition, we have access to Blackstone’s extensive network and Blackstone’s substantial real estate and other investment holdings, which provide our Manager access to market data on a scale not available to many competitors.
We directly originate,
co-originate,
and acquire debt instruments in conjunction with acquisitions, refinancings, and recapitalizations of commercial real estate in North America, Europe, and Australia. In the case of loans we acquire, we focus on performing loans that are supported by well-capitalized properties and portfolios. We believe that the scale and flexibility of our capital, as well as our Manager’s and Blackstone’s relationships, enables us to target opportunities with strong sponsorship and invest in large loans or other debt that is collateralized by high-quality assets and portfolios.
As market conditions evolve over time, we expect to adapt as appropriate. We believe our current investment strategy will produce significant opportunities to make investments with attractive risk-return profiles. However, to capitalize on the investment opportunities that may be present at various other points of an economic cycle, we may expand or change our investment strategy by targeting assets such as subordinate mortgage loans, mezzanine loans, preferred equity, real estate securities and note financings.
We believe that the diversification of our investment portfolio, our ability to actively manage those investments, and the flexibility of our strategy positions us to generate attractive returns for our stockholders in a variety of market conditions over the long term.
Our Portfolio
Our business is currently focused on originating or acquiring senior, floating rate mortgage loans that are secured by a first priority mortgage on commercial real estate assets primarily in the office, hotel, multifamily, and industrial sectors in North America, Europe, and Australia. These investments may be in the form of whole loans,
pari passu
participations within mortgage loans, or other similar structures. Although originating senior, floating rate mortgage loans is our primary area of focus, we also originate and acquire fixed rate loans and subordinate loans, including subordinate mortgage interests and mezzanine loans. This focused lending strategy is designed to generate attractive current income while protecting investors’ capital.
During the year ended December 31, 2020, we originated or acquired $1.6 billion of loans. Loan fundings during the year totaled $2.1 billion, with repayments of $2.0 billion, for net fundings of $139.5 million.
 
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The following table details overall statistics for our investment portfolio as of December 31, 2020 ($ in thousands):
 
          
Total Investment Exposure
 
    
Balance Sheet

Portfolio
(1)
   
Loan
Exposure
(1)(2)
   
Other
Investments
(3)
       
Total Investment
Portfolio
 
Number of investments
     120       120       1         121  
Principal balance
   $       16,652,824     $       17,454,621     $       735,542       $       18,190,163  
Net book value
   $ 16,399,166     $ 16,399,166     $ 75,722       $ 16,474,888  
Unfunded loan commitments
(4)
   $ 3,160,084     $ 3,962,960     $ —         $ 3,962,960  
Weighted-average cash coupon
(5)
     L + 3.18     L + 3.24     L + 2.75       L + 3.22
Weighted-average
all-in
yield
(5)
     L + 3.53     L + 3.58     L + 3.10       L + 3.56
Weighted-average maximum maturity (years)
(6)
     3.1       3.1       4.4         3.2  
Origination loan to value (LTV)
(7)
     64.9     64.9     42.6       64.0
 
(1)
Excludes investment exposure to the $79.2 million subordinate position we own in the $735.5 million 2018 Single Asset Securitization. Refer to Notes 4 and 16 to our consolidated financial statements for further discussion of the 2018 Single Asset Securitization.
(2)
In certain instances, we finance our loans through the
non-recourse
sale of a senior loan interest that is not included in our consolidated financial statements. Total loan exposure encompasses the entire loan we originated and financed, including $801.8 million of such
non-consolidated
senior interests that are not included in our balance sheet portfolio.
(3)
Includes investment exposure to the $735.5 million 2018 Single Asset Securitization. We do not consolidate the 2018 Single Asset Securitization on our consolidated financial statements, and instead reflect our $79.2 million subordinate position as a component of other assets on our consolidated balance sheet. Refer to Notes 4 and 16 to our consolidated financial statements for further discussion of the 2018 Single Asset Securitization.
(4)
Unfunded commitments will primarily be funded to finance our borrowers’ construction or development of real estate-related assets, capital improvements of existing assets, or lease-related expenditures. These commitments will generally be funded over the term of each loan, subject in certain cases to an expiration date.
(5)
The weighted-average cash coupon and
all-in
yield are expressed as a spread over the relevant floating benchmark rates, which include USD LIBOR, GBP LIBOR, EURIBOR, BBSY, and CDOR, as applicable to each investment. As of December 31, 2020, 98% of our investments by total investment exposure earned a floating rate of interest, primarily indexed to USD LIBOR, and $14.2 billion of such investments earned interest based on floors that are above the applicable index. The other 2% of our investments earned a fixed rate of interest, which we reflect as a spread over the relevant floating benchmark rates, as of December 31, 2020, for purposes of the weighted-averages. In addition to cash coupon,
all-in
yield includes the amortization of deferred origination and extension fees, loan origination costs, and purchase discounts, as well as the accrual of exit fees. Excludes loans accounted for under the cost-recovery method.
(6)
Maximum maturity assumes all extension options are exercised by the borrower, however our loans and other investments may be repaid prior to such date. As of December 31, 2020, 32% of our loans and other investments by total investment exposure were subject to yield maintenance or other prepayment restrictions and 68% were open to repayment by the borrower without penalty.
(7)
Based on LTV as of the dates loans and other investments were originated or acquired by us.
 
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The charts below detail the geographic distribution and types of properties securing our investment portfolio, as of December 31, 2020:
 
 
 
(1)
States comprising less than 1% of total loan portfolio are excluded.
For additional information regarding our loan portfolio as of December 31, 2020, see Item 7 – “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – II. Loan Portfolio” and – “VI. Loan Portfolio Details” in this Annual Report on Form
10-K.
Financing Strategy
To maintain an adequate amount of available liquidity and execute our business plan, we look to a variety of sources. In addition to raising capital through public offerings of our equity and debt securities, our financing strategy includes secured debt agreements, securitizations, and asset-specific financings, as well as convertible notes and senior secured term loan facilities. In addition to our current mix of financing sources, we also expect to access additional forms of financings including resecuritizations and public and private, secured and unsecured debt issuances by us or our subsidiaries.
During the year ended December 31, 2020, we (i) refinanced $2.1 billion of our secured credit facilities with the proceeds from two
non-recourse,
non-mark-to-market
securitization transactions that closed during the year, reducing our
debt-to-equity
ratio to 2.5x as of December 31, 2020, (ii) issued an aggregate 10.0 million shares of our class A common stock through an underwritten public offering, providing aggregate net proceeds of $278.3 million, and (iii) entered into a $325.0 million senior secured term loan facility.
Additionally, during the year ended December 31, 2020, we increased the size of one of our credit facilities and added a multi-currency facility with one of our existing lenders, providing an aggregate additional $650.0 million of credit capacity.
 
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The following table details our outstanding portfolio financing arrangements as of December 31, 2020 ($ in thousands):
 
    
Portfolio Financing
Outstanding Principal Balance
 
    
December 31, 2020
 
Secured debt agreements
   $ 7,896,863  
Securitizations
(1)
     3,596,980  
Asset-specific financings
(2)
     1,201,495  
  
 
 
 
Total portfolio financing
   $ 12,695,338  
  
 
 
 
 
  (1)
Includes our consolidated securitized debt obligations of $2.9 billion and our
non-consolidated
securitized debt obligations of $656.3 million. The
non-consolidated
securitized debt obligation represents the senior
non-consolidated
investment exposure to the 2018 Single Asset Securitization. We own the related subordinate position, which is classified as a
held-to-maturity
debt security on our balance sheet. Refer to Notes 4 and 16 to our consolidated financial statements for details of the 2018 Single Asset Securitization.
 
  (2)
Includes our consolidated asset-specific debt agreements of $399.7 million and our
non-consolidated
senior interests of $801.8 million. The
non-consolidated
senior interests provide structural leverage for our net investments which are reflected in the form of mezzanine loans or other subordinate interests on our balance sheet and in our results of operations.
 
The amount of leverage we employ for particular assets will depend upon our Manager’s assessment of the credit, liquidity, price volatility, and other risks of those assets and the related financing counterparties, the availability of particular types of financing at the time, and the financial covenants under our credit facilities. Our decision to use leverage to finance our assets will be at the discretion of our Manager and will not be subject to the approval of our stockholders. We currently expect that our leverage will not exceed, on a debt to equity basis, a ratio of
4-to-1.
We will endeavor to match the tenor, currency, and indices of our assets and liabilities, including in certain instances through the use of derivatives. We will also seek to limit the risks associated with recourse borrowing.
Subject to maintaining our qualification as a REIT, from time to time, we engage in hedging transactions that seek to mitigate the effects of fluctuations in interest rates or currencies on our cash flows. These hedging transactions could take a variety of forms, including interest rate or currency swaps or cap agreements, options, futures contracts, forward rate or currency agreements or similar financial instruments.
Floating Rate Portfolio
Generally, our business model is such that rising interest rates will increase our net income, while declining interest rates will decrease net income. As of December 31, 2020, 98% of our investments by total investment exposure earned a floating rate of interest and were financed with liabilities that pay interest at floating rates, which resulted in an amount of net equity that is positively correlated to rising interest rates, subject to the impact of interest rate floors on certain of our floating rate loans. As of December 31, 2020, the remaining 2% of our investments by total investment exposure earned a fixed rate of interest, but are financed with liabilities that pay interest at floating rates, which resulted in a negative correlation to rising interest rates to the extent of our financing. In certain instances where we have financed fixed rate assets with floating rate liabilities, we have purchased interest rate caps to limit our exposure to increases in interest rates on such liabilities.
 
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LIBOR and certain other floating rate benchmark indices to which our floating rate loans and other loan agreements are tied, including, without limitation, the Euro Interbank Offered Rate, the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate and the Australian Bank Bill Swap Reference Rate, or collectively, IBORs, are the subject of recent national, international and regulatory guidance and proposals for reform. On November 30, 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority of the U.K., or FCA, which has statutory powers to require panel banks to contribute to LIBOR where necessary, announced that subject to confirmation following its consultation with the administrator of LIBOR, it would cease publication of the one-week and two-month USD LIBOR immediately after December 31, 2021 and cease publication of the remaining tenors immediately after June 30, 2023. Additionally, the Federal Reserve Board has advised banks to stop entering into new USD LIBOR based contracts. The U.S. Federal Reserve, in conjunction with the Alternative Reference Rates Committee, a steering committee comprised of large U.S. financial institutions, has identified the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, or SOFR, a new index calculated by short-term repurchase agreements, backed by Treasury securities, as its preferred alternative rate for LIBOR. At this time, it is not possible to predict how markets will respond to SOFR or other alternative reference rates as the transition away from the IBOR benchmarks is anticipated in coming years. Refer to “Part I. Item 1A. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Lending and Investment Activities—The expected discontinuation of currently used financial reference rates and use of alternative replacement reference rates may adversely affect net interest income related to our loans and investments or otherwise adversely affect our results of operations, cash flows and the market value of our investments.” of this Annual Report on Form
10-K.
Investment Guidelines
Our board of directors has approved the following investment guidelines:
 
   
our Manager shall seek to invest our capital in a broad range of investments in, or relating to, public and/or private debt,
non-controlling
equity, loans and/or other interests (including “mezzanine” interests and/or options or derivatives related thereto) relating to real estate assets (including pools thereof), real estate companies, and/or real estate-related holdings;
 
   
prior to the deployment of capital into investments, our Manager may cause our capital to be invested in any short-term investments in money market funds, bank accounts, overnight repurchase agreements with primary federal reserve bank dealers collateralized by direct U.S. government obligations and other instruments or investments reasonably determined by our Manager to be of high quality;
 
   
not more than 25% of our equity, as defined in the Management Agreement with our Manager, will be invested in any individual investment without the approval of a majority of the investment risk management committee of our board of directors (it being understood, however, that for purposes of the foregoing concentration limit, in the case of any investment that is comprised (whether through a structured investment vehicle or other arrangement) of securities, instruments or assets of multiple portfolio issuers, such investment for purposes of the foregoing limitation shall be deemed to be multiple investments in such underlying securities, instruments and assets and not such particular vehicle, product or other arrangement in which they are aggregated);
 
   
any investment in excess of $350.0 million shall require the approval of a majority of the investment risk management committee of our board of directors;
 
   
no investment shall be made that would cause us to fail to qualify as a REIT under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Internal Revenue Code; and
 
   
no investment shall be made that would cause us or any of our subsidiaries to be regulated as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.
 
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These investment guidelines may be amended, restated, modified, supplemented or waived upon the approval of a majority of our board of directors, which must include a majority of the independent directors, without the approval of our stockholders.
Competition
We are engaged in a competitive business. In our lending and investing activities, we compete for opportunities with a variety of institutional lenders and investors, including other REITs, specialty finance companies, public and private funds (including other funds managed by Blackstone and its affiliates), commercial and investment banks, commercial finance and insurance companies and other financial institutions. Several other REITs and other investment vehicles have raised significant amounts of capital, and may have investment objectives that overlap with ours, which may create additional competition for lending and investment opportunities. Some competitors may have a lower cost of funds and access to funding sources, such as the U.S. Government, that are not available to us. Many of our competitors are not subject to the operating constraints associated with REIT compliance or maintenance of an exclusion from regulation under the Investment Company Act. We could face increased competition from banks due to future legislative developments, such as amendments to key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, including provisions setting forth capital and risk retention requirements. 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 loans and investments and offer more attractive pricing or other terms than we would. Furthermore, competition for originations of and investments in assets we target may lead to decreasing yields, which may further limit our ability to generate targeted returns.
In the face of this competition, we have access to our Manager’s and Blackstone’s professionals and their industry expertise and relationships, which we believe provide us with a competitive advantage and help us assess risks and determine appropriate pricing for potential investments. We believe these relationships will enable us to compete more effectively for attractive investment opportunities. However, we may not be able to achieve our business goals or expectations due to the competitive risks that we face. For additional information concerning these competitive risks, see Item 1A—“Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Lending and Investment Activities.”
Human Capital
We do not have any employees. We are externally managed by our Manager pursuant to the Management Agreement. Our executive officers serve as officers of our Manager, and are employed by an affiliate of our Manager. See “—Our Manager.”
Government Regulation
Our operations in North America, Europe, and Australia are subject, in certain instances, to supervision and regulation by U.S. and other governmental authorities, and may be subject to various laws and judicial and administrative decisions imposing various requirements and restrictions, which, among other things: (i) regulate credit-granting activities; (ii) establish maximum interest rates, finance charges and other charges; (iii) require disclosures to customers; (iv) govern secured transactions; and (v) set collection, foreclosure, repossession and claims-handling procedures and other trade practices. We are also required to comply with certain provisions of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act that are applicable to commercial loans. We intend to conduct our business so that neither we nor any of our subsidiaries are required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act.
In our judgment, existing statutes and regulations have not had a material adverse effect on our business. In recent years, legislators in the United States and in other countries have said that greater regulation of financial services firms is needed, particularly in areas such as risk management, leverage, and disclosure. While we expect that additional new regulations in these areas will be adopted and existing ones may change in the future, it is not possible at this time to forecast the exact nature of any future legislation, regulations, judicial decisions, orders or interpretations, nor their impact upon our future business, financial condition, or results of operations or prospects.
 
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Taxation of the Company
We have elected to be taxed as a REIT under the Internal Revenue Code for U.S. federal income tax purposes. We generally must distribute annually at least 90% of our net taxable income, subject to certain adjustments and excluding any net capital gain, in order for U.S. federal income tax not to apply to our earnings that we distribute. To the extent that we satisfy this distribution requirement, but distribute less than 100% of our net taxable income, we will be subject to U.S. federal income tax on our undistributed taxable income. In addition, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax if the actual amount that we pay out to our stockholders in a calendar year is less than a minimum amount specified under U.S. federal tax laws.
Our qualification as a REIT also depends on our ability to meet various other requirements imposed by the Internal Revenue Code, which relate to organizational structure, diversity of stock ownership, and certain restrictions with regard to the nature of our assets and the sources of our income. Even if we qualify as a REIT, we may be subject to certain U.S. federal income and excise taxes and state and local taxes on our income and assets. If we fail to maintain our qualification as a REIT for any taxable year, we may be subject to material penalties as well as federal, state, and local income tax on our taxable income at regular corporate rates and we would not be able to qualify as a REIT for the subsequent four full taxable years.
Furthermore, we have one or more taxable REIT subsidiaries, or TRS, which are subject to federal, state, and local income tax on their net taxable income. See Item 1A—“Risk Factors—Risks Related to our REIT Status and Certain Other Tax Items” for additional tax status information.
Taxation of REIT Dividends
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, REIT dividends (other than capital gain dividends) received by
non-corporate
taxpayers may be eligible for a 20% deduction. This deduction is only applicable to investors in BXMT that receive dividends and does not have any impact on us. Without further legislation, the deduction would sunset after 2025. Investors should consult their own tax advisors regarding the effect of this change on their effective tax rate with respect to REIT dividends.
Website Access to Reports
We maintain a website at
www.blackstonemortgagetrust.com
. We are providing the address to our website solely for the information of investors. The information on our website is not a part of, nor is it incorporated by reference into this report. Through our website, we make available, free of charge, our annual proxy statement, annual reports on
Form 10-K,
quarterly reports on
Form 10-Q,
current reports on
Form 8-K
and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish them to, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC. The SEC maintains a website that contains these reports at
www.sec.gov
.
Website Disclosure
We use our website (www.blackstonemortgagetrust.com) as a channel of distribution of company information. The information we post through this channel may be deemed material. Accordingly, investors should monitor this channel, in addition to following our press releases, SEC filings and public conference calls, and webcasts. In addition, you may automatically receive email alerts and other information about Blackstone Mortgage Trust when you enroll your email address by visiting the “Contact Us &
E-mail
Alerts” section of our website at http://ir.blackstonemortgagetrust.com. The contents of our website and any alerts are not, however, a part of this report.
 
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ITEM 1A.
RISK FACTORS
Risks Related to the Ongoing
COVID-19
Pandemic
The ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or
COVID-19,
has caused severe disruptions in the U.S. and global economy and to our business, and has had and may continue to have an adverse impact on our financial performance and results of operations.
As of the date hereof, there is an ongoing outbreak of a novel coronavirus, or
COVID-19,
which has spread to over 200 countries and territories, including the United States, and to every state in the United States. The World Health Organization has designated
COVID-19
as a pandemic, and numerous countries, including the United States, have declared national emergencies with respect to
COVID-19.
The United States and other countries have reacted to the
COVID-19
outbreak with unprecedented government intervention, including interest rate cuts and economic stimulus. The global impact of the outbreak has been rapidly evolving, and many countries have reacted by instituting, or strongly encouraging, quarantines and restrictions on travel, closing financial markets and/or restricting trading, limiting operations of
non-essential
offices, retail centers, hotels, and other businesses, and taking other restrictive measures designed to help slow the spread of
COVID-19.
Businesses are also implementing similar precautionary measures. Such measures, as well as the general uncertainty surrounding the dangers and impact of
COVID-19,
are disrupting global supply chains, increasing rates of unemployment and adversely impacting many industries, including the collateral underlying certain of our loans. Moreover, with the continued spread of
COVID-19,
governments and businesses are likely to take increasingly aggressive measures to help slow its spread. For this reason, among others, as
COVID-19
continues to spread, the potential impacts, including a global, regional, or other economic recession, are increasingly uncertain and difficult to assess.
The outbreak of
COVID-19
may have a material adverse impact on our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations and the market price of our Class A common stock, among other things. We expect that these impacts are likely to continue to some extent as the outbreak persists and potentially even longer. Although many or all facets of our business have been or could be impacted by
COVID-19,
we currently believe the following impacts to be among the most material to us:
 
   
COVID-19
could continue to have a significant long-term impact on the broader economy and the commercial real estate market generally, which would continue to negatively impact the value of the assets collateralizing our loans. Our portfolio includes loans collateralized by hotel, retail, and other asset classes which are particularly negatively impacted by the pandemic. As of December 31, 2020, 17% of our total investment exposure was concentrated in hospitality assets. While we believe the principal amount of our loans are generally adequately protected by underlying property value, there can be no assurance that we will realize the entire principal amount of certain investments. In addition, interest rates and credit spreads have been significantly impacted since the outbreak of
COVID-19.
This has resulted in volatile changes to the interest we earn from our floating rate loans and also the interest obligations on our floating-rate debt, which could result in a decrease to our net interest income.
 
