Articles Posted in Broker Dealers

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The global compliance deadline for implementation of variation margin requirements for uncleared swap transactions is March 1, 2017.  Unless an exception is available, the rules generally require swap dealers to collect and post variation margin with no credit threshold.  The rules require the parties to enter into new or amended credit support documentation, limit the types of collateral that may be posted, prescribe minimum transfer amounts and effectively require new operational processes to be put in place.  Moreover, different rules can apply depending on who the swap dealer’s regulator is and/or the jurisdiction of the counterparty.  Not surprisingly, many market participants, particularly smaller financial firms, buy-side firms, asset managers, pension funds and insurance companies are unlikely to be compliant by the March 1 deadline.  This has caused immense consternation among buy-side market participants who feared that they would be unable to trade until they came into compliance.

On February 23, 2017, following requests from numerous trade associations, U.S. banking regulators and IOSCO, the umbrella body for global securities regulators, issued statements encouraging leniency in enforcement of the documentation requirements.  More specifically, the Federal Reserve provided guidance to examiners of CFTC-registered swap dealers that, except for transactions with financial end users that present “significant exposures” (which must still comply with the March 1 deadline), examiners should focus on swap dealer’s good faith efforts to comply as soon as possible but no later than September 1, 2017.   Similarly, though less explicitly, IOSCO issued a statement that, while it expects all parties to make every effort to meet the March 1 deadline, it believes that the global regulators should take “appropriate measures … to ensure fair and orderly markets during the introduction and application of such variation margin requirements.”   These statements follow the release by the CFTC on February 13, 2017 of a time-limited no-action letter delaying compliance by swap dealers under their jurisdiction until September 1, 2017.

There are a number of paths to compliance for buy-side firms, including negotiating bilateral agreements or amendments directly with swap dealers or using an industry-wide questionnaire-style protocol developed by ISDA and available through their ISDA Amend automated service run jointly with Markit.

If you have questions regarding the current deadlines or need assistance with compliance, please contact our derivatives partner, Daniel Budofsky (daniel.budofsky@pillsburylaw.com), or your regular Pillsbury contact.

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The CFTC has approved a final rule that removes reporting and recordkeeping requirements for trade option counterparties that are neither swap dealers nor major swap participants (Non-SD/MSPs). The removal of the reporting requirements also applies to commercial end users transacting in trade options connected to their business.

Regarding the reporting requirement, the annual notice reporting requirement for otherwise unreported trade options under CFTC regulation 32.3(b) has been eliminated from Form TO. Additionally, the position limit requirements referenced in regulation 32.3(c) have been eliminated.

Regarding the recordkeeping requirement, the swap-related recordkeeping requirements for Non-SD/MSPs stemming from their trade option activities have been eliminated. However, Non-SD/MSPs that transact in trade options with swap dealers or major swap participants must obtain a legal entity identifier and provide it to their swap dealer or major swap participant counterparties.

Once the Trade Options Final Rule becomes effective, upon publication of the final rule in the Federal Register, CFTC No-Action Letter 13-08 which provides conditional relief for trade option counterparties that are Non-SD/MSPs from certain swap related recordkeeping and reporting requirements will be withdrawn.

The full CFTC release can be read here.

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On January 11, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) of the SEC announced its 2016 Examination Priorities (“Priorities”). To promote compliance, prevent fraud and identify market risk, OCIE examines investment advisers, investment companies, broker-dealers, municipal advisors, transfer agents, clearing agencies, and other regulated entities. In 2016, OCIE will continue to rely on the SEC’s sophisticated data analytics tools to identify potential illegal activity.

