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The following are some of the important annual compliance obligations investment advisers either registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) or with a particular state (“Investment Adviser”) and commodity pool operators (“CPOs”) or commodity trading advisors (“CTAs”) registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) should be aware of.

This summary consists of the following segments: (i) List of Annual Compliance Deadlines; (ii) 2017 Enforcement Priorities In The Alternative Space; (iii) New Developments; and (iv) Continuing Compliance Areas.

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Table of Annual Compliance Deadlines……………………………………………………………. 3

2017 Enforcement Priorities In The Alternative Space………………………………………. 5

New Developments………………………………………………………………………………………. 7

 

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On December 5, 2016, a Notice of reporting requirements was filed in the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Treasury informing the public of the Treasury’s mandatory survey, due every 5 years, of ownership of foreign securities by U.S. residents as of December 31, 2016.  All U.S. persons who meet the reporting requirements must respond to, and comply with, this survey on Form TIC-SHC by March 3, 2017.

Who Must Report? 

i. Fund Managers and Investors.  U.S. persons who own foreign securities for their own portfolios and/or who invest in foreign securities on behalf of others (referred to as ‘‘end-investors’’), including investment managers and fund sponsors such as:

  • Managers of private and public pension funds
  • Hedge fund managers
  • Managers and sponsors of private equity funds, venture capital companies and similar private investment vehicles
  • Managers and sponsors of commingled funds such as money market mutual funds, country funds, unit-investment funds, exchange-traded funds, collective-investment trusts, and similar funds
  • Foundations and endowments
  • Trusts and estates
  • Insurance companies
  • U.S. affiliates of foreign entities that fall into the above categories.

These U.S. Persons must report on Form SHC if the total fair value of foreign securities—aggregated over all accounts and for all U.S. branches and affiliates of their firm—is $200 million or more as of the close of business on December 31, 2016.

ii.  Custodians. U.S. persons who manage, as custodians, the safekeeping of foreign securities for themselves and other U.S. persons (including affiliates in the U.S. of foreign entities). These U.S. persons must report on Form SHC if the total fair value of the foreign securities whose safekeeping they manage on behalf of U.S. persons—aggregated over all accounts and for all U.S. branches and affiliates of their firm—is $200 million or more as of the close of business on December 31, 2016.

iii.  Those Notified. U.S. persons who are notified by letter from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. These U.S. persons must file Schedule 1, even if the recipient of the letter is under the reporting threshold of $200 million and need only report ‘‘exempt’’ on Schedule 1. U.S. persons who meet the reporting threshold must also file Schedule 2 and/or Schedule 3.

What To Report?

Information on holdings by U.S. residents of foreign securities, including equities, long-term debt securities, and short-term debt securities (including selected money market instruments).

How To Report?

Completed reports on Form TIC-SHC can be submitted electronically or mailed to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Statistics Function, 4th Floor, 33 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10045–0001. Inquiries can be made to the survey staff of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at (212) 720–6300 or email: SHC.help@ny.frb.org.   Inquiries can also be made to Dwight Wolkow at (202) 622–1276, email: comments2TIC@do.treas.gov

When To Report?

The report must be submitted by March 3, 2017.

Additional information including technical information for electronic submission can be obtained from the Form SHC Instructions available here.

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To increase the transparency of fees and expenses paid to alternative funds, every California public pension plan must require each alternative fund in which they invest to make various disclosures, and California public pension plans are required to disclose that information during meetings open to the public.

Assembly Bill 2833 was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown on September 14, 2016. Beginning January 1, 2017, the new law mandates that California public pension plans (PPPs), whether at the state, county or city level, require all private equity funds, venture funds, hedge funds or absolute return funds, whether a limited partnership, limited liability company or similar legal structure (Alternative Funds), to make disclosures of fees and expenses paid by PPPs. In turn, the PPPs must disclose such information during meetings open to the public.

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The CFTC’s recent enforcement against Bitfinex’s financed trading activities demonstrates the Commission’s increasing interest in virtual currency and digital assets.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is further expanding its oversight of virtual currency exchanges and digital assets in general. On June 2, 2016, Bitfinex (a Hong Kong-based bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange) settled with the CFTC following an investigation into its trading activities. The CFTC charged that the exchange offered illegal off-exchange financed retail commodity transactions, and that Bitfinex had failed to register as a Futures Commission Merchant (FCM) as required by law. As a result, Bitfinex will pay $75,000 in civil penalties.

This action is more evidence of the CFTC’s interest in not only bitcoins, but any digital asset that can be considered a commodity. Transactions in decentralized digital tokens (such as Ether, DAO Tokens, Safecoins, Factoids, and Bitcrystals) are becoming more common, and so is regulatory interest.