   
Some of our borrowers have indicated that due to the impact of the
COVID-19
pandemic, they will be unable to timely execute their business plans, have had to temporarily close their businesses, or have experienced other negative business consequences and have requested temporary interest deferral or forbearance, or other modifications of their loans. During the year ended December 31, 2020, we closed 49 loan modifications, representing an aggregate principal balance of $6.5 billion as of December 31, 2020. Additional loan modifications may continue in the near term and we may experience instances of default or foreclosure on assets underlying our loans, which will adversely affect the credit profile of our assets and our results of operations and financial condition. Loan modifications may include term extensions, interest rate changes, repurposing of reserves, temporary deferrals of interest, performance test or covenant waivers, and additional equity commitments from sponsors.
 
   
The unprecedented impact of
COVID-19
on commercial real estate created significant uncertainty regarding the application of the credit based margining provisions in our credit facilities. In order to
 
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address this uncertainty, we modified our seven largest credit facility agreements to temporarily suspend the credit margining provisions for certain collateral assets and to
pre-approve
certain collateral asset modifications in exchange for our deleveraging of the facilities. Although we again extended the agreements to suspend credit margining in the fourth quarter of 2020 without further
de-leveraging,
there can be no assurance that our credit facility lenders will continue to extend temporary suspensions of credit mark provisions or that collateral asset performance itself will not deteriorate. Consequently there can be no assurance that further deleveraging of our credit facilities will not adversely impact our liquidity and earnings. In addition, there can be no assurance that, even if credit concerns ease, we will be able to
re-lever
our portfolio at terms commensurate with those prior to the pandemic in order to recover potential earnings power.
 
   
The ongoing
COVID-19
pandemic has at times curtailed liquidity in the commercial real estate capital markets which in turn has reduced some sources of liquidity for our business primarily in terms of reduced portfolio loan repayments and more limited access to financing on favorable terms. However, many of our obligations, including unfunded loan commitments, were not similarly reduced. Although our liquidity position substantially increased during the second quarter of 2020, there can be no assurance that we will avoid the need to sell assets at inopportune times, engage in dilutive capital raising on unfavorable terms in order to generate the liquidity required to meet our obligations, or change our dividend practice, including by reducing the amount of, or temporarily suspending, our future dividends or paying our future dividends in kind for some period of time. Furthermore there can be no assurance that we will have access to financing and corporate capital on terms that enable accretive growth.
 
   
COVID-19
has caused us to materially increase our current expected credit loss, or CECL, reserve. Our initial CECL reserve of $17.7 million recorded on January 1, 2020 was reflected as a direct charge to retained earnings on our consolidated statements of changes in equity; however subsequent changes to the CECL reserve were recognized through net income on our consolidated statements of operations. During the year ended December 31, 2020, we recorded a $167.7 million net increase in the CECL reserve, bringing our total CECL reserve to $185.4 million as of December 31, 2020. This CECL reserve reflects, among other things, the macroeconomic impact of the
COVID-19
pandemic on commercial real estate markets generally, as well as certain loans assessed for impairment in our portfolio. Further, this reserve is not reflective of what we expect our CECL reserve would be absent the current and potential future impacts of the
COVID-19
pandemic. If the adverse macroeconomic effects of the
COVID-19
pandemic persist or worsen, we may further materially increase our CECL reserve, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and ability to make distributions.
The immediately preceding outcomes are those we consider to be most material as a result of the pandemic. We have also experienced and may experience other negative impacts to our business as a result of the pandemic that could exacerbate other risks described herein, including:
 
   
lack of liquidity in certain of our assets;
 
   
the greater risk of loss to which we are exposed in connection with
B-notes,
mezzanine loans, and other investments that are subordinated or otherwise junior in an issuer’s capital structure and that involve privately negotiated structures;
 
   
risks associated with loans to properties in transition or construction;
 
   
risks associated with loans or investments involving assets in foreign jurisdictions, especially those experiencing difficulty;
 
   
impairment of our investments and harm to our operations from a prolonged economic slowdown, a lengthy or severe recession or declining real estate values;
 
   
foreign currency risks;
 
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the concentration of our loans and investments in terms of geography, asset types and sponsors;
 
   
losses resulting from foreclosing on certain of the loans we originate or acquire;
 
   
risks associated with our investments in CMBS, CLOs, and other similar structured finance investments, including those we structure, sponsor or arrange;
 
   
downgrades in credit ratings assigned to our investments;
 
   
investments in
non-conforming
and
non-investment
grade rated loans or securities;
 
   
investments in interest rate- and foreign currency-related derivative instruments;
 
   
the difficulty of estimating provisions for loan losses;
 
   
our debt under our credit facilities and our corporate debt;
 
   
risks associated with
non-recourse
securitizations which we use to finance our assets;
 
   
losses arising from current and future guarantees of debt and contingent obligations of our subsidiaries or joint venture or
co-investment
partners;
 
   
borrower and counterparty risks;
 
   
risks associated with our hedging strategies;
 
   
if the market value or income potential of our real estate-related investments declines, we may need to increase our real estate investments and income and/or liquidate our
non-qualifying
assets in order to maintain our REIT qualification or exclusion from regulation under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended;
 
   
operational impacts on ourselves and our third-party advisors, service providers, vendors and counterparties, including operating partners, property managers, other independent third-party appraisal firms that provide appraisals of properties collateralizing our loans, our lenders and other providers of financing, brokers and other counterparties that we purchase and sell assets to and from, derivative counterparties, and legal and diligence professionals that we rely on for acquiring our investments;
 
   
limitations on our ability to ensure business continuity in the event our, or our third-party advisors’ and service providers’, continuity of operations plan is not effective or improperly implemented or deployed during a disruption;
 
   
the availability of key personnel of the Manager and our service providers as they face changed circumstances and potential illness during the pandemic; and
 
   
other risks described herein.
The rapid development and fluidity of this situation precludes any prediction as to the ultimate adverse impact of
COVID-19
on economic and market conditions, and, as a result, presents material uncertainty and risk with respect to us and the performance of our investments. The full extent of the impact and effects of
COVID-19
will depend on future developments, including, among other factors, the duration and spread of the outbreak, along with related travel advisories, quarantines and restrictions, the recovery time of the disrupted supply chains and industries, the impact of labor market interruptions, the impact of government interventions, and uncertainty with respect to the duration of the global economic slowdown.
COVID-19
and the current financial, economic and capital markets environment, and future developments in these and other areas present uncertainty and risk with respect to our performance, results of operations and ability to pay distributions.
Risks Related to Our Lending and Investment Activities
Our loans and investments expose us to risks associated with debt-oriented real estate investments generally.
We seek to invest primarily in debt instruments relating to real estate-related assets. As such, we are subject to, among other things, risk of defaults by borrowers in paying debt service on outstanding indebtedness and to other
 
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impairments of our loans and investments, which risks have been exacerbated by the impact of the
COVID-19
pandemic. Any deterioration of real estate fundamentals generally, and in North America, Europe and Australia in particular, could negatively impact our performance by making it more difficult for borrowers of our mortgage loans, or borrower entities, to satisfy their debt payment obligations, increasing the default risk applicable to borrower entities, and/or making it more difficult for us to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns. Changes in general economic conditions will affect the creditworthiness of borrower entities and/or the value of underlying real estate collateral relating to our investments and may include economic and/or market fluctuations, changes in environmental, zoning and other laws, casualty or condemnation losses, regulatory limitations on rents, decreases in property values, changes in the appeal of properties to tenants, changes in supply and demand, fluctuations in real estate fundamentals, the financial resources of borrower entities, energy supply shortages, various uninsured or uninsurable risks, natural disasters, pandemics or outbreaks of contagious disease, political events, terrorism and acts of war, changes in government regulations, changes in monetary policy, changes in real property tax rates and/or tax credits, changes in operating expenses, changes in interest rates, changes in inflation rates, changes in the availability of debt financing and/or mortgage funds which may render the sale or refinancing of properties difficult or impracticable, increased mortgage defaults, increases in borrowing rates, negative developments in the economy and/or adverse changes in real estate values generally and other factors that are beyond our control.
We cannot predict the degree to which economic conditions generally, and the conditions for real estate debt investing in particular, will improve or decline. Any declines in the performance of the U.S. and global economies or in the real estate debt markets could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Commercial real estate-related investments that are secured, directly or indirectly, by real property are subject to delinquency, foreclosure and loss, which could result in losses to us.
We invest in commercial real estate debt instruments (e.g., mortgages, mezzanine loans and preferred equity) that are secured by commercial property. The ability of a borrower to repay a loan secured by an income-producing property typically is dependent primarily upon the successful operation of the property rather than upon the existence of independent income or assets of the borrower. If the net operating income of the property is reduced, the borrower’s ability to repay the loan may be impaired. Net operating income of an income-producing property can be affected by, among other things:
 
   
tenant mix and tenant bankruptcies;
 
   
success of tenant businesses;
 
   
property management decisions, including with respect to capital improvements, particularly in older building structures;
 
   
property location and condition;
 
   
competition from other properties offering the same or similar services;
 
   
changes in laws that increase operating expenses or limit rents that may be charged;
 
   
responses of businesses, governments and individuals to pandemics or outbreaks of contagious disease;
 
   
any liabilities relating to environmental matters at the property;
 
   
changes in global, national, regional, or local economic conditions and/or specific industry segments;
 
   
global trade disruption, significant introductions of trade barriers and bilateral trade frictions;
 
   
declines in global, national, regional or local real estate values;
 
   
declines in global, national, regional or local rental or occupancy rates;
 
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changes in interest rates, foreign exchange rates, and in the state of the credit and securitization markets and the debt and equity capital markets, including diminished availability or lack of debt financing for commercial real estate;
 
   
changes in real estate tax rates, tax credits and other operating expenses;
 
   
changes in governmental rules, regulations and fiscal policies, including income tax regulations and environmental legislation;
 
   
acts of God, terrorism, social unrest and civil disturbances, which may decrease the availability of or increase the cost of insurance or result in uninsured losses; and
 
   
adverse changes in zoning laws.
In addition, we are exposed to the risk of judicial proceedings with our borrowers and entities we invest in, including bankruptcy or other litigation, as a strategy to avoid foreclosure or enforcement of other rights by us as a lender or investor. During the year ended December 31, 2020, we experienced a significant increase in borrower requests for temporary interest deferral, or other modifications of their loans due to the impact of the
COVID-19
pandemic on the property collateralizing our loans and closed 49 loan modifications, representing an aggregate principal balance of $6.5 billion as of December 31, 2020. In the event that any of the properties or entities underlying or collateralizing our loans or investments experiences or continues to experience adverse effects from the
COVID-19
pandemic or experiences any of the other foregoing events or occurrences, the value of, and return on, such investments could be reduced, which would adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Fluctuations in interest rates and credit spreads could reduce our ability to generate income on our loans and other investments, which could lead to a significant decrease in our results of operations, cash flows and the market value of our investments and may limit our ability to pay distributions to our stockholders.
Our primary interest rate exposures relate to the yield on our loans and other investments and the financing cost of our debt, as well as our interest rate swaps that we may utilize for hedging purposes. Changes in interest rates and credit spreads may affect our net income from loans and other investments, which is the difference between the interest and related income we earn on our interest-earning investments and the interest and related expense we incur in financing these investments. Interest rate and credit spread fluctuations resulting in our interest and related expense exceeding interest and related income would result in operating losses for us. Changes in the level of interest rates and credit spreads also may affect our ability to make loans or investments, the value of our loans and investments and our ability to realize gains from the disposition of assets. Increases in interest rates and credit spreads may also negatively affect demand for loans and could result in higher borrower default rates.
Our operating results depend, in part, on differences between the income earned on our investments, net of credit losses, and our financing costs. The yields we earn on our floating-rate assets and our borrowing costs tend to move in the same direction in response to changes in interest rates. However, one can rise or fall faster than the other, causing our net interest margin to expand or contract. In addition, we could experience reductions in the yield on our investments and an increase in the cost of our financing. Although we seek to match the terms of our liabilities to the expected lives of loans that we acquire or originate, circumstances may arise in which our liabilities are shorter in duration than our assets, resulting in their adjusting faster in response to changes in interest rates. For any period during which our investments are not match-funded, the income earned on such investments may respond more slowly to interest rate fluctuations than the cost of our borrowings. Consequently, changes in interest rates, particularly short-term interest rates, may immediately and significantly decrease our results of operations and cash flows and the market value of our investments, and any such change may limit our ability to pay distributions to our stockholders. In addition, unless we enter into hedging or similar transactions with respect to the portion of our assets that we fund using our balance sheet, returns we achieve on such assets will generally increase as interest rates for those assets rise and decrease as interest rates for those assets decline.
 
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Prepayment rates may adversely affect our financial performance and the value of certain of our assets and are difficult to predict.
Our business is currently focused on originating floating-rate mortgage loans secured by commercial real estate assets. Generally, our mortgage loan borrowers may repay their loans prior to their stated maturities. In periods of declining interest rates and/or credit spreads, prepayment rates on loans generally increase. If general interest rates or credit spreads decline at the same time, the proceeds of such prepayments received during such periods may not be reinvested for some period of time or may be reinvested by us in assets yielding less than the yields on the assets that were prepaid.
Because our mortgage loans are generally not originated or acquired at a premium to par value, prepayment rates do not materially affect the value of such assets. However, the value of certain other assets may be affected by prepayment rates. For example, if we originate or acquire mortgage-related securities or a pool of mortgage securities in the future, we would anticipate that the underlying mortgages would prepay at a projected rate generating an expected yield. If we were to purchase such assets at a premium to par value, if borrowers prepay their loans faster than expected, the corresponding prepayments on any such mortgage-related securities would likely reduce the expected yield. Conversely, if we were to purchase such assets at a discount to par value, when borrowers prepay their loans slower than expected, the decrease in corresponding prepayments on the mortgage-related securities would likely reduce the expected yield.
Prepayment rates on loans may be affected by a number of factors including, but not limited to, the then-current level of interest rates and credit spreads, fluctuations in asset values, the availability of mortgage credit, the relative economic vitality of the area in which the related properties are located, the servicing of the loans, possible changes in tax laws, other opportunities for investment, and other economic, social, geographic, demographic and legal and other factors beyond our control. Consequently, such prepayment rates can vary significantly from period to period and cannot be predicted with certainty. No strategy can completely insulate us from prepayment or other such risks and faster or slower prepayments may adversely affect our profitability and cash available for distribution to our stockholders.
Difficulty in redeploying the proceeds from repayments of our existing loans and investments may cause our financial performance and returns to investors to suffer.
As our loans and investments are repaid, we will have to redeploy the proceeds we receive into new loans and investments, repay borrowings under our credit facilities, pay dividends to our stockholders or repurchase outstanding shares of our class A common stock. It is possible that we will fail to identify reinvestment options that would provide returns or a risk profile that is comparable to the asset that was repaid. If we fail to redeploy the proceeds we receive from repayment of a loan in equivalent or better alternatives, our financial performance and returns to investors could suffer.
We operate in a competitive market for lending and investment opportunities, which may intensify, and competition may limit our ability to originate or acquire desirable loans and investments or dispose of assets we target, and could also affect the yields of these assets and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We operate in a competitive market for lending and investment opportunities, which may intensify. Our profitability depends, in large part, on our ability to originate or acquire our target assets on attractive terms. In originating or acquiring our target assets, we compete for opportunities with a variety of institutional lenders and investors, including other REITs, specialty finance companies, public and private funds (including funds managed by affiliates of Blackstone), commercial and investment banks, commercial finance and insurance companies and other financial institutions. Some of our competitors have raised, and may in the future raise, significant amounts of capital, and may have investment objectives that overlap with ours, which may create additional competition for lending and investment opportunities. Some competitors may have a lower cost of
 
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funds and access to funding sources that are not available to us, such as the U.S. government. Many of our competitors are not subject to the operating constraints associated with REIT tax compliance or maintenance of an exclusion from regulation under 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 loans and investments, offer more attractive pricing or other terms and establish more relationships than us. Furthermore, competition for originations of and investments in our target assets may lead to decreasing yields, which may further limit our ability to generate desired returns. Also, as a result of this competition, desirable loans and investments in our target assets may be limited in the future and we may not be able to take advantage of attractive lending and investment opportunities from time to time, thereby limiting our ability to identify and originate or acquire loans or make investments that are consistent with our investment objectives. We cannot assure you that the competitive pressures we face will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we are unable to successfully integrate new assets or businesses and manage our growth, our results of operations and financial condition may suffer.
We have in the past and may in the future significantly increase the size and/or change the mix of our portfolio of assets or acquire or otherwise enter into new lines of business. We may be unable to successfully and efficiently integrate newly-acquired assets or businesses into our existing operations 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 or lines of business 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.
The lack of liquidity in certain of our assets may adversely affect our business.
The illiquidity of certain of our assets may make it difficult for us to sell such investments if needed. Certain assets such as mortgages,
B-Notes,
mezzanine and other loans (including participations) and preferred equity, in particular, are relatively illiquid investments due to their short life, their potential unsuitability for securitization and the greater difficulty of recovery in the event of a borrower’s default. We are also required to hold certain risk retention interests in certain of our securitization transactions. In addition, certain of our investments may become less liquid after our investment as a result of periods of delinquencies or defaults or turbulent market conditions, such as those we experienced and continue to experience throughout the
COVID-19
pandemic, which may make it more difficult for us to dispose of such assets at advantageous times or in a timely manner. Moreover, many of the loans and securities we invest in are not registered under the relevant securities laws, resulting in limitations or prohibitions against their transfer, sale, pledge or their disposition. As a result, many of our investments are illiquid, and if we are required to liquidate all or a portion of our portfolio quickly, for example as a result of margin calls, we may realize significantly less than the value at which we have previously recorded our investments. Further, we may face other restrictions on our ability to liquidate an investment to the extent that we or our Manager (and/or its affiliates) has or could be attributed as having material,
non-public
information regarding the borrower entity. As a result, our ability to vary our portfolio in response to changes in economic and other conditions may be limited, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Any distressed loans or investments we make, or loans and investments that later become distressed, may subject us to losses and other risks relating to bankruptcy proceedings.
While our loans and investments focus primarily on “performing” real estate-related interests, our loans and investments may also include making distressed investments from time to time (e.g., investments in defaulted,
out-of-favor
or distressed loans and debt securities) or may involve investments that become
“sub-performing”
or
“non-performing”
following our origination or acquisition thereof. Certain of our investments may include properties that are highly leveraged, with significant burdens on cash flow and, therefore, involve a high degree
 
