Investment Fund Law Blog

InvestmentFundLawBlog

Updates and Insights on Legal Issues Facing Fund Managers and Investors

Insider Trading – The Friends and Family Edition

Posted in Broker-Dealers, Investment Advisers

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), on March 31, 2014, announced insider trading charges against two men who allegedly traded on information they overheard from their respective wives.  On April 3, 2014, the SEC announced charges against two friends who traded tips related to an impending acquisition deal.  The spouse cases and friend cases differ with respect to the culpability of the tipper.  In the friend cases, the tipper and the tippees were all aware that they were breaching their duties to maintain the information and not trade on it.  In the spouse cases, the wives were unaware of their husbands’ intentions and actions and had previously informed their husbands of the prohibition on trading on any information gleaned from them.

Friends

The SEC has charged three friends who worked together to trade on nonpublic information related to the acquisition of The Shaw Group by Chicago Bridge & Iron Company.  John W. Femenia was employed by a major investment bank from which he obtained the information about the impending acquisition.  Femenia told his friend Walter D. Wagner the nonpublic information and Wagner passed that information along to Alexander J. Osborn.  Osborn and Wagner proceeded to invest substantially all of their liquid assets based on the information from Femenia.  When the public announcement was made, Wagner and Osborn profited approximately $1 million collectively.

Femenia was charged in December 2012 for knowingly being the source of nonpublic information to a whole insider trading ring.

Wagner settled with the SEC by disgorging all illicit profits and a parallel criminal action against him was announced on April 3rd. The SEC case against Osborn is ongoing.

Family

The SEC charged two men with insider trading, in unrelated cases, for illegally trading on information they obtained from their wives. In each case, the husband overheard his wife on a business call in which market moving information was discussed. The SEC found that both men were aware of the prohibition on trading on the information obtained from their spouses and knowingly violated the duty and profited from the information.

Both men have settled their cases with the SEC and each has agreed to pay more than double the profits realized.

The lessons from these cases apply to any person who may obtain material nonpublic information about public entities that they have a duty to protect. Investment advisers and broker-dealers should be sure their insider trading training and policies address the friends and family issue directly. Employers should remind their employees to be cognizant of who can overhear their phone conversations or potentially see their written communication with clients or co-workers and take as many precautions as practicable to prevent the insider information from being used illegally.

SEC to Examine Advisers and Brokers for Cybersecurity Preparedness

Posted in Broker-Dealers, Investment Advisers

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) previously announced that its 2014 Examination Priorities included a focus on technology, including cybersecurity preparedness.  In connection with that statement of examination priority, OCIE recently issued a Risk Alert to provide additional information concerning its initiative to assess cybersecurity preparedness in the securities industry.

As part of this initiative, OCIE will conduct examinations of more than 50 registered broker-dealers and registered investment advisers focused on the following:

  • the entity’s cybersecurity governance,
  • identification and assessment of cybersecurity risks,
  • protection of networks and information,
  • risks associated with remote customer access and funds transfer requests,
  • risks associated with vendors and other third parties,
  • detection of unauthorized activity, and
  • experiences with certain cybersecurity threats.

OCIE has provided a sample form of request for information and documents that investment advisers and broker dealers can expect to receive prior to this type of examination.

Although the SEC has stated that they believe the sample document request (see Appendix) should help to empower compliance professionals with questions and tools they can use to assess their firms’ level of preparedness, registrants should also expect the SEC to use the sample document as a basis for finding deficiencies, to the extent the guidance is not followed.

Financial Markets Association’s 2014 Securities Compliance Seminar- April 23-25

Posted in Events, Guest Post

The Financial Markets Association is hosting its annual Securities Compliance Seminar in Nashville, TN on April 23-25,2014.  This seminar is intensive training for intermediate as well as seasoned compliance specialists, internal auditors, attorneys, and regulators that focuses on current compliance topics, new rules or interpretations and regulatory developments, including a Dodd-Frank regulatory update.  The seminar gives attendees the opportunity to sharpen their skills through general and breakout sessions.  Satisfy CLE/CPE requirements.