This year, private fund advisers should pay attention to the following OCIE Priorities:

  • Side-by-side management of performance-based and asset-based fee accounts: controls and disclosure related to fees and expenses
  • Cybersecurity: testing and assessments of firms’ implementation of procedures and controls
  • High frequency trading: excessive or inappropriate trading
  • Liquidity controls: potentially illiquid fixed income securities – focus on controls over market risk management, valuation, liquidity management, trading activities
  • Marketing / Advertisements: new, complex, and high risk products, including potential breaches of fiduciary obligations
  • Compliance controls: focus on repeat offenders and those with disciplined employees

Highlights for other market participants:

  • Never-Before-Examined Investment Advisers and Investment Companies: focused, risk-based examinations will continue
  • Broker-Dealers:
    • Marketing / Advertisements: new, complex, and high risk products and related sales practices, including potential suitability issues
    • Fee selection / Reverse Churning: multiple fee arrangements – recommendations of account types, including suitability, fees charged, services provided, and disclosures
    • Market Manipulation: pump and dump; OTC quotes; excessive trading
    • Cybersecurity: testing and assessments of firms’ implementation of procedures and controls
    • Anti-Money Laundering: missed SARs filings; adequacy of independent testing; terrorist financing risks
    • Registered representatives in branch offices – focus on inappropriate trading
    • Retirement Accounts: suitability, conflicts of interest, supervision and compliance controls, and marketing and disclosure practices
  • Public Pension Advisers: pay to play, gifts and entertainment
  • Mutual Funds and ETFs: liquidity controls – potentially illiquid fixed income securities
  • Immigrant Investor Program: Regulation D and other private placement compliance

For additional details, visit the SEC’s Examination Priorities for 2016. Please call an Investment Funds and Investment Management Attorney to discuss your firm’s risk areas.

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On November 18, 2015, the staff from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (“CFTC”) Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight issued a swap dealer de minimis exception preliminary report (“Preliminary Report”).

The Preliminary Report was issued pursuant to the SEC and CFTC joint regulation defining the term “swap dealer” and providing for a de minimis exception to the swap dealer definition. Under the regulation, a person shall not be deemed to be a swap dealer unless its swap dealing activity exceeds an aggregate gross notional amount threshold of $3 billion (measured over the prior 12-month period), subject to a phase-in period during which the gross notional amount threshold is set at $8 billion. Under the terms of the regulation, the phase-in period will terminate on December 31, 2017, and the de minimis threshold will fall to $3 billion, unless the CFTC sets a different termination date for the phase-in period or modifies the de minimis exception.

The Preliminary Report discusses:

  • Relevant statutory and regulatory provisions defining the term “swap dealer” and implementing the de minimis exception.
  • Data considered in preparing the Preliminary Report.
  • Policies underlying swap dealer registration and regulation and the de minimis exception that form the basis for evaluating the swap market data.
  • Data in light of alternative approaches to a de minimis exception.

Comments on the Preliminary Report must be submitted on or before January 19, 2016 and may be submitted electronically via the CFTC’s Comment Online Process. The staff will complete and publish for public comment a final report after considering the comments it receives on the Preliminary Report.

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The SEC’s final crowdfunding rules, which are largely consistent with the proposed rules, provide broader access to capital for startups and small businesses, though concerns over cumbersome disclosure and regulatory requirements persist.

On October 30, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to adopt final rules implementing Title III of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act), known as “crowdfunding”. The final rules, to be codified as “Regulation Crowdfunding” in furtherance of Section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act of 1933, are expected to become effective in May 2016. A copy of the final rules can be found here.

Regulation Crowdfunding will allow smaller, non-public U.S. companies to raise up to $1 million in any 12-month period by selling securities over the Internet (including through apps and other technologies) to individual investors who are not required to meet any sophistication or wealth standards, but will be subject to relatively small investment limits.

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Read this article and additional publications at pillsburylaw.com/publications-and-presentations.  You can also download a copy of the Client Alert.

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On October 30, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted Regulation Crowdfunding. The final rule permits companies to offer and sell securities through crowdfunding. The “Regulation Crowdfunding Exemption” is created under Section 4(a)(6), Title III of the JOBS Act.