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of financial risk. During an economic downturn or recession, loans or securities of financially or operationally troubled borrowers or issuers are more likely to go into default than loans or securities of other borrowers or issuers. Loans or securities of financially or operationally troubled issuers are less liquid and more volatile than loans or securities of borrowers or issuers not experiencing such difficulties. The market prices of such securities are subject to erratic and abrupt market movements and the spread between bid and ask prices may be greater than normally expected. Investment in the loans or securities of financially or operationally troubled borrowers or issuers involves a high degree of credit and market risk.
In certain limited cases (e.g., in connection with a workout, restructuring and/or foreclosing proceedings involving one or more of our investments), the success of our investment strategy will depend, in part, on our ability to effectuate loan modifications and/or restructure and improve the operations of our borrower entities. For example, during the year ended December 31, 2020, we entered into two loan modifications which were classified as troubled debt restructurings under GAAP, representing an aggregate outstanding principal balance of $338.7 million as of December 31, 2020. The activity of identifying and implementing successful restructuring programs and operating improvements entails a high degree of uncertainty. There can be no assurance that the loan modifications we effected during the year ended December 31, 2020 will be successful or that we will be able to identify and implement successful restructuring programs and improvements with respect to any other distressed loans or investments we may have from time to time.
These financial or operating difficulties may never be overcome and may cause borrower entities to become subject to bankruptcy or other similar administrative proceedings. There is a possibility that we may incur substantial or total losses on our investments and in certain circumstances, become subject to certain additional potential liabilities that may exceed the value of our original investment therein. For example, under certain circumstances, a lender that has inappropriately exercised control over the management and policies of a debtor may have its claims subordinated or disallowed or may be found liable for damages suffered by parties as a result of such actions. In any reorganization or liquidation proceeding relating to our investments, we may lose our entire investment, may be required to accept cash or securities with a value less than our original investment and/or may be required to accept different terms, including payment over an extended period of time. In addition, under certain circumstances, payments to us may be reclaimed if any such payment or distribution is later determined to have been a fraudulent conveyance, preferential payment, or similar transaction under applicable bankruptcy and insolvency laws. Furthermore, bankruptcy laws and similar laws applicable to administrative proceedings may delay our ability to realize value from collateral for our loan positions, may adversely affect the economic terms and priority of such loans through doctrines such as equitable subordination or may result in a restructuring of the debt through principles such as the “cramdown” provisions of the bankruptcy laws.
We may need to foreclose on certain of the loans we originate or acquire, which could result in losses that harm our results of operations and financial condition.
We may find it necessary or desirable to foreclose on certain of the loans we originate or acquire, and the foreclosure process may be lengthy and expensive. If we foreclose on an asset, we may take title to the property securing that asset, and if we do not or cannot sell the property, we would then come to own and operate it as “real estate owned.” Owning and operating real property involves risks that are different (and in many ways more significant) than the risks faced in owning an asset secured by that property. In addition, we may end up owning a property that we would not otherwise have decided to acquire directly at the price of our original investment or at all, and the liquidation proceeds upon sale of the underlying real estate may not be sufficient to recover our cost basis in the loan, resulting in a loss to us.
Whether or not we have participated in the negotiation of the terms of any such loans, we cannot assure you as to the adequacy of the protection of the terms of the applicable loan, including the validity or enforceability of the loan and the maintenance of the anticipated priority and perfection of the applicable security interests. Furthermore, claims may be asserted by lenders or borrowers that might interfere with enforcement of our rights. Borrowers may resist foreclosure actions by asserting numerous claims, counterclaims and defenses against us,
 
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including, without limitation, lender liability claims and defenses, even when the assertions may have no basis in fact, in an effort to prolong the foreclosure action and seek to force the lender into a modification of the loan or a favorable
buy-out
of the borrower’s position in the loan. Foreclosure actions in some U.S. states can take several years or more to litigate and may also be time consuming and expensive to complete in other U.S. states and foreign jurisdictions in which we do business. At any time prior to or during the foreclosure proceedings, the borrower may file for bankruptcy, which would have the effect of staying the foreclosure actions and further delaying the foreclosure process, and could potentially result in a reduction or discharge of a borrower’s debt. Foreclosure may create a negative public perception of the related property, resulting in a diminution of its value. Even if we are successful in foreclosing on a loan, the liquidation proceeds upon sale of the underlying real estate may not be sufficient to recover our cost basis in the loan, resulting in a loss to us. Furthermore, any costs or delays involved in the foreclosure of the loan or a liquidation of the underlying property will further reduce the net sale proceeds and, therefore, increase any such losses to us.
A recently adopted accounting standard has required us to increase our allowance for loan losses which has had an adverse effect on our business and results of operations and may in the future have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In June 2016, the Financial Accounting Standards Board issued Accounting Standards Update
2016-13,
or ASU
2016-13.
ASU
2016-13
significantly changed how entities measured credit losses for most financial assets and certain other instruments that are not measured at fair value through net income. ASU
2016-13
replaced the incurred loss model under previous guidance with a current expected credit loss, or CECL, model for instruments measured at amortized cost, and required entities to record allowances for
available-for-sale
debt securities rather than reduce the carrying amount, as they previously did under the other-than-temporary impairment model. ASU
2016-13
also simplified the accounting model for purchased credit-impaired debt securities and loans. ASU
2016-13
was effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019.
The CECL reserve required under ASU
2016-13
is a valuation account that is deducted from the related loans’ and debt securities’ amortized cost basis on our consolidated balance sheets, and which will reduce our total stockholders’ equity. Our initial CECL reserve of $17.7 million recorded on January 1, 2020 is reflected as a direct charge to retained earnings on our consolidated statements of changes in equity; however subsequent changes to the CECL reserve are recognized through net income on our consolidated statements of operations. For a discussion of the increase in our CECL reserve during the year ended December 31, 2020, which reflected the macroeconomic impact of the
COVID-19
pandemic on commercial real estate markets generally, as well as certain loans assessed for impairment in our portfolio, see “Risks Related to the Ongoing
COVID-19
Pandemic—The ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or
COVID-19,
has caused severe disruptions in the U.S. and global economy and to our business, and has had and may continue to have an adverse impact on our financial performance and results of operations
.
” In addition, see Notes 2 and 3 to our consolidated financial statements for further discussion of our CECL reserve.
While ASU
2016-13
does not require any particular method for determining the CECL allowance, it does specify the allowance should be based on relevant information about past events, including historical loss experience, current portfolio and market conditions, and reasonable and supportable forecasts for the duration of each respective loan. Because our methodology for determining CECL allowances may differ from the methodologies employed by other companies, our CECL allowances may not be comparable with the CECL allowances reported by other companies. In addition, other than a few narrow exceptions, ASU
2016-13
requires that all financial instruments subject to the CECL model have some amount of reserve to reflect the GAAP principal underlying the CECL model that all loans, debt securities, and similar assets have some inherent risk of loss, regardless of credit quality, subordinate capital, or other mitigating factors. Accordingly, the adoption of the CECL model materially affected how we determine our allowance for loan losses and requires us to increase our allowance and recognize provisions for loan losses earlier in the credit cycle. Moreover, as demonstrated by the variance in our CECL reserve during the year ended December 31, 2020, the CECL model has created more volatility in the level of our allowance for loan losses. If we are required to materially increase our level of allowance for loan
 
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losses for any reason, such increase could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Control may be limited over certain of our loans and investments.
Our ability to manage our portfolio of loans and investments may be limited by the form in which they are made. In certain situations, we:
 
   
acquire investments subject to rights of senior classes, special servicers or collateral managers under intercreditor, servicing agreements or securitization documents;
 
   
pledge our investments as collateral for financing arrangements;
 
   
acquire only a minority and/or a
non-controlling
participation in an underlying investment;
 
   
co-invest
with others through partnerships, joint ventures or other entities, thereby acquiring
non-controlling
interests; or
 
   
rely on independent third party management or servicing with respect to the management of an asset.
In addition, in circumstances where we originate or acquire loans relating to borrowers that are owned in whole or part by Blackstone-advised investment vehicles, we often forgo all
non-economic
rights under the loan, including voting rights, so long as Blackstone-advised investment vehicles own such borrowers above a certain threshold. Therefore, we may not be able to exercise control over all aspects of our loans or investments. Such financial assets may involve risks not present in investments where senior creditors, junior creditors, servicers third-party controlling investors or Blackstone-advised investment vehicles are not involved. Our rights to control the process following a borrower default may be subject to the rights of senior or junior creditors or servicers whose interests may not be aligned with ours. A partner or
co-venturer
may have financial difficulties resulting in a negative impact on such asset, may have economic or business interests or goals that are inconsistent with ours, or may be in a position to take action contrary to our investment objectives. In addition, we will generally pay all or a portion of the expenses relating to our joint ventures and we may, in certain circumstances, be liable for the actions of our partners or
co-venturers.
B-Notes,
mezzanine loans, and other investments that are subordinated or otherwise junior in an issuer’s capital structure and that involve privately negotiated structures will expose us to greater risk of loss.
We may originate or acquire
B-Notes,
mezzanine loans and other investments (such as preferred equity) that are subordinated or otherwise junior in an issuer’s capital structure and that involve privately negotiated structures. To the extent we invest in subordinated debt or mezzanine tranches of an entity’s capital structure, such investments and our remedies with respect thereto, including the ability to foreclose on any collateral securing such investments, will be subject to the rights of holders of more senior tranches in the issuer’s capital structure and, to the extent applicable, contractual intercreditor,
co-lender
and/or participation agreement provisions. Significant losses related to such loans or investments could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
As the terms of such loans and investments are subject to contractual relationships among lenders,
co-lending
agents and others, they can vary significantly in their structural characteristics and other risks. For example, the rights of holders of
B-Notes
to control the process following a borrower default may vary from transaction to transaction.
Like
B-Notes,
mezzanine loans are by their nature structurally subordinated to more senior property-level financings. If a borrower defaults on our mezzanine loan or on debt senior to our loan, or if the borrower is in bankruptcy, our mezzanine loan will be satisfied only after the property-level debt and other senior debt is paid in
 
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full. As a result, a partial loss in the value of the underlying collateral can result in a total loss of the value of the mezzanine loan. In addition, even if we are able to foreclose on the underlying collateral following a default on a mezzanine loan, we would be substituted for the defaulting borrower and, to the extent income generated on the underlying property is insufficient to meet outstanding debt obligations on the property, may need to commit substantial additional capital and/or deliver a replacement guarantee by a credit worthy entity, which may include us, to stabilize the property and prevent additional defaults to lenders with existing liens on the property. In addition, mezzanine loans may have higher
loan-to-value
ratios than conventional mortgage loans, resulting in less equity in the property and increasing the risk of loss of principal. Significant losses related to our
B-Notes
and mezzanine loans would result in operating losses for us and may limit our ability to make distributions to our stockholders.
Loans on properties in transition will involve a greater risk of loss than conventional mortgage loans.
We have in the past and may in the future invest in transitional loans to borrowers who are typically seeking relatively short-term capital to be used in an acquisition or rehabilitation of a property. The typical borrower in a transitional loan has usually identified an undervalued asset that has been under-managed and/or is located in a recovering market. If the market in which the asset is located fails to improve according to the borrower’s projections, or if the borrower fails to improve the quality of the asset’s management and/or the value of the asset, the borrower may not receive a sufficient return on the asset to satisfy the transitional loan, and we bear the risk that we may not recover all or a portion of our investment.
In addition, borrowers usually use the proceeds of a conventional mortgage to repay a transitional loan. Transitional loans therefore are subject to the risk of a borrower’s inability to obtain permanent financing to repay the transitional loan. In the event of any default under transitional loans that may be held by us, we bear the risk of loss of principal and
non-payment
of interest and fees to the extent of any deficiency between the value of the mortgage collateral and the principal amount and unpaid interest of the transitional loan. To the extent we suffer such losses with respect to these transitional loans, it could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Risks of cost overruns and noncompletion of renovations of properties in transition may result in significant losses.
The renovation, refurbishment or expansion of a property by a borrower involves risks of cost overruns and noncompletion. Estimates of the costs of improvements to bring an acquired property up to standards established for the market position intended for that property may prove inaccurate. Other risks may include rehabilitation costs exceeding original estimates, possibly making a project uneconomical, environmental risks, delays in legal and other approvals (e.g., for condominiums) and rehabilitation and subsequent leasing of the property not being completed on schedule. If such renovation is not completed in a timely manner, or if it costs more than expected, the borrower may experience a prolonged reduction of net operating income and may not be able to make payments on our investment on a timely basis or at all, which could result in significant losses.
There are increased risks involved with our construction lending activities.
Our construction lending activities, which include our investment in loans that fund the construction or development of real estate-related assets, may expose us to increased lending risks. Construction lending generally is considered to involve a higher degree of risk of
non-payment
and loss than other types of lending due to a variety of factors, including the difficulties in estimating construction costs and anticipating construction delays (or governmental shut-downs of construction activity) and, generally, the dependency on timely, successful completion and the
lease-up
and commencement of operations post-completion. In addition, since such loans generally entail greater risk than mortgage loans collateralized by income-producing property, we may need to increase our allowance for loan losses in the future to account for the likely increase in probable incurred credit losses associated with such loans. Further, as the lender under a construction loan, we may be
 
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obligated to fund all or a significant portion of the loan at one or more future dates. We may not have the funds available at such future date(s) to meet our funding obligations under the loan. In that event, we would likely be in breach of the loan 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 a borrower fails to complete the construction of a project or experiences cost overruns, there could be adverse consequences associated with the loan, including a decline in the value of the property securing the loan, a borrower claim against us for failure to perform under the loan documents if we choose to stop funding, 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.
Loans or investments involving international real estate-related assets are subject to special risks that we may not manage effectively, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition and our ability to make distributions to our stockholders.
We invest a material portion of our capital in assets outside the United States and may increase the percentage of our investments outside the United States over time. Our investments in
non-domestic
real estate-related assets subject us to certain risks associated with international investments generally, including, among others:
 
   
currency exchange matters, including fluctuations in currency exchange rates and costs associated with conversion of investment principal and income from one currency into another, which may have an adverse impact on the valuation of our assets or income, including for purposes of our REIT requirements;
 
   
less developed or efficient financial markets than in the United States, which may lead to potential price volatility and relative illiquidity;
 
   
the burdens of complying with international regulatory requirements, including the requirements imposed by exchanges on which our international affiliates list debt securities issued in connection with the financing of our loans or investments involving international real-estate related assets, and prohibitions that differ between jurisdictions;
 
   
changes in laws or clarifications to existing laws that could impact our tax treaty positions, which could adversely impact the returns on our investments;
 
   
a less developed legal or regulatory environment, differences in the legal and regulatory environment or enhanced legal and regulatory compliance;
 
   
political hostility to investments by foreign investors;
 
   
higher rates of inflation;
 
   
higher transaction costs;
 
   
greater difficulty enforcing contractual obligations;
 
   
fewer investor protections;
 
   
certain economic and political risks, including potential exchange control regulations and restrictions on our
non-U.S.
investments and repatriation of profits from investments or of capital invested, the risks of political, economic or social instability, the possibility of expropriation or confiscatory taxation and adverse economic and political developments; and
 
   
potentially adverse tax consequences.
If any of the foregoing risks were to materialize, they could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition and our ability to make distributions to our stockholders.
 
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A prolonged economic slowdown, a lengthy or severe recession or declining real estate values could impair our investments and harm our operations.
We believe the risks associated with our business will be more severe during periods of economic slowdown or recession if these periods are accompanied by declining real estate values. Declining real estate values will likely 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. 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 its cost on the loan. Any sustained period of increased payment delinquencies, foreclosures or losses could adversely affect our Manager’s ability to invest in, sell and securitize loans, which would materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition, liquidity and business and our ability to pay dividends to stockholders.
Market disruptions in a single country could cause a worsening of conditions on a regional and even global level, and economic problems in a single country are increasingly affecting other markets and economies. A continuation of this trend could result in problems in one country adversely affecting regional and even global economic conditions and markets. For example, concerns about the fiscal stability and growth prospects of certain European countries in the last economic downturn had a negative impact on most economies of the Eurozone and global markets. The occurrence of similar crises in the future could cause increased volatility in the economies and financial markets of countries throughout a region, or even globally.
Additionally, global trade disruption, significant introductions of trade barriers and bilateral trade frictions, together with any future downturns in the global economy resulting therefrom, could adversely affect our performance.
Concerns regarding the stability of the sovereign debt of certain European countries and other geopolitical issues and market perceptions concerning the instability of the Euro, the potential
re-introduction
of individual currencies within the Eurozone, or the potential dissolution of the Euro entirely, could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
A portion of our investments consists of assets secured by European collateral. The sovereign debt crisis experienced by several European Union (E.U.) countries in 2008-2012, together with the risk of contagion to other more financially stable countries, raised a number of uncertainties regarding the stability and overall standing of the European Monetary Union. Concern over such uncertainties has been exacerbated by other geopolitical issues that may affect the Eurozone, including the vote by the United Kingdom (U.K.) to exit the E.U. and the effect of the
COVID-19
pandemic. Any further deterioration in the global or Eurozone economy could have a significant adverse effect on our activities and the value of any European collateral.
In addition, we currently hold assets and may acquire additional assets that are denominated in British Pounds Sterling and in Euros. Further deterioration in the Eurozone economy could have a material adverse effect on the value of our investment in such assets and amplify the currency risks faced by us.
If any country were to leave the Eurozone, or if the Eurozone were to break up entirely, the treatment of debt obligations previously denominated in Euros is uncertain. A number of issues would be raised, such as whether obligations that are expressed to be payable in Euros would be
re-denominated
into a new currency. The answer to this and other questions is uncertain and would depend on the way in which the
break-up
occurred and also on the nature of the transaction; the law governing it; which courts have jurisdiction in relation to it; the place of payment; and the place of incorporation of the payor. If we were to hold any investments in Euros at the time of any Eurozone exits or
break-up,
this uncertainty and potential
re-denomination
could have a material adverse effect on the value of our investments and the income from them.
 