Click HERE to view the complete program.

The brochure is also available on FMA’s website, www.fmaweb.org

New Custody Compliance Tasks for California Registered Advisers Effective April 1

Posted in Advisory, Investment Advisers, Private Funds

Written by: Ildiko Duckor

The California Commissioner of Business Oversight (“Commissioner”) recently amended California’s custody rule 10 C.C.R. Section 260.237 (the “New Custody Rule”).  The New Custody Rule will be effective on April 1, 2014.

All investment advisers licensed or required to be licensed in California must comply with the New Custody Rule.  California Exempt Reporting Advisers are not affected.

What is “having custody?”

Holding or having authority to obtain possession of client funds or securities, for example:

  • Possession of client funds or securities unless received inadvertently and returned to the sender promptly.
  • Any arrangement (such as a general power of attorney) that authorizes you to withdraw client funds or securities maintained with a custodian by instructing the custodian.
  • Any capacity with authority to access to client funds or securities (such as general partner of a limited partnership, managing member of a limited liability company or trustee of a trust).

If you “have custody” of assets.

  • Qualified Custodian.  You must maintain those assets with a “qualified custodian” such as a bank, trustee, or prime broker.
  • Notice on ADV.  You must notify the Commissioner on your ADV that you have or may have custody.
  • Notice to Clients*. You must notify your client in writing of the custodian’s name and address, and the manner in which the assets are maintained, and any changes to this information.
  • Quarterly Custodian’s Account Statement*.  You must reasonably ascertain that the custodian sends quarterly account statements with specific information to each client (for example, by being cc-d on electronic statements the custodian sends).
  • Surprise Exam*.  You must retain a CPA (by written agreement) to have an annual “surprise exam” of client assets, and report the examination and any resignation of the CPA on your ADV.
  • Internal Control Report.  If you or your affiliate serves as the qualified custodian:
    • The CPA firm conducting the surprise exam must be registered with and subject to examination by the PCAOB.
    • You must obtain an annual internal control report with specified content.
  • Exceptions.  There are certain exceptions from some of the New Custody Rule’s requirements for mutual fund shares, certain private securities, and for advisers that “have custody” only because they deduct fees (if certain conditions are also satisfied).

Fund Managers’ Obligations.

If you are a general partner of an investment limited partnership or a managing member of a limited liability company (or are in a similar position with respect to a pooled fund vehicle):

  • Quarterly Investor Account Statement.  You must send to all fund investors quarterly account statements showing:
    • the total amount of all additions to and withdrawals from the fund,
    • a listing of all additions to and withdrawals from the fund by an investor,
    • the opening and closing value of the fund at the end of the quarter,
    • the total value of an investor’s interest in the fund at the end of the quarter, and
    • a listing of securities positions on the closing date of the statement pursuant to FASB Accounting Standards Codification 946-210-50-4 through 6.
  • Independent Expense Verification*.  You must retain (by written agreement) an independent accountant or attorney obligated to act in your investors’ best interests and send him/her all invoices or receipts with details regarding calculations, so the independent person can:
    • review all fees, expenses and withdrawals from the fund,
    • determine that payments conform to the fund agreement, and
    • forward to the custodian approval for payments of the invoices.
  • Audited Fund Exceptions*.  You need not comply with the following requirements:  Notice to Clients, Quarterly Custodian’s Account Statement, Surprise Exam and Independent Expense Verification; if:
    • Your fund is audited annually, in accordance with GAAP, by an independent CPA registered with and subject to examination by the PCAOB.
    • The audited financials are distributed to all investors and the Commissioner within 120 days of the end of the fund’s fiscal year.
    • A final liquidation audit is performed, in accordance with GAAP, upon the fund’s liquidation, and the audited financials are distributed to investors and the Commissioner promptly upon completion of the audit.
    • The independent CPA is required by agreement to notify the Commissioner on Form ADV if it resigns or is terminated.
    • You notify the Commissioner that you intend to use the audit exception route.