The key features of the final rules

  1. Permit individuals to purchase securities in crowdfunding offerings subject to certain limits:
    • A company is permitted to raise a maximum aggregate amount of $1 million through crowdfunding offerings in a 12-month period.
    • Individuals are permitted, over a 12-month period, to invest in the aggregate across all crowdfunding offerings up to:
      • The greater of $2,000 or 5% of the lesser of their annual income or net worth, if either their annual income or net worth is less than $100,000.
      • 10% of the lesser of their annual income or net worth, if both their annual income and net worth are equal to or more than $100,000.
    • The aggregate amount of securities sold to an investor through all crowdfunding offerings may not exceed $100,000.
  1. Require companies to disclose certain information about their business and securities offering and to file an annual report with the SEC and provide it to investors.
  2. Create regulatory framework for the broker-dealers and funding portals that facilitate the crowdfunding transactions. A funding portal is required to register with the SEC and become a FINRA member. A company relying on the Regulation Crowdfunding Exemption is required to conduct its offering exclusively through one intermediary platform at a time.

In addition, the SEC is proposing to amend the existing Securities Act Rule 147 and Rule 504. Rule 147 would be amended to, among other things, permit companies to raise money from investors within their state (intrastate offering) without registering the offers and sales with the SEC. Rule 504 would be amended to increase the aggregate amount of securities that may be offered and sold in any 12-month period from $1 million to $5 million. Bad actor disqualification would also apply in Rule 504 offerings.

A full copy of the final rules is available HERE.

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U.S. Investment advisers, other financial services providers, and pooled investment vehicles – private and public funds – involved in certain cross-border transactions must file.

Background

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (“BEA”) is conducting its next five-year “Benchmark Survey of U.S. Financial Services Providers and Foreign Persons” on Form BE-180. The survey is mandatory and collects data on cross-border trade and financial services transactions of U.S. financial services providers, including investment advisers and other asset managers, broker-dealers and banks. BE-180 covers cross-border purchase and sales transactions that occurred or were charged during the U.S. reporter’s 2014 fiscal year. BE-180 is one of a series of benchmark surveys[1] measuring international trade transactions and collecting data for use in various economic studies.

Who Is Required to Report

Each U.S. individual and entity that is a “financial services provider” and meets the reporting requirements must file form BE-180. Financial services providers include investment advisers and their pooled vehicles such as hedge funds, private equity funds, pension funds, mutual funds and real estate funds, and broker-dealers.[2]

Filing Thresholds

The reporting requirement applies to each U.S. individual or entity that is a financial services provider with (i) either[3] sales or purchases directly with non-U.S. individuals or entities in excess of $3 million or more on a consolidated basis during the 2014 fiscal year, or (ii) sales or purchases directly with non-U.S. individuals or entities of less than $3 million, that were notified by the BEA about the survey. Any U.S. individual or entity that is notified by the BEA about the survey but has no transactions of the types of services covered must complete pages 1-3 of the survey.

Reportable Transactions

Reportable financial transactions include investment management and advisory services, brokerage services, underwriting, custodial services, credit-related services, securities lending, and electronic funds transfer services – transactions involving cross-border payments, such as advisory or sub-advisory fees, brokerage commissions, custodial fees and securities lending fees.

Reportable data include the transactional counterparty’s location by country and the relationship between the U.S. reporter and its counterparty (i.e., foreign affiliates or unaffiliated foreign persons). You may have easy access to some of the required data (such as through your administrator or internal accounting systems). However, as with the other BE forms, obtaining some of the required information may involve additional legwork and cooperation with cross-border counterparties, which should be considered in meeting the deadlines.

Filing Deadline and Extensions

The BEA has granted automatic extensions to the original October 1 filing deadline, as follows:

File no later than November 1, 2015 if:

  • You were notified of the BE-180 survey by BEA and have a BE-180 identification number below 140012490.
  • You were NOT notified of the BE-180 survey by BEA and do NOT have a BE-180 identification number.

File no later than December 1, 2015 if:

  • You were notified of the BE-180 survey by BEA and have a BE-180 identification number above 140012490.

Additional extensions to each filing deadline will be granted by the BEA if a request is submitted by November 1, 2015 as instructed by the BEA.

Penalties

Failure to file a required report can lead to civil and criminal penalties.

Confidential Treatment

Like it is the case with the other BE forms, information reported on BE-180 is confidential and may be used for only analytical or statistical purposes.

Sources

Form BE-180 is available online here.

Instructions for new filers are available here.