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The U.K.’s exit from the E.U. could adversely affect us.
In June 2016, voters in the U.K. approved a withdrawal of the U.K. from the E.U., commonly referred to as “Brexit.” While the U.K.’s withdrawal from the E.U. was completed on January 31, 2020, there remains considerable uncertainty about the terms of the U.K.’s trade agreements and other relationships with the E.U. following an
11-month
transition period. During the transition period the U.K. will continue to follow all of the E.U.’s rules and will maintain its current trading relationship with the E.U. Uncertainty over the terms and timing of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the E.U. has caused political and economic uncertainty in the U.K. and the rest of Europe and we expect that uncertainty over the terms of the trade and other agreements between the U.K. and the E.U. will continue to cause political and economic uncertainty, which could harm our business and financial results. In particular, Brexit caused significant volatility in global stock markets and currency exchange fluctuations. Consequently, our loans and investments denominated in British Pounds Sterling are subject to increased risks related to these currency rate fluctuations and our net assets in U.S. Dollar terms may decline. In addition, Brexit may also adversely affect commercial real estate fundamentals in the U.K. and E.U., including greater uncertainty for leasing prospects for properties with transitional loans, which could negatively impact the ability of our U.K and E.U.-based borrowers to satisfy their debt payment obligations to us, increasing default risk and/or making it more difficult for us to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns for our operations in the U.K.
The long-term effects of Brexit are expected to depend on, among other things, any agreements the U.K. makes to retain access to E.U. markets following the
11-month
transition. Brexit could adversely affect European or worldwide economic or market conditions and could contribute to instability in global financial and real estate markets. In addition, Brexit could lead to legal uncertainty and potentially divergent national laws and regulations as the U.K. determines which E.U. laws to replace or replicate. Until the terms of the free trade and other agreements that the U.K. will eventually enter into with the E.U. are known it is not possible to determine the impact that the U.K.’s departure from the E.U. and/or any related matters may have on us; however, any of these effects of Brexit, and others we cannot anticipate, could adversely affect our business, business opportunities, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. Likewise, similar actions taken by other European and other countries in which we operate could have a similar or even more profound impact.
The expected discontinuation of currently used financial reference rates and use of alternative replacement reference rates may adversely affect net interest income related to our loans and investments or otherwise adversely affect our results of operations, cash flows and the market value of our investments.
LIBOR and certain other floating rate benchmark indices to which our floating rate loans and other loan agreements are tied, including, without limitation, the Euro Interbank Offered Rate, the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate and the Australian Bank Bill Swap Reference Rate, or collectively, IBORs, are the subject of recent national, international and regulatory guidance and proposals for reform. In a speech on July 27, 2017, Andrew Bailey, the Chief Executive of the Financial Conduct Authority of the U.K., or the FCA, announced the FCA’s intention to cease sustaining LIBOR after 2021. The FCA has statutory powers to require panel banks to contribute to LIBOR where necessary. The FCA has decided not to ask, or to require, that panel banks continue to submit contributions to LIBOR beyond the end of 2021. The FCA has indicated that it expects that the current panel banks will voluntarily sustain LIBOR until the end of 2021. On November 30, 2020, the FCA announced that subject to confirmation following its consultation with the administrator of LIBOR, it would cease publication of the
one-week
and
two-month
USD LIBOR immediately after December 31, 2021 and cease publication of the remaining tenors immediately after June 30, 2023. Additionally, the Federal Reserve Board has advised banks to stop entering into new USD LIBOR based contracts. The U.S. Federal Reserve, in conjunction with the Alternative Reference Rates Committee, a steering committee comprised of large U.S. financial institutions, has identified the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, or SOFR, a new index calculated by short-term repurchase agreements, backed by Treasury securities, as its preferred alternative rate for LIBOR. At this time, it is not possible to predict how markets will respond to SOFR or other alternative reference rates as the transition away from the IBOR benchmarks is anticipated in coming years.
 
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As of December 31, 2020, our loan portfolio included $16.0 billion of floating rate investments with maximum maturities extending past 2021 for which the interest rate was tied to an IBOR benchmark. Additionally, we had $12.0 billion of floating rate debt with maximum maturities extending past 2021 tied to IBOR benchmarks. Our loan agreements generally allow us to choose a new index based upon comparable information if the current index is no longer available. While recently there has been a significant clarification of guidance across products on the recommended timing and form of certain transition milestones from industry working groups, overall there is still a substantial amount of uncertainty in the marketplace regarding the transition away from IBOR benchmarks. This uncertainty includes but is not limited to: (i) the development and robustness of actively traded markets in alternative base rates; (ii) whether term rate markets will eventually develop as alternatives for the recommended overnight funding rates like SOFR/SONIA to better match current market standards for term LIBOR rates; (iii) whether any legislation and/or market conventions will develop to standardize IBOR fallback provisions or other contractual terms in existing contracts and whether these standards ultimately align with industry working group recommendations; (iv) whether market data service providers will publish market data needed to facilitate IBOR transitions within existing technology frameworks or whether core technology enhancements will be required; and (v) the timing of when market participants will transition away from writing IBOR-based contracts to writing contracts utilizing the new alternative reference rates. This uncertainty and timing can materially impact our approach to IBOR transition efforts, which we expect to have to continuously monitor and evaluate through the expected transition by end of year 2021 and possibly beyond. In addition, any IBOR benchmark may perform differently during any
phase-out
period than in the past. As such, the potential effect of any such event on our cost of capital and net investment income cannot yet be determined and any changes to benchmark interest rates could increase our financing costs, which could impact our results of operations, cash flows and the market value of our investments. We may need to renegotiate certain of our loan agreements with lenders and borrowers that extend past 2021, which could require us to incur significant expense and may subject us to disputes or litigation over the appropriateness or comparability to the relevant IBOR benchmark of the replacement reference rates. Moreover, the elimination of the IBOR benchmarks and/or changes to another index could result in mismatches with the interest rate of investments that we are financing. See “-Risks Related to Our Financing and
Hedging-Our
use of leverage may create a mismatch with the duration and interest rate of investments that we are financing”. In addition, the overall financial markets may be disrupted as a result of the
phase-out
or replacement of IBOR.
Transactions denominated in foreign currencies subject us to foreign currency risks.
We hold assets denominated in British Pounds Sterling, Euros, Canadian Dollars and Australian Dollars, and may acquire assets denominated in other foreign currencies, which exposes us to foreign currency risk. As a result, a change in foreign currency exchange rates may have an adverse impact on the valuation of our assets, as well as our income and cash flows. Any such changes in foreign currency exchange rates may impact the measurement of such assets or income for the purposes of our REIT tests and may affect the amounts available for payment of dividends on our class A common stock.
Our success depends on the availability of attractive investments and our Manager’s ability to identify, structure, consummate, leverage, manage and realize returns on our investments.
Our operating results are dependent upon the availability of, as well as our Manager’s ability to identify, structure, consummate, leverage, manage and realize returns on our investments. In general, the availability of favorable investment opportunities and, consequently, our returns, will be affected by the level and volatility of interest rates and credit spreads, conditions in the financial markets, general economic conditions, the demand for investment opportunities in our target assets and the supply of capital for such investment opportunities. We cannot assure you that our Manager will be successful in identifying and consummating investments that satisfy our rate of return objectives or that such investments, once made, will perform as anticipated.
 
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Real estate valuation is inherently subjective and uncertain.
The valuation of real estate and therefore the valuation of any collateral underlying our loans is inherently subjective due to, among other factors, the individual nature of each property, its location, the expected future rental revenues from that particular property and the valuation methodology adopted. In addition, where we invest in construction loans, initial valuations will assume completion of the project. As a result, the valuations of the real estate assets against which we will make or acquire loans are subject to a large degree of uncertainty and are made on the basis of assumptions and methodologies that may not prove to be accurate, particularly in periods of volatility, low transaction flow or restricted debt availability in the commercial or residential real estate markets.
Our loans and investments may be concentrated in terms of geography, asset types and sponsors, which could subject us to increased risk of loss.
We are not required to observe specific diversification criteria, except as may be set forth in the investment guidelines adopted by our board of directors. Therefore, our investments may at times be concentrated in certain property types that may be subject to higher risk of default or foreclosure, or secured by properties concentrated in a limited number of geographic locations.
To the extent that our assets are concentrated in any one region, sponsor or type of asset, economic and business downturns generally relating to such type of asset, sponsor or region may result in defaults on a number of our investments within a short time period, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. In addition, because of asset concentrations, even modest changes in the value of the underlying real estate assets could have a significant impact on the value of our investment. As a result of any high levels of concentration, any adverse economic, political or other conditions that disproportionately affects those geographic areas or asset classes could have a magnified adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition, and the value of our stockholders’ investments could vary more widely than if we invested in a more diverse portfolio of loans. For a discussion of the disproportionate effect of the
COVID-19
pandemic on certain of our asset classes, see “Risks Related to the Ongoing
COVID-19
Pandemic—The ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or
COVID-19,
has caused severe disruptions in the U.S. and global economy and to our business, and has had and may continue to have an adverse impact on our financial performance and results of operations
.
The due diligence process that our Manager undertakes in regard to investment opportunities may not reveal all facts that may be relevant in connection with an investment and if our Manager incorrectly evaluates the risks of our investments we may experience losses.
Before making investments for us, our Manager conducts due diligence that it deems reasonable and appropriate based on the facts and circumstances relevant to each potential investment. When conducting due diligence, our Manager may be required to evaluate important and complex business, financial, tax, accounting, environmental and legal issues. Outside consultants, legal advisors, accountants and investment banks may be involved in the due diligence process in varying degrees depending on the type of potential investment. Our Manager’s loss estimates may not prove accurate, as actual results may vary from estimates. If our Manager underestimates the asset-level losses relative to the price we pay for a particular investment, we may experience losses with respect to such investment.
Moreover, investment analyses and decisions by our Manager may frequently be required to be undertaken on an expedited basis to take advantage of investment opportunities. In such cases, the information available to our Manager at the time of making an investment decision may be limited, and they may not have access to detailed information regarding such investment. Therefore, we cannot assure you that our Manager will have knowledge of all circumstances that may adversely affect such investment.
 
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Insurance on loans and real estate securities collateral 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 also might result in insurance proceeds insufficient to repair or replace a property if it is damaged or destroyed. Under these circumstances, the insurance proceeds received with respect to a property relating to one of our investments might not be adequate to restore our economic position with respect to our investment. Any uninsured loss could result in the corresponding nonperformance of or loss on our investment related to such property.
The impact of any future terrorist attacks and the availability of affordable terrorism insurance expose us to certain risks.
Terrorist attacks, the anticipation of any such attacks, and the consequences of any military or other response by the United States and its allies may have an adverse impact on the global financial markets and the economy in general. We cannot predict the severity of the effect that any such future events would have on the global financial markets, the economy or our business. Any future terrorist attacks could adversely affect the credit quality of some of our loans and investments. Some of our loans and investments will be more susceptible to such adverse effects than others, particularly those secured by properties in major cities or properties that are prominent landmarks or public attractions. We may suffer losses as a result of the adverse impact of any future terrorist attacks and these losses may adversely impact our results of operations.
In addition, the enactment of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, or TRIA, requires insurers to make terrorism insurance available under their property and casualty insurance policies and provides federal compensation to insurers for insured losses. TRIA was reauthorized, with some adjustments to its provisions, in December 2019 for seven years through December 31, 2027. However, this legislation does not regulate the pricing of such insurance and there is no assurance that this legislation will be extended beyond 2027. The absence of affordable insurance coverage may adversely affect the general real estate lending market, lending volume and the market’s overall liquidity and may reduce the number of suitable investment opportunities available to us and the pace at which we are able to make investments. If the properties that we invest in are unable to obtain affordable insurance coverage, the value of those investments could decline and in the event of an uninsured loss, we could lose all or a portion of our investment.
The properties underlying our investments may be subject to unknown liabilities, including environmental liabilities, that could affect the value of these properties and as a result, our investments.
Collateral properties underlying our investments may be subject to unknown or unquantifiable liabilities that may adversely affect the value of our investments. Such defects or deficiencies may include title defects, title disputes, liens, servitudes or other encumbrances on the mortgaged properties. 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 underlying properties, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Furthermore, to the extent we foreclose on properties with respect to which we have extended loans, we may be subject to environmental liabilities arising from such foreclosed properties. Under various U.S. federal, state and local laws, an owner or operator of real property may become liable for the costs of removal of certain hazardous substances released on 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. In addition, we could be subject to similar liabilities in applicable foreign jurisdictions.
If we foreclose on any properties underlying our investments, the presence of hazardous substances on a property may adversely affect our ability to sell the property and we may incur substantial remediation costs, therefore the discovery of material environmental liabilities attached to such properties could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
 
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We may be subject to lender liability claims, and if we are held liable under such claims, we could be subject to losses.
In recent years, a number of judicial decisions have upheld the right of borrowers to sue lending institutions on the basis of various evolving legal theories, collectively termed “lender liability.” Generally, lender liability is founded on the premise that a lender has either violated a duty, whether implied or contractual, of good faith and fair dealing owed to the borrower or has assumed a degree of control over the borrower resulting in the creation of a fiduciary duty owed to the borrower or its other creditors or stockholders. We cannot assure prospective investors that such claims will not arise or that we will not be subject to significant liability if a claim of this type did arise.
Our investments in CMBS, CLOs, CDOs and other similar structured finance investments, as well as those we structure, sponsor or arrange, pose additional risks, including the risks of the securitization process and the risk that the special servicer, CT Investment Management Co., LLC, or CTIMCO, a subsidiary of Blackstone, may take actions that could adversely affect our interests.
We have invested in, and may from time to time in the future invest in, CMBS, CLOs, CDOs and other similar securities, and our investments may consist of subordinated classes of securities in a structure of securities secured by a pool of mortgages or loans. Accordingly, such securities may be the first or among the first to bear the loss upon a restructuring or liquidation of the underlying collateral and the last to receive payment of interest and principal, with only a nominal amount of equity or other debt securities junior to such positions. The estimated fair values of such subordinated interests tend to be much more sensitive to adverse economic downturns and underlying borrower developments than more senior securities. A projection of an economic downturn, for example, could cause a decline in the price of lower credit quality CMBS, CLOs or CDOs because the ability of borrowers to make principal and interest payments on the mortgages or loans underlying such securities may be impaired.
Subordinate interests such as the subordinated classes of securities in CMBS, CLOs, CDOs and similar structured finance investments generally are not actively traded and are relatively illiquid investments. Volatility in CMBS, CLO and CDO trading markets may cause the value of these investments to decline. In addition, if the underlying mortgage portfolio has been overvalued by the originator, or if the values subsequently decline and, as a result, less collateral value is available to satisfy interest and principal payments and any other fees in connection with the trust or other conduit arrangement for such securities, we may incur significant losses.
With respect to the CMBS, CLOs and CDOs in which we have invested and may invest in the future, control over the related underlying loans will be exercised through CTIMCO, or another special servicer or collateral manager designated by a “directing certificateholder” or a “controlling class representative,” or otherwise pursuant to the related securitization documents. We have in the past and may in the future acquire classes of CMBS, CLOs or CDOs, for which we may not have the right to appoint the directing certificateholder or otherwise direct the special servicing or collateral management. With respect to the management and servicing of those loans, the related special servicer or collateral manager may take actions that could adversely affect our interests. See “-Risks Related to Our Financing and
Hedging-We
have utilized and may utilize in the future
non-recourse
securitizations to finance our loans and investments, which may expose us to risks that could result in losses” for a discussion of additional risks related to our securitization transactions
.
Any credit ratings assigned to our investments will be subject to ongoing evaluations and revisions and we cannot assure you that those ratings will not be downgraded.
Some of our investments, including the notes issued in our securitization transactions for which we are required to retain a portion of the credit risk, have been, and in the future may be, rated by rating agencies. Any credit ratings on our investments 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,
 
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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 investments in the future, the value and liquidity of our investments could significantly decline, which would adversely affect the value of our investment portfolio and could result in losses upon disposition or the failure of borrowers to satisfy their debt service obligations to us.
Investments in
non-conforming
and
non-investment
grade rated loans or securities involve increased risk of loss.
Many of our investments may not conform to conventional loan standards applied by traditional lenders and either will not be rated (as is typically the case for private loans) or will be rated as
non-investment
grade by the rating agencies. Private loans often are not rated by credit rating agencies.
Non-investment
grade ratings typically result from the overall leverage of the loans, the lack of a strong operating history for the properties underlying the loans, the borrowers’ credit history, the underlying properties’ cash flow or other factors. As a result, these investments should be expected to have a higher risk of default and loss than investment-grade rated assets. Any loss we incur may be significant and may adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. There are no limits on the percentage of unrated or
non-investment
grade rated assets we may hold in our investment portfolio.
Provisions for loan losses are difficult to estimate.
Our provision for loan losses is evaluated on a quarterly basis. The determination of our provision for loan losses requires 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 projected cash flow from the collateral securing our loans, debt structure, including the availability of reserves and recourse guarantees, likelihood of repayment in full at the maturity of a loan, potential for refinancing and expected market discount rates for varying property types, all of which remain uncertain and are subjective. Our estimates and judgments may not be correct and, therefore, our results of operations and financial condition could be severely impacted.
Some of our portfolio investments may be recorded at fair value and, as a result, there will be uncertainty as to the value of these investments.
Some of our portfolio investments may be in the form of positions or securities that are not publicly traded, but are recorded at estimated fair value. The fair value of securities and other investments that are not publicly traded may not be readily determinable. We will value these investments quarterly 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 securities existed. Our results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected if our determinations regarding the fair value of these investments were materially higher than the values that we ultimately realize upon their disposal.
Risks Related to Our Financing and Hedging
Our significant amount of debt may subject us to increased risk of loss and could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
We currently have outstanding indebtedness and, subject to market conditions and availability, we may incur a significant amount of additional debt through repurchase agreements, bank credit facilities (including term loans and revolving facilities), warehouse facilities and structured financing arrangements, public and private debt issuances (including through securitizations) and derivative instruments, in addition to transaction or asset specific funding arrangements. We may also issue additional debt or equity securities to fund our growth. The percentage of leverage we employ will vary depending on our available capital, our ability to obtain and access financing arrangements with lenders, the type of assets we are funding, whether the financing is recourse or
 
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non-recourse,
debt restrictions contained in those financing arrangements and the lenders’ and rating agencies’ estimate of the stability of our investment portfolio’s cash flow. We may significantly increase the amount of leverage we utilize at any time without approval of our board of directors. In addition, we may leverage individual assets at substantially higher levels. Incurring substantial debt could subject us to many risks that, if realized, would materially and adversely affect us, including the risk that:
 
   
our cash flow from operations may be insufficient to make required payments of principal of and interest on our debt or we may fail to comply with covenants contained in our debt agreements, which is likely to result in (i) acceleration of such debt (and any other debt containing a cross-default or cross-acceleration provision), which we then may be unable to repay from internal funds or to refinance on favorable terms, or at all, (ii) our inability to borrow undrawn amounts under our financing arrangements, even if we are current in payments on borrowings under those arrangements, which would result in a decrease in our liquidity, and/or (iii) the loss of some or all of our collateral assets to foreclosure or sale;
 
   
our debt may increase our vulnerability to adverse economic and industry conditions with no assurance that investment yields will increase in an amount sufficient to offset the higher financing costs;
 
   
we may be required to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to payments on our debt, thereby reducing funds available for operations, future business opportunities, stockholder distributions or other purposes; and
 
   
we may not be able to refinance any debt that matures prior to the maturity (or realization) of an underlying investment it was used to finance on favorable terms or at all.
There can be no assurance that a leveraging strategy will be successful, and such strategy may subject us to increased risk of loss and could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Our secured debt agreements impose, and additional lending facilities may impose, restrictive covenants, which may restrict our flexibility to determine our operating policies and investment strategy.
We borrow funds under secured debt agreements with various counterparties. The documents that govern these secured debt agreements and the related guarantees contain, and additional lending facilities may contain, customary affirmative and negative covenants, including financial covenants applicable to us that may restrict our flexibility to determine our operating policies and investment strategy. In particular, these agreements may require us to maintain specified minimum levels of capacity under our credit facilities and cash. As a result, we may not be able to leverage our assets as fully as we would otherwise choose, which could reduce our return on assets. If we are unable to meet these collateral obligations, our financial condition and prospects could deteriorate significantly. In addition, lenders may require that our Manager or one or more of our Manager’s executives continue to serve in such capacity. If we fail to meet or satisfy any of these covenants, we would be in default under these agreements, and our 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 may also be subject to cross-default and acceleration rights in our other debt arrangements. Further, this could also make it difficult for us to satisfy the distribution requirements necessary to maintain our qualification as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
Our master repurchase agreements require, and bank credit facilities, repurchase agreements or other financing that we may use in the future to finance our assets may require, us to provide additional collateral or pay down debt.
Our master repurchase agreements with various counterparties, any bank credit facilities (including term loans and revolving facilities), and additional repurchase agreements or other financing we may enter into in the future, involve the risk that the market value of the assets pledged or sold by us to the provider of the financing may decline in value, in which case the lender or counterparty may require us to provide additional collateral or lead
 