For further details and interpretation of the intricacies of the New Custody Rule as they apply to you, please contact your Pillsbury Investment Funds and Investment Management team member.

FINRA Proposes Broker Hiring Bonus Disclosure Rule to SEC

Posted in Broker-Dealers

Written by: Jessica M. Brown and Jay B. Gould

On March 10, 2014, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) submitted a proposed rule to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) that would require disclosure to certain clients and FINRA regarding the details of a broker-dealer representative’s financial recruiting incentives (the “Proposed Rule”). The Proposed Rule is intended to ensure that the former clients of a representative who has changed firms are aware of: (i) the recruitment compensation that induced the representative to change firms, and (ii) all of the costs and potential risks associated with transferring their assets to the new firm (the “Recruiting Firm”). In addition to disclosures to clients, the Proposed Rule would require the Recruiting Firm to report to FINRA at the beginning of a representative’s employment, any significant total compensation increases the representative will receive in the first year, compared to the representative’s compensation the prior year.

Under the Proposed Rule, if a Recruiting Firm directly or through the representative, tries to induce the representative’s clients from a prior firm to transfer assets to the Recruiting Firm, the Recruiting Firm would be required to disclose to the potential client if the representative has received, or will receive, $100,000 or more in either (i) aggregate “upfront payments” or (ii) aggregate “potential future payments.” Upfront payments include compensation received upon commencement of association or specified amounts guaranteed to be paid at a future date (e.g. cash, deferred cash bonus, transition assistance, forgivable loans, equity awards, loan-bonus arrangements, or ownership interests. Potential future payments include those offered as a financial incentive contingent upon the representative meeting performance-based goals, allowance for additional travel or expense reimbursement in excess to what is typical for similarly situated representatives, or a commission schedule for a representative who is paid on a commission basis in excess of what is typically provided to similarly situated representatives.  Where the Recruiting Firm partnered with another entity, such as an investment adviser or insurance company, to recruit a representative, the disclosed upfront payments and potential future payments would include any payments from those third parties connected to the recruitment.

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The CFTC and Japan’s FSA Sign Cross-Border Agreement

Posted in Investment Advisers, Private Funds

On March 10, 2014, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Financial Services Agency of Japan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation which expresses the agencies’ intent to work together to supervise and oversee regulated entities that operate on a cross-border basis in Japan and the United States.  The agencies intend to cooperate in the interest of their respective derivative market regulations. The full text of the Memorandum can be found here.

The CFTC and Japan’s FSA Sign Cross-Border Agreement

Posted in Investment Advisers, Private Funds

Written by:  Jessica M. Brown and Michael G. Wu

On March 10, 2014, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Financial Services Agency of Japan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation which expresses the agencies’ intent to work together to supervise and oversee regulated entities that operate on a cross-border basis in Japan and the United States.  The agencies intend to cooperate in the interest of their respective derivative market regulations. The full text of the Memorandum can be found here.

SEC Risk Alert: Selecting Alternative Investments and Their Managers

Posted in Investment Advisers, Private Funds

Written by:  Jay B. Gould and Jessica M. Brown

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations released a “Risk Alert” on January 28, 2014, which focuses on the due diligence investment advisers perform in alternative investments[1] and managers for their clients. After observing an increasing trend in advisers recommending alternative investments to their clients, the SEC examined a group of SEC-registered investment advisers, who collectively manage more than $2 trillion. The purpose of the examination and the Risk Alert is to review how the advisers perform due diligence, utilize investment teams to review fund structures and complex investment strategies, and identify, control and disclose conflicts of interest.

While the Risk Alert focuses on the narrow market segment of advisers who recommend to their clients discretionary investments in alternative investments managed by outside advisers/managers, the recommendations and due diligence practices can serve as practical guidance for all investment advisers and fund managers.