Form instructions are available here.

FAQs regarding the BE-180 benchmark survey are available here.

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[1] See our alerts and articles on other BEA survey forms here.

[2] Additional entities included in the definition are commercial banking entities, bank holding companies, financial holding companies, savings institutions, check cashing and debit card issuing entities, underwriters, investment bankers, providers of securities custody services, insurance carriers, insurance agents, insurance brokers, and insurance services providers.

[3] The $3 million threshold applies to purchases and sales separately, and must be reported on separate schedules to the BE-180. Consequently, a U.S. reporter, for example, that only exceeds the threshold for sales but does not reach the threshold for purchases, is only required to complete the schedule relating to sales.

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Chair Mary Jo White’s remarks on August 5, 2015 highlighted the SEC’s continuing implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act. Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act requires the SEC and CFTC to establish a regulatory framework for the over-the-counter swap market. The SEC is specifically tasked with regulating security-based swap (“SBS”) dealers and major participants.

The Dodd-Frank Act added Section 15F to the Exchange Act requiring the SEC to adopt rules to provide for the registration of SBS dealers and major participants. Once registered, SBS dealers and major participants will be required to update information about their business activities, structure, and background in addition to information about affiliates. Moreover, SBS dealers and major participants will be immediately subject to SEC examination and inspection authority upon registration.

Additionally, SBS dealers and major participants are required to perform documented due diligence to ensure there is a framework to enable compliance with federal securities laws. The due diligence will serve as the basis for the senior officer of the SBS dealer or major participant to certify that written policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent violations of federal securities laws have been implemented at the time of registration.

Under Section 15F(b)(6) it is unlawful, unless otherwise provided by rule, regulation, or order of the SEC, for SBS dealers or major participants to permit a statutorily disqualified associated person to effect or be involved in effecting SBS transactions on their behalf. However, to facilitate the registration process of entities currently engaged in SBS business the SEC provides a limited exception from the statutorily disqualified associated person bar if (1) the associated persons are not natural persons and (2) the statutory disqualifications occurred prior to the compliance date of the final rule once it is published in the Federal Register.

In light of the statutory disqualifications that will apply to dealers and major participants; the SEC has proposed Rule of Practice 194 which provides a process to determine whether it is in the public interest to permit a statutorily disqualified associated person to continue to engage in SBS transactions on behalf of a SBS entity. Comments on proposed Rule of Practice 194 will be due 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Read the SEC release on SBS registration rules HERE.

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Chair Mary Jo White’s opening remarks on July 15 kicking off the annual broker-dealer compliance outreach program drew a parallel between the goals and work of the SEC and those of compliance professionals. Ms. White acknowledged the challenges and hardship that compliance professionals face, the critical importance of their role to investors and the integrity of the markets. Her acknowledgment comes after the upset that compliance professionals experienced when BlackRock’s CCO was found personally liable and slapped with a civil penalty. (See our previous post regarding BlackRock’s censure and its compliance officer’s personal liability.) Ms. White’s assurance that “it is not our intention to use our enforcement program to target compliance professionals” was hedged by her statement that “we must, of course, take enforcement action against compliance professionals if we see significant misconduct or failures by them.”

Ms. White named the following examination priorities: fee structures; suitability; order routing conflicts; recidivist representatives; microcap activity; excessive trading; transfer agent activity; and issues of importance to retail investors and investors saving for retirement.

Read more of Chair Mary Jo White’s opening remarks at the Compliance Outreach Program for Broker-Dealers HERE.

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A U.S. person with a financial interest in or signature authority over a foreign bank, securities (including brokerage account, margin account, mutual fund, trust) or other financial account in another country that has an aggregate value exceeding $10,000 at any time during the 2014 calendar year must file FinCEN Report 114 by June 30, 2015. FinCEN Report 114 supersedes Form TD F 90-22.1. Individuals filing the report must file electronically through the BSA E-Filing System.

For additional information on filing FBAR, see the Treasury Department’s FBAR E-Filing FAQs and the BSA E-Filing System FAQs.

If you need assistance, please call an attorney in our Investment Funds and Investment Management group.