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to margin calls that may require us to repay all or a portion of the funds advanced. 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, including by selling assets at a time when we might not otherwise choose to do so, which we may not be able to achieve on favorable terms or at all. Posting additional margin would reduce our cash available to make other, higher yielding investments, thereby decreasing our return on equity. If we cannot meet these requirements, the lender or counterparty 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. For a discussion of the agreements we entered into with certain of our secured credit facility lenders during the year ended December 31, 2020 as a result of economic conditions resulting from the
COVID-19
pandemic, see “Risks Related to the Ongoing
COVID-19
Pandemic—The ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or
COVID-19,
has caused severe disruptions in the U.S. and global economy and to our business, and has had and may continue to have an adverse impact on our financial performance and results of operations
.
” In the case of repurchase transactions, if the value of the underlying security has declined as of the end of that term, or if we default on our obligations under the repurchase agreement, we will likely incur a loss on our repurchase transactions.
Our use of leverage may create a mismatch with the duration and interest rate of the investments that we are financing.
We generally structure our leverage in order to minimize the difference between the term of our investments and the leverage we use to finance such investments. In the event that our leverage is for a shorter term than the financed investment, we may not be able to extend or find appropriate replacement leverage and that would have an adverse impact on our liquidity and our returns. In the event that our leverage is for a longer term than the financed investment, we may not be able to repay such leverage or replace the financed investment with an optimal substitute or at all, which will negatively impact our desired leveraged returns.
We also seek to structure our leverage such that we minimize the variability between the interest rate of our investments and the interest rate of our leverage – financing floating rate investments with floating rate leverage and fixed rate investments with fixed rate leverage. If such a product is not available to us from our lenders on reasonable terms, we may use hedging instruments to effectively create such a match. For example, in the case of fixed rate investments, we may finance such investments with floating rate leverage, but effectively convert all or a portion of the attendant leverage to fixed rate using hedging strategies.
Our attempts to mitigate such risk are subject to factors outside of our control, such as the availability to us of favorable financing and hedging options, which is subject to a variety of factors, of which duration and term matching are only two. A duration mismatch may also occur when borrowers prepay their loans faster or slower than expected. The risks of a duration mismatch are also magnified by the potential for the extension of loans in order to maximize the likelihood and magnitude of their recovery value in the event the loans experience credit or performance challenges. Employment of this asset management practice would effectively extend the duration of our investments, while our hedges or liabilities may have set maturity dates.
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 investments.
To the extent that our financing costs are determined by reference to floating rates, such as LIBOR (or any replacement rate such as SOFR) or a Treasury index, the amount of such costs will depend on the level and movement of interest rates. 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 investments may be subject to caps and may not compensate for such increase in interest expense. At the same time, the interest income we earn on our fixed rate investments would not change, the duration and weighted average life of our fixed rate investments would increase and the market value of our fixed rate investments would decrease. Similarly, in a period of declining interest rates, our interest income on floating rate investments would decrease, while any decrease in
 
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the interest we are charged on our floating rate debt may be subject to floors and 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 adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Our loans and investments may be subject to fluctuations in interest rates that may not be adequately protected, or protected at all, by our hedging strategies.
Our assets include loans with either floating interest rates or fixed interest rates. Floating rate loans earn interest at rates that adjust from time to time (typically monthly) based upon an index (typically
one-month
LIBOR). These floating rate loans are insulated from changes in value specifically due to changes in interest rates; however, the coupons they earn fluctuate based upon interest rates (again, typically
one-month
LIBOR) and, in a declining and/or low interest rate environment, these loans will earn lower rates of interest and this will impact our operating performance. For more information about our risks related to the expected discontinuation of currently used financial reference rates, see “The expected discontinuation of currently used financial reference rates and use of alternative replacement reference rates may adversely affect interest expense related to our loans and investments or otherwise adversely affect our results of operations, cash flows and the market value of our investments” above. Fixed interest rate loans, however, do not have adjusting interest rates and the relative value of the fixed cash flows from these loans will decrease as prevailing interest rates rise or increase as prevailing interest rates fall, causing potentially significant changes in value. We may employ various hedging strategies to limit the effects of changes in interest rates (and in some cases credit spreads), including engaging in interest rate swaps, caps, floors and other interest rate derivative products. We believe that no strategy can completely insulate us from the risks associated with interest rate changes and there is a risk that such strategies may provide no protection at all and potentially compound the impact of changes in interest rates. Hedging transactions involve certain additional risks such as counterparty risk, leverage risk, the legal enforceability of hedging contracts, the early repayment of hedged transactions and the risk that unanticipated and significant changes in interest rates may cause a significant loss of basis in the contract and a change in current period expense. We cannot make assurances that we will be able to enter into hedging transactions or that such hedging transactions will adequately protect us against the foregoing risks.
Accounting for derivatives under GAAP may be complicated. Any failure by us to meet the requirements for applying hedge accounting in accordance with GAAP could adversely affect our earnings. In particular, derivatives are required to be highly effective in offsetting changes in the value or cash flows of the hedged items (and appropriately designated and/or documented as such). If it is determined that a derivative is not highly effective at hedging the designated exposure, hedge accounting is discontinued and the changes in fair value of the instrument are included in our reported net income.
Inability to access funding could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and business.
Our ability to fund our loans and investments may be impacted by our ability to secure bank credit facilities (including term loans and revolving facilities), warehouse facilities and structured financing arrangements, public and private debt issuances (including through securitizations) and derivative instruments, in addition to transaction or asset specific funding arrangements and additional repurchase agreements on acceptable terms. We may also rely on short-term financing that would be especially exposed to changes in availability. Our access to sources of financing will depend upon a number of factors, over which we have little or no control, including:
 
   
general economic or market conditions;
 
   
the market’s view of the quality of our assets;
 
   
the market’s perception of our growth potential;
 
   
our current and potential future earnings and cash distributions; and
 
   
the market price of the shares of our class A common stock.
 
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We may need to periodically access the capital markets to, among other things, raise cash to fund new loans and investments. Unfavorable economic conditions, such as those caused by the
COVID-19
pandemic, or capital market conditions may increase our funding costs, limit our access to the capital markets or could result in a decision by our potential lenders not to extend credit. An inability to successfully access the capital markets could limit our ability to grow our business and fully execute our business strategy and could decrease our earnings and liquidity. In addition, any dislocation or weakness in the capital and credit markets could adversely affect our lenders and could cause one or more of our lenders to be unwilling or unable to provide us with financing or to increase the costs of that financing. In addition, as regulatory capital requirements imposed on our lenders are increased, they may be required to limit, or increase the cost of, financing they provide to us. In general, this could potentially increase our financing costs and reduce our liquidity or require us to sell assets at an inopportune time or price. We cannot make assurances that we will be able to obtain any additional financing on favorable terms or at all.
We have utilized and may utilize in the future
non-recourse
securitizations to finance our loans and investments, which may expose us to risks that could result in losses.
We have utilized and may utilize in the future,
non-recourse
securitizations of certain of our portfolio investments to generate cash for funding new loans and investments and other purposes. These transactions generally involve creating a special-purpose entity, contributing a pool of our assets to the entity, and selling interests in the entity on a
non-recourse
basis to purchasers (whom we would expect to be willing to accept a lower interest rate to invest in investment-grade loan pools). We would expect to retain all or a portion of the equity and potentially other tranches in the securitized pool of loans or investments. In addition, we have retained in the past and may in the future retain a pari passu participation in the securitized pool of loans. Because of the interests we retain, in particular with respect to equity or similar subordinated tranches, actions taken by CTIMCO or any other entity that acts as special servicer may in the future conflict with our interests. See “-Risks Related to Our Lending and Investment
Activities-Our
investments in CMBS, CLOs, CDOs and other similar structured finance investments, as well as those we structure, sponsor or arrange, pose additional risks, including the risks of the securitization process and the risk that the special servicer, CT Investment Management Co., LLC, or CTIMCO, a subsidiary of Blackstone, may take actions that could adversely affect our interests.”
Prior to any such financing, we may use short-term facilities to finance the acquisition of securities until a sufficient quantity of investments had been accumulated, at which time we would refinance these facilities through a securitization, such as a CMBS, or issuance of CLOs, or the private placement of loan participations or other long-term financing. As a result, we would be subject to the risk that we would not be able to acquire, during the period that our short-term facilities are available, a sufficient amount of eligible investments to maximize the efficiency of a CMBS, CLO or private placement issuance. We also would be subject to the risk that we would not be able to obtain short-term credit facilities or would not be able to renew any short-term credit facilities after they expire should we find it necessary to extend our short-term credit facilities to allow more time to seek and acquire the necessary eligible investments for a long-term financing. The inability to consummate securitizations of our portfolio to finance our loans and investments on a long-term basis could require us to seek other forms of potentially less attractive financing or to liquidate assets at an inopportune time or price, which could adversely affect our performance and our ability to grow our business. Moreover, conditions in the capital markets, including volatility and disruption in the capital and credit markets, may not permit a
non-recourse
securitization at any particular time or may make the issuance of any such securitization less attractive to us even when we do have sufficient eligible assets. We may also suffer losses if the value of the mortgage loans we acquire declines prior to securitization. Declines in the value of a mortgage loan can be due to, among other things, changes in interest rates and changes in the credit quality of the loan. In addition, we may suffer a loss due to the incurrence of transaction costs related to executing these transactions. To the extent that we incur a loss executing or participating in future securitizations for the reasons described above or for other reasons, it could materially and adversely impact our business and financial condition. In addition, the inability to securitize our portfolio may hurt our performance and our ability to grow our business.
 
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In addition, the securitization of our portfolio might magnify our exposure to losses because any equity interest or other subordinate interest we retain in the issuing entity would be subordinate to the notes issued to investors and we would, therefore, absorb all of the losses sustained with respect to a securitized pool of assets before the owners of the notes experience any losses. Moreover, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, or Dodd-Frank Act, contains a risk retention requirement for all asset-backed securities, which requires both public and private securitizers to retain not less than 5% of the credit risk of the assets collateralizing any asset-backed security issuance. Significant restrictions exist, and additional restrictions may be added in the future, regarding who may hold risk retention interests, the structure of the entities that hold risk retention interests and when and how such risk retention interests may be transferred. Therefore such risk retention interests will generally be illiquid. As a result of the risk retention requirements, we have and may in the future be required to purchase and retain certain interests in a securitization into which we sell mortgage loans and/or when we act as issuer, may be required to sell certain interests in a securitization at prices below levels that such interests have historically yielded and/or may be required to enter into certain arrangements related to risk retention that we have not historically been required to enter into. Accordingly, the risk retention rules may increase our potential liabilities and/or reduce our potential profits in connection with securitization of mortgage loans. It is likely, therefore, that these risk retention rules will increase the administrative and operational costs of asset securitizations.
We may be subject to losses arising from current and future guarantees of debt and contingent obligations of our subsidiaries or joint venture or
co-investment
partners.
We currently guarantee certain obligations of our subsidiaries under various arrangements that provide for significant aggregate borrowings and we may in the future guarantee the performance of additional subsidiaries’ obligations, including, but not limited to, additional repurchase agreements, derivative agreements and unsecured indebtedness. We also currently guarantee certain indebtedness incurred by our joint venture with Walker & Dunlop Inc. and in the future may agree to guarantee other indebtedness or other obligations incurred by other joint venture or
co-investment
partners. Such guarantees may be on a joint and several basis with such joint venture or
co-investment
partner, in which case we may be liable in the event such partner defaults on its guarantee obligation. The
non-performance
of such obligations may cause losses to us in excess of the capital we initially may have invested or committed under such obligations and there is no assurance that we will have sufficient capital to cover any such losses.
Hedging may adversely affect our earnings, which could reduce our cash available for distribution to our stockholders.
Subject to maintaining our qualification as a REIT, we may pursue various hedging strategies to seek to reduce our exposure to adverse changes in interest rates and fluctuations in currencies. Our hedging activity will vary in scope based on the level and volatility of interest rates, exchange rates, the type of assets held and other changing market conditions. Interest rate and currency hedging may fail to protect or could adversely affect us because, among other things:
 
   
interest rate, currency and/or credit hedging can be expensive and may result in us generating less net income;
 
   
available interest rate or currency hedges may not correspond directly with the interest rate or currency risk for which protection is sought;
 
   
due to a credit loss, prepayment or asset sale, the duration of the hedge may not match the duration of the related asset or liability;
 
   
the amount of income that a REIT may earn from hedging transactions (other than hedging transactions that satisfy certain requirements of the Internal Revenue Code or that are done through a TRS (as defined below)) to offset interest rate losses is limited by U.S. federal income tax provisions governing REITs;
 
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the credit quality of the hedging counterparty owing money on the hedge may be downgraded to such an extent that it impairs our ability to sell or assign our side of the hedging transaction;
 
   
the hedging counterparty owing money in the hedging transaction may default on its obligation to pay;
 
   
we may fail to recalculate, readjust and execute hedges in an efficient manner; and
 
   
legal, tax and regulatory changes could occur and may adversely affect our ability to pursue our hedging strategies and/or increase the costs of implementing such strategies.
Any hedging activity in which we engage may materially and adversely affect our results of operations and cash flows. Therefore, while we may enter into such transactions seeking to reduce risks, unanticipated changes in interest rates, credit spreads or currencies may result in poorer overall investment performance than if we had not engaged in any such hedging transactions. In addition, the degree of correlation between price movements of the instruments used in a hedging strategy and price movements in the portfolio positions or liabilities being hedged may vary materially. Moreover, for a variety of reasons, we may not seek to establish a perfect correlation between such hedging instruments and the portfolio positions or liabilities being hedged. Any such imperfect correlation may prevent us from achieving the intended hedge and furthermore may expose us to risk of loss.
In addition, some hedging instruments involve additional risk because they are not traded on regulated exchanges, guaranteed by an exchange or its clearing house, or regulated by any U.S. or foreign governmental authorities. Consequently, we cannot make assurances that a liquid secondary market will exist for hedging instruments purchased or sold, and we may be required to maintain a position until exercise or expiration, which could result in significant losses. In addition, regulatory requirements with respect to derivatives, including eligibility of counterparties, reporting, recordkeeping, exchange of margin, financial responsibility or segregation of customer funds and positions are still under development and could impact our hedging transactions and how we and our counterparty must manage such transactions.
We are subject to counterparty risk associated with our hedging activities.
As of December 31, 2020, we were party to outstanding derivative agreements with an aggregate notional value of $1.7 billion. We are subject to credit risk with respect to the counterparties to derivative contracts (whether a clearing corporation in the case of exchange-traded instruments or another third party in the case of OTC instruments). If a counterparty becomes bankrupt or otherwise fails to perform its obligations under a derivative contract due to financial difficulties, we may experience significant delays in obtaining any recovery under the derivative contract in a dissolution, assignment for the benefit of creditors, liquidation,
winding-up,
bankruptcy, or other analogous proceeding. In the event of the insolvency of a counterparty to a derivative transaction, the derivative transaction would typically be terminated at its fair market value. If we are owed this fair market value in the termination of the derivative transaction and its claim is unsecured, we will be treated as a general creditor of such counterparty, and will not have any claim with respect to the underlying security. We may obtain only a limited recovery or may obtain no recovery in such circumstances. In addition, the business failure of a counterparty with whom we enter into a hedging transaction will most likely result in its default, which may result in the loss of potential future value and the loss of our hedge and force us to cover our commitments, if any, at the then current market price.
If we enter into certain hedging transactions or otherwise invest in certain derivative instruments, failure to obtain and maintain an exemption from being regulated as a commodity pool operator could subject us to additional regulation and compliance requirements which could materially adversely affect our business and financial condition.
Rules under the Dodd-Frank Act establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for derivative contracts commonly referred to as “swaps.” Under this regulatory framework, mortgage real estate investment trusts, or mREITs, that trade in commodity interest positions (including swaps) are considered “commodity pools” and the
 
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operators of such mREITs would be considered “commodity pool operators,” or CPOs. Absent relief, a CPO must register with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, and become a member of the National Futures Association, or NFA, which requires compliance with NFA’s rules and renders such CPO subject to regulation by the CFTC, including with respect to disclosure, reporting, recordkeeping and business conduct. We may from time to time, directly or indirectly, invest in instruments that meet the definition of “swap” under the Dodd-Frank Act rules, which may subject us to oversight by the CFTC. Our board of directors has appointed our Manager to act as our CPO in the event we are deemed a commodity pool.
In the event that we invest in commodity interests, absent relief, our Manager would be required to register as a CPO. Our Manager is exempt from registration as a CPO with the CFTC pursuant to certain
no-action
relief for the CPO of a qualifying mortgage REIT (and in that regard, we intend to identify as a “mortgage REIT” for U.S. federal income tax purposes). In addition, our Manager may in the future claim a different exemption from registration as a CPO with the CFTC. Therefore, unlike a registered CPO, our Manager will not be required to provide prospective investors with a CFTC compliant disclosure document, nor will our Manager be required to provide investors with periodic account statements or certified annual reports that satisfy the requirements of CFTC rules applicable to registered CPOs, in connection with any offerings of shares.
As an alternative to an exemption from registration, our Manager may register as a CPO with the CFTC and avail itself of certain disclosure, reporting and record-keeping relief under CFTC Rule 4.7.
The CFTC has substantial enforcement power with respect to violations of the laws over which it has jurisdiction, including anti-fraud and anti-manipulation provisions. Among other things, the CFTC may suspend or revoke the registration of a person who fails to comply, prohibit such a person from trading or doing business with registered entities, impose civil money penalties, require restitution and seek fines or imprisonment for criminal violations. Additionally, a private right of action exists against those who violate the laws over which the CFTC has jurisdiction or who willfully aid, abet, counsel, induce or procure a violation of those laws. In the event we fail to receive interpretive relief from the CFTC on this matter, are unable to claim an exemption from registration and fail to comply with the regulatory requirements of these new rules, we may be unable to use certain types of hedging instruments or we may be subject to significant fines, penalties and other civil or governmental actions or proceedings, any of which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Risks Related to Our Relationship with Our Manager and its Affiliates
We depend on our Manager and its personnel for our success. We may not find a suitable replacement for our Manager if the Management Agreement is terminated, or if key personnel cease to be employed by our Manager or Blackstone or otherwise become unavailable to us.
We are externally managed and advised by our Manager, an affiliate of Blackstone. We currently have no employees and all of our officers are employees of Blackstone or its affiliates. We are completely reliant on our Manager, which has significant discretion as to the implementation of our investment and operating policies and strategies.
Our success depends to a significant extent upon the efforts, experience, diligence, skill, and network of business contacts of the officers and key personnel of our Manager and its affiliates. Our Manager is managed by senior professionals of Blackstone. These individuals evaluate, negotiate, execute and monitor our loans and investments and advise us regarding maintenance of our qualification as a REIT and exclusion from regulation under the Investment Company Act; therefore, our success depends on their skills and management expertise and continued service with our Manager and its affiliates. Furthermore, there is increasing competition among financial sponsors, investment banks and other real estate debt investors for hiring and retaining qualified investment professionals and there can be no assurance that such professionals will continue to be associated with us, our Manager or its affiliates or that any replacements will perform well.
 