Observations

The SEC notes four primary trends in the due diligence that advisers perform on alternative investments and their managers:

  1. Position-level transparency and client risk mitigation
  2. Use of third parties to supplement and validate information provided by managers
  3. Quantitative analyses and risk measures on the investment and managers
  4. Enhancing and expanding due diligence teams and policies

Warning Indicators

The SEC notes a number of red flags that advisers find with respect to managers that warrant additional due diligence. These warning signs include:

  • managers who refuse transparency requests;
  • performance returns that conflict with factors known to be associated with the manager’s strategy;
  • unclear investment and research process;
  • lack of a sufficient control environment and separation of duties between the business and investment units;
  • portfolio holdings that conflict with a purported strategy;
  • insufficiently knowledgeable personnel to carry out the strategy intended to be implemented;
  • changes in manager investment style;
  • investments that are overly complex or opaque;
  • lack of third-party administrator;
  • inexperienced auditor;
  • repeated changes in service providers;
  • unfavorable background check results;
  • discovery of undisclosed conflicts of interest;
  • insufficient compliance or operational programs; and
  • lack of sufficient fair valuation process.

Advisers should review whether their due diligence process identifies these warning indicators and whether there are additional warning indicators they should consider to meet their fiduciary obligations. 

Adviser Compliance Practices

The SEC identifies the areas in which they found material deficiencies or control weaknesses with the investment advisers. Based on the deficiencies the SEC identifies, advisers who recommend alternative investments should ensure:

  • the due diligence policies and procedures for alternative investments/managers are reviewed annually;
  • disclosures made to clients do not deviate from actual practices, are consistent with fiduciary principles and describe any notable exceptions to the adviser’s typical due diligence process;
  • marketing materials are not misleading or unsubstantiated regarding the scope and depth of the due diligence process;
  • due diligence processes are written policies that contain sufficient detail and require adequate documentation; and
  • if responsibilities are delegated to third-party service providers, periodic reviews of those service providers’ adherence to their agreements.

Conclusion

The SEC reminds advisers that they are fiduciaries and must act in the best interest of their clients. In order to meet their fiduciary obligations when selecting alternative investments for clients, an adviser must evaluate whether such investment meets the client’s investment objectives and is consistent with the strategies and principles of investment presented to the adviser by the manager.

While the Risk Alert focuses on a narrow market segment of advisers, the recommendations and due diligence practices have a broader application. Any SEC-registered adviser, exempt reporting adviser or state-registered adviser can review their own operational due diligence policies and procedures to see if they can be bolstered by incorporating any of the recommendations contained in the Risk Alert. Further, managers of alternative investments should consider whether any of their practices or policies are included in the list of warning indicators and make the changes necessary to smoothly pass an adviser’s due diligence process.


[1] Included in the SEC’s definition of “alternative investments” are hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital funds, real estate funds, funds of private funds, and other private funds.

Reminder- March 3rd Deadline for Annual CFTC Exemption Affirmation

Posted in Investment Advisers, Private Funds

The annual affirmation process started on December 3, 2013. Advisers who relied on an exemption or exclusion from CPO registration under CFTC Regulation 4.5, 4.13(a)(1), 4.13(a)(2), 4.13(a)(3), 4.13(a)(5) or an exemption from CTA registration under 4.14(a)(8) and filed a notice with the NFA must affirm the exemption or exclusion annually within 60 days after the end of the calendar year. Failure to affirm the exemption or exclusion will result in the exemption or exclusion being withdrawn at the end of the affirmation period. Accordingly, those who filed a notice of exemption or exclusion in 2013 have until March 3, 2014 to affirm the exemption or exclusion or face losing their exemption or exclusion. Those who filed a notice of exemption or exclusion during the affirmation period of December 3, 2013 to March 3, 2014 will not need to affirm until the 2014 calendar year end. To obtain information about the annual affirmation process and filing, please visit the NFA website.

California’s New LLC Law: Next Steps for California LLCs

Posted in Advisory, Investment Advisers, Private Funds

If your management company or fund was formed as a California limited liability company, you need to review your Operating Agreement to determine whether amendments need to be made.

On January 1, 2014, California’s Beverly-Killea Limited Liability Company Act (Old Act) was superseded by the California Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (New Act). The New Act includes a number of substantive changes that may adversely affect existing California limited liability companies unless they amend their operating agreements.

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