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In addition, we can offer no assurance that our Manager will remain our investment manager or that we will continue to have access to our Manager’s officers and key personnel. The current term of the Management Agreement extends to December 19, 2021 and may be renewed for additional
one-year
terms thereafter; provided, however, that our Manager may terminate the Management Agreement annually upon 180 days’ prior notice. If the Management Agreement is terminated and no suitable replacement is found to manage us, we may not be able to execute our business plan. Furthermore, we may incur certain costs in connection with a termination of the Management Agreement.
The personnel of our Manager, as our external manager, are not required to dedicate a specific portion of their time to the management of our business.
Neither our Manager nor any other Blackstone affiliate is obligated to dedicate any specific personnel exclusively to us, nor are they or their personnel obligated to dedicate any specific portion of their time to the management of our business. As a result, we cannot provide any assurances regarding the amount of time our Manager or its affiliates will dedicate to the management of our business and our Manager may have conflicts in allocating its time, resources and services among our business and any other investment vehicles and accounts our Manager (or its personnel) may manage. Each of our officers is also an employee of our Manager or another Blackstone affiliate, who has now or may be expected to have significant responsibilities for other investment vehicles currently managed by Blackstone and its affiliates. Consequently, we may not receive the level of support and assistance that we otherwise might receive if we were internally managed. Our Manager and its affiliates are not restricted from entering into other investment advisory relationships or from engaging in other business activities.
Our Manager manages our portfolio pursuant to very broad investment guidelines and is not required to seek the approval of our board of directors for each investment, financing, asset allocation or hedging decision made by it, which may result in our making riskier loans and investments and which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Our Manager is authorized to follow very broad investment guidelines that provide it with broad discretion over investment, financing, asset allocation and hedging decisions. Our board of directors will periodically review our investment guidelines and our loan and investment portfolio but will not, and will not be required to, review and approve in advance all of our proposed loans and investments or the Manager’s financing, asset allocation or hedging decisions. In addition, in conducting periodic reviews, our directors may rely primarily on information provided to them by our Manager or its affiliates. Subject to maintaining our REIT qualification and our exclusion from regulation under the Investment Company Act, our Manager has significant latitude within the broad investment guidelines in determining the types of loans and investments it makes for us, and how such loans and investments are financing or hedged, which could result in investment returns that are substantially below expectations or that result in losses, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Our Manager’s fee structure may not create proper incentives or may induce our Manager and its affiliates to make certain loans or investments, including speculative investments, which increase the risk of our loan and investment portfolio.
We pay our Manager base management fees regardless of the performance of our portfolio. Our Manager’s entitlement to base management fees, which is not based upon performance metrics or goals, might reduce its incentive to devote its time and effort to seeking loans and investments that provide attractive risk-adjusted returns for our portfolio. Because the base management fees are also based in part on our outstanding equity, our Manager may also be incentivized to advance strategies that increase our equity, and there may be circumstances where increasing our equity will not optimize the returns for our stockholders. Consequently, we are required to pay our Manager base management fees in a particular period despite experiencing a net loss or a decline in the value of our portfolio during that period. Moreover, we may pay our Manager’s fees in shares of our class A common stock, which could dilute our stockholders’ ownership.
 
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In addition, our Manager has the ability to earn incentive fees each quarter based on our earnings, which may create an incentive for our Manager to invest in assets with higher yield potential, which are generally riskier or more speculative, or sell an asset prematurely for a gain, in an effort to increase our short-term net income and thereby increase the incentive fees to which it is entitled. If our interests and those of our Manager are not aligned, the execution of our business plan and our results of operations could be adversely affected, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
We and the Blackstone Vehicles have and in the future will likely compete with or enter into transactions with existing and future private and public investment vehicles established and/or managed by Blackstone or its affiliates, which may present various conflicts of interest that restrict our ability to pursue certain investment opportunities or take other actions that are beneficial to our business and/or result in decisions that are not in the best interests of our stockholders.
We are subject to conflicts of interest arising out of our relationship with Blackstone, including our Manager and its affiliates. Three Blackstone employees serve on our board of directors, including Michael B. Nash, the executive chairman of our board of directors and chairman of Blackstone Real Estate Debt Strategies, or BREDS, Stephen D. Plavin, our chief executive officer, and Jonathan Pollack, the global head of BREDS. In addition, our president, our chief financial officer and our other executive officers are also employees of Blackstone and/or one or more of its affiliates, and we are managed by our Manager, a Blackstone affiliate. If any matter arises that Blackstone determines in its good faith judgment constitutes an actual and material conflict of interest, Blackstone and relevant affiliates will take the actions they determine appropriate to mitigate the conflict and to act in accordance with our Management Agreement. 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, Blackstone and their affiliates, will enable us to identify, adequately address or mitigate these conflicts of interest in a way that is favorable to us. Some examples of conflicts of interest that may arise by virtue of our relationship with our Manager and Blackstone include:
 
   
Broad and Wide-Ranging Activities
. Our Manager, Blackstone and their affiliates engage in a broad spectrum of activities, including a broad range of activities relating to investments in the real estate industry, and have invested or committed billions of dollars in capital through various investment funds, managed accounts and other vehicles affiliated with Blackstone. In the ordinary course of their business activities, our Manager, Blackstone and their affiliates may engage in activities where the interests of certain divisions of Blackstone and its affiliates, including our Manager, or the interests of their clients may conflict with the interests of our stockholders. Certain of these divisions and entities affiliated with our Manager have or may have an investment strategy similar to our investment strategy and therefore will likely compete with us. In particular, BREDS invests in a broad range of real estate-related debt investments via numerous different investment funds, managed accounts and other vehicles.
 
   
Blackstone’s Policies and Procedures
. Specified policies and procedures implemented by Blackstone and its affiliates, including our Manager, to mitigate potential conflicts of interest and address certain regulatory requirements and contractual restrictions may reduce the advantages across Blackstone’s and its affiliates’ various businesses that Blackstone expects to draw on for purposes of pursuing attractive investment opportunities. Because Blackstone has many different businesses, including the Blackstone Capital Markets Group, which Blackstone investment teams and portfolio entities may engage to advise on and to execute debt and equity financings, it is subject to a number of actual and potential conflicts of interest, greater regulatory oversight and more legal and contractual restrictions than that to which it would otherwise be subject if it had just one line of business. In addressing these conflicts and regulatory, legal and contractual requirements across its various businesses, Blackstone has implemented certain policies and procedures (e.g., information walls) that may reduce the positive firm-wide synergies Blackstone could otherwise expect to utilize for purposes of identifying and managing attractive investments. For example, Blackstone may come into possession of material
non-public
information with respect to companies that are clients of Blackstone or its affiliates, in which our Manager may be considering making an investment. As a consequence, that information,
 
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which could be of benefit to our Manager, might become restricted to those other businesses and otherwise be unavailable to our Manager, and could also restrict our Manager’s activities. Additionally, the terms of confidentiality or other agreements with or related to companies in which any investment vehicle of Blackstone has or has considered making an investment or which is otherwise a client of Blackstone and its affiliates may restrict or otherwise limit the ability of Blackstone or its affiliates, including our Manager, to engage in businesses or activities competitive with such companies.
 
   
Allocation of Investment Opportunities
.
Certain inherent conflicts of interest arise from the fact that Blackstone and its affiliates, including our Manager, will provide investment management and other services both to us and to any other person or entity, whether or not the investment objectives or guidelines of any such other person or entity are similar to ours, including, without limitation, the sponsoring, closing and/or managing of any investment funds, vehicles, REITs, accounts, products and/or other similar arrangements sponsored, advised, and/or managed by Blackstone or its affiliates, whether currently in existence or subsequently established (in each case, including any related successor funds, alternative vehicles, supplemental capital vehicles, surge funds, over-flow funds,
co-investment
vehicles, other entities formed in connection with Blackstone or its affiliates
side-by-side
or additional general partner investments with respect thereto, and portfolio companies/entities), which we refer to as the Blackstone Vehicles. The respective investment guidelines and programs of our business and certain of the Blackstone Vehicles overlap, in whole or in part, and where there is any such overlap, investment opportunities will be allocated between us and the Blackstone Vehicles in a manner that may result in fewer investment opportunities being allocated to us than would have otherwise been the case in the absence of such Blackstone Vehicles. In particular, while our primary investment strategies differ from those of Blackstone’s latest flagship real estate debt fund, Blackstone Real Estate Debt Strategies IV L.P. and related separately managed accounts, or BREDS IV, and Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, Inc., or BREIT, in that we generally seek to invest primarily in senior mortgage loans and other similar interests, BREDS IV generally seeks to invest primarily in real estate-related debt with a high-yield risk profile such as junior mortgage debt, mezzanine debt, and other subordinate structured debt investments, BREIT generally seeks to invest primarily in liquid debt securities, a significant portion of the capital of BREDS IV and BREIT (and/or other Blackstone Vehicles) may nonetheless be invested in investments that would also be appropriate for us. The allocation methodology applied between us and one or more of the Blackstone Vehicles may result in us not participating (and/or not participating to the same extent) in certain investment opportunities in which we would have otherwise participated had the related allocations been determined without regard to such guidelines and/or based only on the circumstances of those particular investments. Our Manager, Blackstone or their affiliates may also give advice to Blackstone Vehicles that may differ from advice given to us even though their investment objectives may be the same or similar to ours.
As a result, we will from time to time invest in real estate-related debt investments alongside certain Blackstone Vehicles that are part of the BREDS program and other vehicles that include a focus on real estate-related debt investments, including, but not limited to, BREDS IV and BREIT. To the extent any Blackstone Vehicles have investment objectives or guidelines that overlap with ours, in whole or in part, investment opportunities that fall within such common objectives or guidelines will generally be allocated among one or more of us and such other Blackstone Vehicles on a basis that our Manager and applicable Blackstone affiliates determines to be fair and reasonable in its sole discretion, subject to (i) any applicable investment objectives, parameters, limitations and other contractual provisions applicable to us and such other Blackstone Vehicles, (ii) us and such other Blackstone Vehicles having available capital with respect thereto, and (iii) legal, tax, accounting, regulatory and other considerations deemed relevant by our Manager and its affiliates (including, without limitation, the relative risk-return profile of such investment and instrument type, the specific nature and terms of the investment, size and type of the investment, readily available financing, relative investment strategies and primary investment mandates, portfolio diversification concerns, the investment focus, guidelines, limitations, and strategy of each investment fund or vehicle,
co-investment
arrangements, the different
 
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liquidity positions and requirements in each fund or vehicle, underwritten leverage levels of a loan, portfolio concentration considerations (including, but not limited to, (A) allocations necessary for us or the Blackstone Vehicles to maintain a particular concentration in a certain type of investment and (B) whether we or a particular Blackstone Vehicle already has its desired exposure to the investment, sector, industry, geographic region or markets in question), contractual obligations, other anticipated uses of capital, the source of the investment opportunity, credit ratings, the ability of a client, fund and/or vehicle to employ leverage, hedging, derivatives, syndication strategies or other similar strategies in connection with acquiring, holding or disposing of the particular investment opportunity, and any requirements or other terms of any existing leverage facilities, geographic focus, remaining investment period, the credit/default profile of an issuer, the extent of involvement of the respective teams of investment professionals dedicated to the Manager and other Blackstone Vehicles, the likelihood/immediacy of foreclosure or conversion to an equity or control opportunity, and other considerations deemed relevant in good faith in their sole discretion). There is no assurance that any conflicts will be resolved in our favor. Our Manager is entitled to amend its investment objectives or guidelines at any time without prior notice or our consent.
 
   
Investments in Different Levels or Classes of an Issuer’s Securities
. We and the Blackstone Vehicles have made and in the future will likely make investments at different levels of an issuer’s or borrower’s capital structure (e.g., an investment by a Blackstone Vehicle in an equity, debt or mezzanine interest with respect to the same portfolio entity in which we own a debt interest or vice versa) or otherwise in different classes of the same issuer’s securities. We may make investments that are senior or junior to, or have rights and interests different from or adverse to, the investments made by the Blackstone Vehicles (and in certain circumstances our Manager will be unaware of another Blackstone Vehicle’s participation, as a result of information walls or otherwise). Such investments may conflict with the interests of such Blackstone Vehicles in related investments, and the potential for any such conflicts of interests may be heightened in the event of a default or restructuring of any such investments. Actions may be taken for the Blackstone Vehicles that are adverse to us, including with respect to the timing and manner of sale and actions taken in circumstances of financial distress. In addition, in connection with such investments, Blackstone will generally seek to implement certain procedures to mitigate conflicts of interest which typically involve us maintaining a
non-controlling
interest in any such investment and a forbearance of rights, including certain
non-economic
rights, relating to the Blackstone Vehicles, such as where Blackstone may cause us to decline to exercise certain control- and/or foreclosure-related rights with respect to a portfolio entity (including following the vote of other third party lenders generally or otherwise recusing ourselves with respect to decisions), including with respect to both normal course ongoing matters (such as consent rights with respect to loan modifications in intercreditor agreements) and also defaults, foreclosures, workouts, restructurings and/or exit opportunities, subject to certain limitations. If we recuse ourselves from decision-making as described above, we will generally rely upon a third party lender to make the decisions, and the third party lender could have conflicts or otherwise make decisions that we would not have made. It is expected that our participation in connection with any such investments and transactions will be negotiated by third parties on market terms and prices. Our Management Agreement requires our Manager to keep our board of directors reasonably informed on a periodic basis in connection with the foregoing, including with respect to transactions that involve investments at different levels of an issuer’s or borrower’s capital structure, as to which our Manager has agreed to provide our board of directors with quarterly updates. We currently hold mortgage and mezzanine loans and other investments in which Blackstone affiliates have interests in the collateral securing or backing such investments. While Blackstone will seek to resolve any conflicts in a fair and equitable manner with respect to conflicts resolution among the Blackstone Vehicles generally, such transactions are not required to be presented to our board of directors for approval, and there can be no assurance that any conflicts will be resolved in our favor.
 
   
Assignment and Sharing or Limitation of Rights
. We have and in the future will likely invest alongside other Blackstone Vehicles and in connection therewith have and expect to, for legal, tax, regulatory or
 
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other reasons which may be unrelated to us, share with or assign to such other Blackstone Vehicles certain of our rights, in whole or in part, or to limit our rights, including certain control- and/or foreclosure-related rights with respect to such shared investments and/or otherwise agree to implement certain procedures to mitigate conflicts of interest which typically involve maintaining a
non-controlling
interest in any such investment and a forbearance of our rights, including certain
non-economic
rights (including following the vote of other third party lenders generally or otherwise being recused with respect to certain decisions, including with respect to both normal course ongoing matters (such as consent rights with respect to loan modifications in intercreditor agreements) and also defaults, foreclosures, workouts, restructurings and/or exit opportunities), subject to certain limitations. While it is expected that our participation in connection with any such investments and transactions would be negotiated by third parties on market prices, such investments and transactions will give rise to potential or actual conflicts of interest. We cannot make assurances that any such conflict will be resolved in our favor. To the extent we hold an interest in a loan or security that is different (including with respect to their relative seniority) than those held by such other Blackstone Vehicles (and vice versa), our Manager and its affiliates may be presented and/or may have limited or no rights with respect to decisions when the interests of the funds/vehicles are in conflict. Such sharing or assignment of rights could make it more difficult for us to protect our interests and could give rise to a conflict (which may be exacerbated in the case of financial distress) and could result in another Blackstone Vehicle exercising such rights in a way adverse to us.
 
   
Providing Debt Financings in connection with Assets Owned by Other Blackstone Vehicles
. We have, and in the future are likely to provide financing (i) as part of the bid or acquisition by a third party to acquire interests in (or otherwise make an investment in the underlying assets of) a portfolio entity owned by one or more Blackstone Vehicles or their affiliates of assets or interests (and/or portfolios thereof) owned by a third party), (ii) with respect to one or more portfolio entities or borrowers in connection with a proposed acquisition or investment by one or more Blackstone Vehicles or affiliates relating to such portfolio entities and/or their underlying assets and/or (iii) in other transactions or in the ordinary course, with respect to portfolio entities in which other Blackstone Vehicles and/or affiliates currently hold or propose to acquire an interest. This may include making commitments to provide financing at, prior to or around the time that any such purchaser commits to or makes such investments. While the terms and conditions of any such debt commitments and related arrangements will generally be consistent with market terms, the involvement of us and/or such other Blackstone Vehicles or affiliates in such transactions may impact the market terms. For example, in the case of a loan extended to a Blackstone portfolio entity by a financing syndicate in which we have agreed to participate on terms negotiated by a third party participant in the syndicate, it may have been necessary for the Blackstone portfolio entity to offer better or worse terms to lenders to fully subscribe the syndicate than if we had not participated. In addition, any such transactions or arrangements may otherwise influence Blackstone’s decisions with respect to the management of us and/or such other Blackstone Vehicles and/or the relevant Blackstone portfolio entity, which will give rise to potential or actual conflicts of interests and which may adversely impact us.
 
   
Obtaining Financing from Other Blackstone Vehicles
. We may from time to time obtain financing from other Blackstone Vehicles (including the BREDS funds). We and/or Blackstone may face conflicts of interest in connection with any borrowings or disputes related to such financing agreement(s) which may adversely impact us.
 
   
Pursuit of Differing Strategies
. At times, the investment professionals employed by our Manager or its affiliates and other investment vehicles affiliated with our Manager and/or Blackstone may determine that an investment opportunity may be appropriate for only some of the accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment vehicles for which he or she exercises investment responsibility, or may decide that certain of the accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment vehicles should take differing positions with respect to a particular security. In these cases, the investment professionals may place separate transactions for one or more accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment
 
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vehicles which may affect the market price of the security or the execution of the transaction, or both, to the detriment or benefit of one or more other accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment vehicles. For example, an investment professional may determine that it would be in the interest of another account to sell a security that we hold long, potentially resulting in a decrease in the market value of the security held by us.
 
   
Variation in Financial and Other Benefits
. A conflict of interest arises where the financial or other benefits available to our Manager or its affiliates differ among the accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment vehicles that it manages. Where the amount or structure of the base management fee, incentive fee and/or our Manager’s or its affiliates’ compensation differs among accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment vehicles (such as where certain funds or accounts pay higher base management fees, incentive fees, performance-based management fees or other fees), our Manager might be motivated to help certain accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment vehicles over us. Similarly, the desire to maintain assets under management or to enhance our Manager’s performance record or to derive other rewards, financial or otherwise, could influence our Manager in affording preferential treatment to those accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment vehicles that could most significantly benefit our Manager or its affiliates. Our Manager may, for example, have an incentive to allocate favorable or limited opportunity investments or structure the timing of investments to favor such other accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment vehicles over us. Additionally, our Manager might be motivated to favor other accounts, clients, entities, funds and/or investment vehicles in which it has an ownership interest or in which Blackstone and/or its affiliates have ownership interests. Conversely, if an investment professional at our Manager or its affiliates does not personally hold an investment in the fund but holds investments in other Blackstone affiliated vehicles, such investment professional’s conflicts of interest with respect to us may be more acute.
 
   
Underwriting, Advisory and Other Relationships
. As part of its regular business, Blackstone provides a broad range of underwriting, investment banking, placement agent services and other services. In connection with selling investments by way of a public offering, a Blackstone broker-dealer may act as the managing underwriter or a member of the underwriting syndicate on a firm commitment basis and purchase securities on that basis. Blackstone may retain any commissions, remuneration, or other profits and receive compensation from such underwriting activities, which have the potential to create conflicts of interest. Blackstone may also participate in underwriting syndicates from time to time with respect to us or portfolio companies/entities of Blackstone Vehicles, or may otherwise be involved in the private placement of debt or equity securities issued by us or such portfolio companies/entities, or otherwise in arranging financings with respect thereto or advising on such transactions. Subject to applicable law, Blackstone may receive underwriting fees, placement commissions, or other compensation with respect to such activities, which will not be shared with us or our stockholders. Where Blackstone serves as underwriter with respect to the securities of a portfolio company/entity, we or the applicable Blackstone Vehicle holding such securities may be subject to a
“lock-up”
period following the offering under applicable regulations during which time our ability to sell any securities that we continue to hold is restricted. This may prejudice our ability to dispose of such securities at an opportune time.
In the regular course of its investment banking business, Blackstone represents potential purchasers, sellers and other involved parties, including corporations, financial buyers, management, shareholders and institutions, with respect to assets that are suitable for investment by us. In such case, Blackstone’s client would typically require Blackstone to act exclusively on its behalf, thereby precluding us from acquiring such assets. Blackstone is under no obligation to decline any such engagement to make the investment opportunity available to us.
Blackstone has long-term relationships with a significant number of corporations and their senior management. In determining whether to invest in a particular transaction on our behalf, our Manager may consider those relationships (subject to its obligations under the Management Agreement), which may result in certain transactions that our Manager will not undertake on our behalf in view of such relationships.
 
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Service Providers
. Certain of our service providers, or their affiliates (including accountants, administrators, lenders, brokers, attorneys, consultants, title agents, property managers and investment banking or commercial banking firms) also provide goods or services to or have business, personal or other relationships with Blackstone. For example, Blackstone may hold equity or other investments in companies or businesses in the real estate related information technology and other industries that may provide products or services to or otherwise contract with us or other Blackstone Vehicles. In connection with any such investment, Blackstone or other Blackstone Vehicles (or their respective portfolio companies/entities) may make referrals or introductions to other portfolio companies/entities in an effort, in part, to increase the customer base of such companies or businesses, and therefore the value of the investment, or because such referrals or introductions may result in financial incentives (including additional equity ownership) and/or milestones benefitting the referring or introducing party that are tied or related to participation by portfolio companies/entities. We will not share in any fees, economics or equity accruing to Blackstone or such other Blackstone Vehicles as a result of these relationships. In addition, we may enter into agreements regarding group procurement (such as a group purchasing organization), benefits management, purchase of title and/or other insurance policies (which will from time to time be pooled and discounted due to scale) from a third party or a Blackstone affiliate, and other similar operational, administrative, or management related initiatives that result in commissions, discounts or similar payments to Blackstone or its affiliates (including personnel), including related to a portion of the savings achieved. Such service providers may be sources of investment opportunities or
co-investors
or commercial counterparties. Such relationships may influence our Manager in deciding whether to select such service provider. In certain circumstances, service providers, or their affiliates, may charge different rates (including below-market rates or at no cost) or have different arrangements for services provided to Blackstone or its affiliates as compared to services provided to us, which in certain circumstances may result in more favorable rates or arrangements than those payable by us. In addition, in instances where multiple Blackstone businesses may be exploring a potential individual investment, certain of these service providers may choose to be engaged by other Blackstone affiliates rather than us.
In addition, certain advisors and service providers (including law firms) may temporarily provide their personnel to Blackstone, us or other funds advised by Blackstone or their portfolio companies pursuant to various arrangements including at cost or at no cost. While often we and such other Blackstone-advised funds and their portfolio companies are the beneficiaries of these types of arrangements, Blackstone is from time to time a beneficiary of these arrangements as well, including in circumstances where the advisor or service provider also provides services to us in the ordinary course. Such personnel may provide services in respect of multiple matters, including in respect of matters related to Blackstone, its affiliates and/or portfolio companies and any costs of such personnel may be allocated accordingly.
CTIMCO, a subsidiary of Blackstone, acts as special servicer in connection with our CLO transactions and may act as special servicer in future securitization financing transactions. CTIMCO, in its capacity as special servicer, may be required to enforce obligations or undertake certain other actions that may conflict with our interests.
Lexington National Land Services, or LNLS, is a Blackstone affiliate that (i) acts as a title agent in facilitating and issuing title insurance, (ii) provides title support services for title insurance underwriters and (iii) acts as escrow agent in connection with investments by us, other Blackstone Vehicles and their portfolio entities, affiliates and related parties, and third parties, including, from time to time, our borrowers. In exchange for such services LNLS earns fees which would have otherwise been paid to third parties. If LNLS is involved in a transaction in which we participate, Blackstone will benchmark the relevant costs to the extent market data is available except when LNLS is providing such services in a state where the insurance premium or escrow fee, as applicable, is regulated by the state or when LNLS is part of a syndicate of title insurance companies where the insurance premium is negotiated by other title insurance underwriters or their agents.
 
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Material,
Non-Public
Information
. We, directly or through Blackstone, our Manager or certain of their respective affiliates may come into possession of material
non-public
information with respect to an issuer in which we have invested or may invest. Should this occur, our Manager may be restricted from buying or selling securities, derivatives or loans of the issuer on our behalf until such time as the information becomes public or is no longer deemed material. Disclosure of such information to the personnel responsible for management of our business may be on a
need-to-know
basis only, and we may not be free to act upon any such information. Therefore, we and/or our Manager may not have access to material
non-public
information in the possession of Blackstone which might be relevant to an investment decision to be made by our Manager on our behalf, and our Manager may initiate a transaction or purchase or sell an investment which, if such information had been known to it, may not have been undertaken. Due to these restrictions, our Manager may not be able to initiate a transaction on our behalf that it otherwise might have initiated and may not be able to purchase or sell an investment that it otherwise might have purchased or sold, which could negatively affect our operations.
 
   
Possible Future Activities
. Our Manager and its affiliates may expand the range of services that they provide over time. Except as and to the extent expressly provided in the Management Agreement, our Manager and its affiliates will not be restricted in the scope of its business or in the performance of any such services (whether now offered or undertaken in the future) even if such activities could give rise to conflicts of interest, and whether or not such conflicts are described herein. Our Manager, Blackstone and their affiliates continue to develop relationships with a significant number of companies, financial sponsors and their senior managers, including relationships with clients who may hold or may have held investments similar to those intended to be made by us. These clients may themselves represent appropriate investment opportunities for us or may compete with us for investment opportunities.
 
   
Transactions with Blackstone Vehicles
.
From time to time, we may enter into purchase and sale transactions with Blackstone Vehicles. Such transactions will be conducted in accordance with, and subject to, the terms and conditions of the Management Agreement (including the requirement that sales to or acquisitions of investments from Blackstone, any Blackstone Vehicle or any of their affiliates be approved in advance by a majority of our independent directors) and our code of business conduct and ethics and applicable laws and regulations.
 
   
Loan Refinancings
.
We may from time to time seek to participate in investments relating to the refinancing of loans held by the Blackstone Vehicles (including the BREDS funds). While it is expected that our participation in connection with such refinancing transactions will be at arms’ length and on market/contract terms, such transactions may give rise to potential or actual conflicts of interest.
 
   
Other Affiliate Transactions
. Our Manager may on our behalf acquire debt issued by a borrower in which a separate equity or another debt investment has been made by Blackstone or its other affiliates, including the BREDS funds. In connection with investments in which we participate alongside other Blackstone Vehicles (including the BREDS funds), we may from time to time share certain rights with such other Blackstone Vehicles relating to such investments for legal, tax, regulatory or other similar reasons, including, in certain instances, certain control-related rights with respect to jointly-held investments. When making any such investments, there may be conflicting interests. There can be no assurance that the return on our investment will be equivalent to or better than the returns obtained by Blackstone or its other affiliates.
 
   
Family Relationships
. Certain personnel and other professionals of Blackstone have family members or relatives that are actively involved in the industries and sectors in which we invest and/or have business, personal, financial or other relationships with companies in the real estate industry, which gives rise to potential or actual conflicts of interest. For example, such family members or relatives might be officers, directors, personnel or owners of companies or assets which are actual or potential investments of us or our other counterparties. Moreover, in certain instances, we may transact with
 
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companies that are owned by such family members or relatives or in respect of which such family members or relatives have other involvement. In most such circumstances, we will not be precluded from undertaking any of these investment activities or transactions. To the extent Blackstone determines appropriate, it may put in place conflict mitigation strategies with respect to a particular circumstance, such as internal information barriers or recusal, disclosure or other steps determined appropriate by the Manager.
Blackstone may enter into one or more strategic relationships in certain regions or with respect to certain types of investments that, although intended to provide greater opportunities for us, may require us to share such opportunities or otherwise limit the amount of an opportunity we can otherwise take.
Further conflicts could arise once we and Blackstone or its affiliates have made their respective investments. For example, if a company goes into bankruptcy or reorganization, becomes insolvent or otherwise experiences financial distress or is unable to meet its payment obligations or comply with covenants relating to securities held by us or by the Blackstone or its affiliates, Blackstone or its affiliates may have an interest that conflicts with our interests or Blackstone or its affiliates may have information regarding the company that we do not have access to. If additional financing is necessary as a result of financial or other difficulties, it may not be in our best interests to provide such additional financing. If Blackstone or its affiliates were to lose their respective investments as a result of such difficulties, the ability of our Manager to recommend actions in our best interests might be impaired.
Termination of the Management Agreement would be costly.
Termination of the Management Agreement without cause would be difficult and costly. Our independent directors review our Manager’s performance annually and the Management Agreement may be terminated each year upon the affirmative vote of at least
two-thirds
of our independent directors, based upon a determination that (i) our Manager’s performance is unsatisfactory and materially detrimental to us or (ii) the base management fee and incentive fee payable to our Manager are not fair (provided that in this instance, our Manager will be afforded the opportunity to renegotiate the management fee and incentive fees prior to termination). We are required to provide our Manager with 180 days prior notice of any such termination. Additionally, upon such a termination, or if we materially breach the Management Agreement and our Manager terminates the Management Agreement, the Management Agreement provides that we will pay our Manager a termination fee equal to three times the sum of the average annual base management fee and the average annual incentive fee earned during the
24-month
period immediately preceding the date of termination, calculated as of the end of the most recently completed fiscal quarter prior to the date of termination. These provisions increase the cost to us of terminating the Management Agreement and adversely affect our ability to terminate our Manager without cause.
Our Manager maintains a contractual as opposed to a fiduciary relationship with us. Our Manager’s liability is limited under the Management Agreement and we have agreed to indemnify our Manager against certain liabilities.
Pursuant to the Management Agreement, our Manager does not assume any responsibility other than to render the services called for thereunder and is not responsible for any action of our board of directors in following or declining to follow its advice or recommendations. Our Manager maintains a contractual as opposed to a fiduciary relationship with us. Under the terms of the Management Agreement, our Manager and its affiliates and their respective directors, officers, employees and stockholders are not liable to us, our directors, our stockholders or any subsidiary of ours, or their directors, officers, employees or stockholders for any acts or omissions performed in accordance with and pursuant to the Management Agreement, except by reason of acts or omissions constituting bad faith, willful misconduct, gross negligence, or reckless disregard of their duties under the Management Agreement. We have agreed to indemnify our Manager and its affiliates and their respective directors, officers, employees and stockholders with respect to all expenses, losses, damages, liabilities, demands, charges and claims arising from acts or omissions of our Manager not constituting bad faith, willful misconduct,
 
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gross negligence, or reckless disregard of duties, performed or not performed in good faith in accordance with and pursuant to the Management Agreement. As a result, we could experience poor performance or losses for which our Manager would not be liable.
We do not own the Blackstone or BXMT name, but we may use it as part of our corporate name pursuant to a trademark license agreement with an affiliate of Blackstone. Use of the name by other parties or the termination of our trademark license agreement may harm our business.
We have entered into an amended and restated trademark license agreement, or Trademark License Agreement, with an affiliate of Blackstone pursuant to which it has granted us a fully
paid-up,
royalty-free,
non-exclusive,
non-transferable
license to use the names “Blackstone Mortgage Trust, Inc.” and “BXMT”. Under this agreement, we have a right to use these names for so long as our Manager (or another affiliate of Blackstone TM L.L.C., or Licensor) serves as our Manager (or another managing entity) and our Manager remains an affiliate of the Licensor under the Trademark License Agreement. The Trademark License Agreement may also be earlier terminated by either party as a result of certain breaches or for convenience upon 90 days’ prior written notice; provided that upon notification of such termination by us, the Licensor may elect to effect termination of the Trademark License Agreement immediately at any time after 30 days from the date of such notification. The Licensor and its affiliates, such as Blackstone, will retain the right to continue using the “Blackstone” and “BXMT” names. We will further be unable to preclude the Licensor from licensing or transferring the ownership of the “Blackstone” or “BXMT” names to third parties, some of whom may compete with us. Consequently, we will be unable to prevent any damage to goodwill that may occur as a result of the activities of the Licensor, Blackstone or others. Furthermore, in the event that the Trademark License Agreement is terminated, we would be required to, among other things, change our name and NYSE ticker symbol. Any of these events could disrupt our recognition in the market place, damage any goodwill we may have generated and otherwise harm our business.
Risks Related to Our Company
Our investment strategy or guidelines, asset allocation and financing strategy may be changed without stockholder consent.
Our Manager is authorized to follow broad investment guidelines that have been approved by our board of directors. Those investment guidelines, as well as our financing strategy or hedging policies with respect to investments, originations, acquisitions, growth, operations, indebtedness, capitalization and distributions, may be changed at any time without the consent of our stockholders. This could result in an investment portfolio with a different risk profile. A change in our investment strategy may increase our exposure to interest rate risk, default risk and real estate market fluctuations. Furthermore, a change in our asset allocation could result in our making investments in asset categories different from those described in this report. These changes could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
We must manage our portfolio so that we do not become an investment company that is subject to regulation under the Investment Company Act.
We conduct our operations so that we are not required to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act. Under Section 3(a)(1)(C) of the Investment Company Act, a company is deemed to be an investment company if it 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 its total assets (exclusive of U.S. government securities and cash items) on an unconsolidated basis. “Investment securities” exclude (A) U.S. government securities, (B) securities issued by employees’ securities companies and (C) securities issued by majority-owned subsidiaries which (i) are not investment companies and (ii) are not relying on the exception from the definition of investment company under Section 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act. We conduct our operations so that we will not fall
 
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within the definition of investment company under Section 3(a)(1)(C) of the Investment Company Act, since less than 40% of our total assets (exclusive of U.S. government securities and cash items) on an unconsolidated basis will consist of “investment securities.”
To avoid the need to register as an investment company, the securities issued to us by any wholly owned or majority-owned subsidiaries that are excluded from the definition of investment company under Section 3(c)(1) or Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act, together with any other investment securities we may own, may not have a value in excess of 40% of the value of our total assets (exclusive of U.S. government securities and cash items) on an unconsolidated basis. While we monitor our holdings to ensure ongoing compliance with this test, there can be no assurance that we will be able to avoid the need to register as an investment company. This test limits the types of businesses in which we may engage through our subsidiaries. In addition, the assets we and our subsidiaries may originate or acquire are limited by the provisions of the Investment Company Act and the rules and regulations promulgated under the Investment Company Act, which may adversely affect our business.
We hold our assets primarily through direct or indirect wholly owned or majority-owned subsidiaries, certain of which are excluded from the definition of investment company pursuant to Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the Investment Company Act, which provides an exclusion for companies engaged primarily in acquiring mortgages and other liens on or interests in real estate. In order to qualify for this exclusion, such subsidiaries must maintain, on the basis of positions taken by the SEC’s Division of Investment Management, or the Division, in interpretive and
no-action
letters, a minimum of 55% of the value of their total assets in real property, mortgage loans and certain mezzanine loans and other assets that the Division in various
no-action
letters and other guidance has determined are the functional equivalent of liens on or interests in real estate, which we refer to as Qualifying Interests, and a minimum of 80% in Qualifying Interests and real estate-related assets. In the absence of SEC or Division guidance that supports the treatment of other investments as Qualifying Interests, we will treat those other investments appropriately as real estate-related assets or miscellaneous assets depending on the circumstances. With respect to our subsidiaries that maintain this exclusion or another exclusion or exception under the Investment Company Act (other than Section 3(c)(1) or Section 3(c)(7) thereof), our interests in these subsidiaries do not and will not constitute “investment securities.”
In August 2011, the SEC staff commenced an advance notice rulemaking initiative, indicating that it is reconsidering its interpretive policy under Section 3(c)(5)(C) and whether to advance rulemaking to define the basis for the exclusion. We cannot predict the outcome of this reconsideration or potential rulemaking initiative and its impact on our ability to rely on the exclusion. To the extent that the SEC or its staff provides more specific guidance regarding any of the matters bearing upon the requirements of Section 3(c)(5)(C) of the Investment Company Act, we may be required to adjust our strategy accordingly. Any additional guidance from the SEC or its staff could further inhibit our ability to pursue the strategies we have chosen.
Because registration as an investment company would significantly affect our ability to engage in certain transactions or be structured in the manner we currently are, we intend to conduct our business so that we will continue to satisfy the requirements to avoid regulation as an investment company. As a consequence of our seeking to maintain our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act on an ongoing basis, we and/or our subsidiaries may be restricted from making certain investments or may structure investments in a manner that would be less advantageous to us than would be the case in the absence of such requirements. In particular, a change in the value of any of our assets could negatively affect our ability to maintain our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act and cause the need for a restructuring of our investment portfolio. For example, these restrictions may limit our and our subsidiaries’ ability to invest directly in mortgage-backed securities that represent less than the entire ownership in a pool of senior loans, debt and equity tranches of securitizations and certain asset-backed securities,
non-controlling
equity interests in real estate companies or in assets not related to real estate; however, we and our subsidiaries may invest in such securities to a certain extent. In addition, seeking to maintain our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act may cause us and/or our subsidiaries to acquire or hold additional assets that we might not otherwise have
 
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acquired or held or dispose of investments that we and/or our subsidiaries might not have otherwise disposed of, which could result in higher costs or lower proceeds to us than we would have paid or received if we were not seeking to comply with such requirements. Thus, maintaining our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act may hinder our ability to operate solely on the basis of maximizing profits.
There can be no assurance that we and our subsidiaries will be able to successfully maintain our exemption from registration under the Investment Company Act. If it were established that we were an unregistered investment company, there would be a risk that we would be subject to monetary penalties and injunctive relief in an action brought by the SEC, that we would be unable to enforce contracts with third parties, that third parties could seek to obtain rescission of transactions undertaken during the period it was established that we were an unregistered investment company, and that we would be subject to limitations on corporate leverage that would have an adverse impact on our investment returns. In order to comply with provisions that allow us to avoid the consequences of registration under the Investment Company Act, we may need to forego otherwise attractive opportunities and limit the manner in which we conduct our operations. Therefore, compliance with the requirements of the Investment Company Act may hinder our ability to operate solely on the basis of maximizing profits. 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 borrowings), management, operations, transactions with affiliated persons (as defined in the Investment Company Act) and portfolio composition, including disclosure requirements and restrictions with respect to diversification and industry concentration and other matters. Compliance with the Investment Company Act would, accordingly, limit our ability to make certain investments and require us to significantly restructure our business plan, which could materially adversely affect our stock price, performance and ability to pay distributions to our stockholders.
Rapid changes in the values of our other real estate-related investments may make it more difficult for us to maintain our qualification as a REIT or exclusion from regulation under the Investment Company Act.
If the market value or income potential of real estate-related investments declines, we may need to increase our real estate investments and income and/or liquidate our
non-qualifying
assets in order to maintain our REIT qualification or exclusion from Investment Company Act regulation. 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 the REIT qualification and Investment Company Act considerations.
Changes in laws or regulations governing our operations, 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, subject us to increased competition or otherwise adversely affect our business.
The laws and regulations governing our operations, as well as their interpretation, may change from time to time, and new laws and regulations may be enacted. 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. Certain regulations enacted in the E.U., including without limitation the Market Abuse Regulation and the Securitization Regulation, impose additional compliance costs on us and may increase our financing costs. Furthermore, if regulatory capital requirements-whether under the Dodd-Frank Act, Basel III (i.e., the framework for a comprehensive set of capital and liquidity standards for internationally active banking organizations, which was adopted in June 2011 by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, an international body comprised of senior representatives of bank supervisory authorities and central banks from 27 countries, including the United States) or other regulatory
action-are
imposed on private lenders that provide us with funds, or were to be imposed on us,
 
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they or we may be required to limit, or increase the cost of, financing they provide to us or that we provide to others. Among other things, this could potentially increase our financing costs, reduce our ability to originate or acquire loans and reduce our liquidity or require us to sell assets at an inopportune time or price.
Various laws and regulations currently exist that restrict the investment activities of banks and certain other financial institutions but do not apply to us, which we believe creates opportunities for us to participate in certain investments that are not available to these more regulated institutions. However, in 2018, President Trump signed into law a bill easing the regulation and oversight of certain banks under the Dodd-Frank Act. The results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election could have further impacts on our industry if new legislative or regulatory reforms are adopted. We are unable to predict at this time the effect of any such reforms.
Over the last several years, there also has been an increase in regulatory attention to the extension of credit outside of the traditional banking sector, raising the possibility that some portion of the
non-bank
financial sector will be subject to new regulation. While it cannot be known at this time whether any regulation will be implemented or what form it will take, increased regulation of
non-bank
credit extension could negatively impact our operations, cash flows or financial condition, impose additional costs on us, intensify the regulatory supervision of us or otherwise adversely affect our business.
In addition, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, or ITRA, expands the scope of U.S. sanctions against Iran and Syria. In particular, Section 219 of the ITRA amended the Exchange Act to require companies subject to SEC reporting obligations under Section 13 of the Exchange Act to disclose in their periodic reports specified dealings or transactions involving Iran or other individuals and entities targeted by certain sanctions promulgated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, or Treasury, engaged in by the reporting company or any of its affiliates during the period covered by the relevant periodic report. These companies are required to separately file with the SEC a notice that such activities have been disclosed in the relevant periodic reports, and the SEC is required to post this notice of disclosure on its website and send the report to the U.S. President and certain U.S. Congressional committees. The U.S. President thereafter is required to initiate an investigation and, within 180 days of initiating such an investigation with respect to certain disclosed activities, to determine whether sanctions should be imposed. Disclosure of such activity, even if such activity is not subject to sanctions under applicable law, and any sanctions actually imposed on us or our affiliates as a result of these activities, could harm our reputation and have a negative impact on our business.
State and foreign licensing requirements will cause us to incur expenses and our failure to be properly licensed may have a material adverse effect on us and our operations.
Non-bank
companies are generally required to hold licenses in a number of U.S. states and foreign jurisdictions to conduct lending activities. These licensing statutes vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and prescribe or impose various recordkeeping requirements; restrictions on loan origination and servicing practices, including limits on finance charges and the type, amount and manner of charging fees; disclosure requirements; requirements that licensees submit to periodic examination; surety bond and minimum specified net worth requirements; periodic financial reporting requirements; notification requirements for changes in principal officers, stock ownership or corporate control; restrictions on advertising; and requirements that loan forms be submitted for review. Obtaining and maintaining licenses will cause us to incur expenses and failure to be properly licensed under such laws or otherwise may have a material adverse effect on us and our operations.
Actions of the U.S. government, including the U.S. Congress, Federal Reserve Board, Treasury and other governmental and regulatory bodies, to stabilize or reform the financial markets, or market response to those actions, may not achieve the intended effect and may adversely affect our business.
In July 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law, which imposes significant investment restrictions and capital requirements on banking entities and other organizations that are significant to U.S. financial stability. For
 
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instance, the
so-called
“Volcker Rule” provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act impose significant restrictions on the proprietary trading activities of banking entities and on their ability to sponsor or invest in private equity and hedge funds. It also subjects nonbank financial companies that have been designated as “systemically important” by the Financial Stability Oversight Council (“FSOC”) to increased capital requirements and quantitative limits for engaging in such activities, as well as consolidated supervision by the Federal Reserve Board. In December 2019, the FSOC issued interpretive guidance regarding the designation of nonbank financial companies as systemically important financial institutions, or SIFIs. This guidance implemented a number of reforms to the FSOC’s SIFI designation approach by shifting from an “entity-based” approach to an “activities-based” approach whereby the FSOC would primarily focus on regulating activities that pose systematic risk to the financial stability of the United States, rather than designations of individual firms. Under the final guidance, designation of an individual firm as a SIFI would only occur if, after engaging with the firm’s primary federal and state regulators, the FSOC determines that those regulators’ actions are inadequate to address the identified potential risk to U.S. financial stability. If such designation were to occur with respect to the, private equity industry, we could be subject to significantly increased levels of regulation, which includes, without limitation, a requirement to adopt heightened standards relating to capital, leverage, liquidity, risk management, credit exposure reporting and concentration limits, restrictions on acquisitions and being subject to annual stress tests by the Federal Reserve.
The Dodd-Frank Act also reformed the asset-backed securitization market (including the mortgage-backed securities market) by requiring the retention of a portion of the credit risk inherent in the pool of securitized assets and by imposing additional registration and disclosure requirements. Under the final credit risk retention rules issued in October 2014 by five federal banking and housing agencies and the SEC, which have since become effective with respect to all asset classes, sponsors of asset-backed securities are generally required to retain at least 5% of the credit risk relating to the assets that underlie such asset-backed securities. These rules could restrict credit availability and could negatively affect the terms and availability of credit to fund our investments. See “-Risks Related to Our Financing and
Hedging-We
have utilized and may utilize in the future
non-recourse
securitizations to finance our loans and investments, which may expose us to risks that could result in losses.” While the full impact of the Dodd-Frank Act cannot be fully assessed, the Dodd-Frank Act’s extensive requirements may have a significant effect on the financial markets and may affect the availability or terms of financing from our lender counterparties and the availability or terms of mortgage-backed securities, which may, in turn, have an adverse effect on our business.
On December 16, 2015, the CFTC published a final rule governing margin requirements for uncleared swaps entered into by registered swap dealers and major swap participants who are not supervised by the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Farm Credit Administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (collectively, the “Prudential Regulators”), referred to as “covered swap entities,” and such rule was amended on November 19, 2018. The final rule generally requires covered swap entities, subject to certain thresholds and exemptions, to collect and post margin in respect of uncleared swap transactions with other covered swap entities and financial
end-users.
In particular, the final rule requires covered swap entities and financial
end-users
having “material swaps exposure,” defined as an average aggregate daily notional amount of uncleared swaps exceeding a certain specified amount, to collect and/or post (as applicable) a minimum amount of “initial margin” in respect of each uncleared swap; the specified amounts for material swaps exposure differ subject to a
phase-in
schedule until September 1, 2020, when the average aggregate daily notional amount will thenceforth be $8 billion as calculated from June, July and August of the previous calendar year. On October 16, 2019, the CFTC proposed to extend the
phase-in
schedule until September 1, 2021 for entities with smaller average daily aggregate notional amounts of swaps and certain other financial products. In addition, the final rule requires covered swap entities entering into uncleared swaps with other covered swap entities or
financial-end
users, regardless of swaps exposure, to post and/or collect (as applicable) “variation margin” in reflection of changes in the
mark-to-market
value of an uncleared swap since the swap was executed or the last time such margin was exchanged. The CFTC final rule is broadly consistent with a similar rule requiring the exchange of initial and variation margin adopted by the Prudential Regulators in October 2015, as amended, which apply to registered swap dealers, major swap
 
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participants, security-based swap dealers and major security-based swap participants that are supervised by one or more of the Prudential Regulators. These rules on margin requirements for uncleared swaps could adversely affect our business, including our ability to enter such swaps or our available liquidity.
The current regulatory environment may be impacted by future legislative developments, such as amendments to key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, including provisions setting forth capital and risk retention requirements. For example, on May 24, 2018, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (the “Reform Act”) was signed into law. Among other regulatory changes, the Reform Act amends various sections of the Dodd-Frank Act, including by modifying the Volcker Rule to exempt depository institutions that do not have, and are not controlled by a company that has, more than $10 billion in total consolidated assets and significant trading assets and liabilities. In July 2019, U.S. federal regulatory agencies adopted amendments to the Volcker Rule regulations to implement the Volcker Rule amendments included in the Reform Act, and also in 2019 such U.S. federal regulatory agencies adopted certain targeted amendments to the Volcker Rule regulations to simplify and tailor certain compliance requirements relating to the Volcker Rule.
In June 2020, U.S. federal regulatory agencies adopted additional revisions to the Volcker Rule’s current restrictions on banking entities sponsoring and investing in certain covered hedge funds and private equity funds, including by adopting new exemptions allowing banking entities to sponsor and invest without limit in credit funds, venture capital funds, customer facilitation funds and family wealth management vehicles (the “Covered Fund Amendments”). The Covered Fund Amendments also loosen certain other restrictions on extraterritorial fund activities and direct parallel or
co-investments
made alongside covered funds. The Covered Fund Amendments should therefore expand the ability of banking entities to invest in and sponsor private funds. The ultimate consequences of the Reform Act and such regulatory developments on our business remain uncertain.
Financial services regulation, including regulations applicable to us, has increased significantly in recent years, and may in the future be subject to further enhanced governmental scrutiny and/or increased regulation, including resulting from changes in U.S. executive administration or Congressional leadership. Although we cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action in the United States or any other jurisdiction, changes to legal rules and regulations, or interpretation or enforcement of them, could have a negative financial effect on our business.
We depend on our Manager to develop appropriate systems and procedures to control operational risk.
Operational risks arising from mistakes made in the confirmation or settlement of transactions, from transactions not being properly booked, evaluated or accounted for or other similar disruption in our operations may cause us to suffer financial losses, the disruption of our business, liability to third parties, regulatory intervention or damage to our reputation. We depend on our Manager and its affiliates to develop the appropriate systems and procedures to control operational risk. We rely heavily on our financial, accounting and other data processing systems. The ability of our systems to accommodate transactions could also constrain our ability to properly manage our portfolio. Generally, our Manager will not be liable for losses incurred due to the occurrence of any such errors.
Operational risks, including the risk of cyberattacks, may disrupt our businesses, result in losses or limit our growth.
We rely heavily on our and Blackstone’s financial, accounting, treasury, communications and other data processing systems. Such systems may fail to operate properly or become disabled as a result of tampering or a breach of the network security systems or otherwise. In addition, such systems are from time to time subject to cyberattacks, which may continue to increase in sophistication and frequency in the future. Attacks on Blackstone and its affiliates and their portfolio companies’ and service providers’ systems could involve, and in some instances have in the past involved, attempts that are intended to obtain unauthorized access to our proprietary information or personal identifying information of our stockholders, destroy data or disable, degrade or sabotage our systems, including through the introduction of computer viruses and other malicious code.
 
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Cybersecurity incidents and cyber-attacks have been occurring globally at a more frequent and severe level and will likely continue to increase in frequency in the future. Our information and technology systems as well as those of Blackstone, its portfolio entities and other related parties, such as service providers, may be vulnerable to damage or interruption from cyber security breaches, computer viruses or other malicious code, network failures, computer and telecommunication failures, infiltration by unauthorized persons and other security breaches, usage errors by their respective professionals or service providers, power, communications or other service outages and catastrophic events such as fires, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. Cyberattacks and other security threats could originate from a wide variety of sources, including cyber criminals, nation state hackers, hacktivists and other outside parties. There has been an increase in the frequency and sophistication of the cyber and security threats Blackstone faces, with attacks ranging from those common to businesses generally to those that are more advanced and persistent, which may target Blackstone because Blackstone holds a significant amount of confidential and sensitive information about its and our investors, its portfolio companies and potential investments. As a result, we and Blackstone may face a heightened risk of a security breach or disruption with respect to this information. If successful, these types of attacks on our or Blackstone’s network or other systems could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations, due to, among other things, the loss of investor or proprietary data, interruptions or delays in the operation of our business and damage to our reputation. There can be no assurance that measures Blackstone takes to ensure the integrity of its systems will provide protection, especially because cyberattack techniques used change frequently or are not recognized until successful.
If unauthorized parties gain access to such information and technology systems, they may be able to steal, publish, delete or modify private and sensitive information, including nonpublic personal information related to shareholders (and their beneficial owners) and material nonpublic information. Although Blackstone has implemented, and its portfolio entities and service providers may implement, various measures to manage risks relating to these types of events, such systems could prove to be inadequate and, if compromised, could become inoperable for extended periods of time, cease to function properly or fail to adequately secure private information. Blackstone does not control the cyber security plans and systems put in place by third party service providers, and such third party service providers may have limited indemnification obligations to Blackstone, its portfolio entities and us, each of which could be negatively impacted as a result. Breaches such as those involving covertly introduced malware, impersonation of authorized users and industrial or other espionage may not be identified even with sophisticated prevention and detection systems, potentially resulting in further harm and preventing them from being addressed appropriately. The failure of these systems or of disaster recovery plans for any reason could cause significant interruptions in Blackstone’s, its affiliates’, their portfolio entities’ or our operations and result in a failure to maintain the security, confidentiality or privacy of sensitive data, including personal information relating to shareholders, material nonpublic information and the intellectual property and trade secrets and other sensitive information in the possession of Blackstone and portfolio entities. We, Blackstone or a portfolio entity could be required to make a significant investment to remedy the effects of any such failures, harm to their reputations, legal claims that they and their respective affiliates may be subjected to, regulatory action or enforcement arising out of applicable privacy and other laws, adverse publicity and other events that may affect their business and financial performance.
In addition, Blackstone operates in businesses that are highly dependent on information systems and technology. The costs related to cyber or other security threats or disruptions may not be fully insured or indemnified by other means. In addition, cybersecurity has become a top priority for regulators around the world. Many jurisdictions in which we and Blackstone operate have laws and regulations relating to data privacy, cybersecurity and protection of personal information, including the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union that went into effect in May 2018 and the California Consumer Privacy Act that became effective of January 1, 2020. Some jurisdictions have also enacted laws requiring companies to notify individuals of data security breaches involving certain types of personal data. Breaches in security could potentially jeopardize our or Blackstone’s, its employees’, or our investors’ or counterparties’ confidential and other information processed and stored in, and transmitted through, our or Blackstone’s computer systems and networks, or otherwise cause interruptions or malfunctions in our or Blackstone’s, its employees’, or our investors’, our counterparties’ or third parties’ operations, which could result in
 
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significant losses, increased costs, disruption of our business, liability to our investors and other counterparties, regulatory intervention or reputational damage. Furthermore, if we or Blackstone fail to comply with the relevant laws and regulations, it could result in regulatory investigations and penalties, which could lead to negative publicity and may cause our investors or Blackstone’s fund investors and clients to lose confidence in the effectiveness of our or Blackstone’s security measures.
Finally, we depend on our headquarters in New York City, where most of our Manager’s personnel are located, for the continued operation of our business. A disaster or a disruption in the infrastructure that supports our business, including a disruption involving electronic communications or other services used by us or third parties with whom we conduct business, or directly affecting our headquarters, could have a material adverse impact on our ability to continue to operate our business without interruption. Blackstone’s disaster recovery programs may not be sufficient to mitigate the harm that may result from such a disaster or disruption. In addition, insurance and other safeguards might only partially reimburse us for our losses, if at all.
Accounting rules for certain of our transactions are highly complex and involve significant judgment and assumptions. Changes in accounting interpretations or assumptions could impact our ability to timely prepare consolidated financial statements.
Accounting rules for transfers of financial assets, securitization transactions, consolidation of variable interest entities, loan loss reserves and other aspects of our operations are highly complex and involve significant judgment and assumptions. These complexities could lead to a delay in preparation of financial information and the delivery of this information to our stockholders. Changes in accounting interpretations or assumptions could impact our consolidated financial statements and our ability to timely prepare our consolidated financial statements. Our inability to timely prepare our consolidated financial statements in the future would likely have a significant adverse effect on our stock price.
Risks Related to our REIT Status and Certain Other Tax Items
If we do not maintain our qualification as a REIT, we will be subject to tax as a regular corporation and could face a substantial tax liability. Our taxable REIT subsidiaries are subject to income tax.
We expect to continue to operate so as to qualify as a REIT under the Internal Revenue Code. However, qualification as a REIT involves the application of highly technical and complex Internal Revenue Code provisions for which only a limited number of judicial or administrative interpretations exist. Notwithstanding the availability of cure provisions in the Internal Revenue Code, we could fail to meet various compliance requirements, which could jeopardize our REIT status. Furthermore, new tax legislation, administrative guidance or court decisions, in each instance potentially with retroactive effect, could make it more difficult or impossible for us to continue to qualify as a REIT. If we fail to qualify as a REIT in any tax year, then:
 
   
we would be taxed as a regular domestic corporation, which under current laws, among other things, means being unable to deduct distributions to stockholders in computing taxable income and being subject to federal income tax on our taxable income at regular corporate income tax rates;
 
   
any resulting tax liability could be substantial and could have a material adverse effect on our book value;
 
   
unless we were entitled to relief under applicable statutory provisions, we would be required to pay taxes, and therefore, our cash available for distribution to stockholders would be reduced for each of the years during which we did not qualify as a REIT and for which we had taxable income; and
 
   
we generally would not be eligible to requalify as a REIT for the subsequent four full taxable years.
REITs, in certain circumstances, may incur tax liabilities that would reduce our cash available for distribution to our stockholders.
Even if we qualify and maintain our status as a REIT, we may become subject to U.S. federal income taxes and related state, local and foreign taxes. For example, net income from the sale of properties that are “dealer”