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The Cayman Islands Tax Information Authority advised yesterday that it will allow Cayman Islands Financial Institutions to rely on CRS due diligence procedures for new accounts opened on or after 1 January 2016 to identify specified/reportable persons for the purposes of UK FATCA and CRS reporting.  This means that, provided CRS compliant self-certification forms are provided to and returned by new investors/account holders going forward, it is no longer obligatory to include a UK FATCA specific self-certification form.

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is intended to detect and deter the evasion of US tax by US persons who hide money outside the US. FATCA creates greater transparency by strengthening information reporting and compliance through rules around the processes of documenting, reporting and withholding on a payee.  More than 90 jurisdictions, including all 34 member countries of the OECD and the G20 members, have committed to implement the Common Reporting Standard for automatic exchange of tax information (“CRS”). Building on the model created by FATCA, the CRS creates a global standard for the annual automatic exchange of financial account information between the relevant tax authorities.

In general, the differences between CRS and FATCA have largely to do with the multilateral nature of the CRS and the US specific attributes of FATCA. The CRS is intended to allow countries to use the exchange system without having to negotiate a separate annex with each counterpart country. The CRS is more closely aligned to ‘UK FATCA’ than US FATCA in terms of account due diligence and related reporting requirements. The principal (but not the only) differences between US FATCA and CRS are:

  1. Registration – CRS has no requirement to register with any foreign tax authority or to obtain any global identification number (such as a GIIN under FATCA).
  2. Withholding – while domestic laws may impose penalties for non-compliance, CRS does not impose a punitive withholding tax regime.
  3. Client Classification – CRS classification is based on tax residency rather than nationality or citizenship. A client could be taxable in several countries in the relevant reporting period. CRS allows reliance on client self-certification.

Call us to learn more and to request an update of the self-certification forms in your subscription documents.

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The ERISA Advisory Council recently announced that, as part of its goals for 2016, it will be focusing on cybersecurity issues affecting retirement plans and, in particular, the extent to which such issues relate to third-party administrators and vendors (TPAs) of retirement plans. By shining the spotlight on the role of TPAs in combatting cyber-related threats to retirement plans, this announcement
demonstrates that retirement plan sponsors would be well-served to proactively assess the cyber risk profiles of their retirement plans. Specifically, retirement plan sponsors should focus on developing and implementing a comprehensive and effective risk management strategy that includes, among other actions, the implementation and periodic review of contractual protections in arrangements
with their plans’ TPAs.

This advisory is the second in a series of advisories dedicated to understanding cybersecurity issues.

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A group of related private equity (“PE”) funds were found liable for a bankrupt portfolio company’s pension plan debts in the latest and most worrisome decision in the long-running Sun Capital Partners III, LP v. New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund dispute. The novel decision, if upheld on appeal, will trigger a reevaluation of common PE industry practices related to co-investments and management fee offset arrangements. The decision also signals increased transaction risks for PE funds, lenders who provide financing to portfolio companies, and potential buyers of portfolio companies from PE funds.

Background of the Sun Capital Dispute

In 2006, Scott Brass Inc. (SBI) was acquired by three investment funds linked to the Sun Capital Partners Inc. group for approximately $7.8M ($3M invested by the funds and $4.8M funded by debt). SBI participated in an underfunded multiemployer (or union) defined benefit pension plan, and when SBI declared bankruptcy in 2008, the pension plan assessed $4.5M in withdrawal liabilities against SBI. The pension plan pursued payment of the withdrawal liabilities from the deep pockets of the three Sun Capital funds who owned SBI: Sun Capital Partners III, LP (SCP-III), its parallel fund Sun Capital Partners III QP, LP (SCP-IIIQ) and Sun Capital Partners IV, LP (SCP-IV).

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At the end of this month, the annual updating amendments for investment advisers’ Form ADV will be due. The following are some of the important annual compliance obligations investment advisers either registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) or with a particular state (“Investment Adviser”) and commodity pool operators (“CPOs”) or commodity trading advisors (“CTAs”) registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) should be aware of.

This summary consists of the following segments: (i) List of Annual Compliance Deadlines; (ii) 2016 Enforcement Priorities In The Alternative Space; (iii) New Developments; and (iv) Continuing Compliance Areas.

See the deadlines below and in red

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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 3, 2015, an Illinois federal jury convicted Michael Coscia, a high-frequency commodities trader, of six counts of commodities fraud and six counts of spoofing—entering a buy or sell order with the intent to cancel before the order’s execution.1 Coscia’s conviction was the first under the criminal anti-spoofing provisions added to the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. In the press release touting its victory, the prosecution announced: “The jury’s verdict exemplifies the reason we created the Securities and Commodities Fraud Section in Chicago, which will continue to criminally prosecute these types of violations.” High-frequency traders should take note that the conviction on all six counts of spoofing charged in Coscia’s case may embolden prosecutors across the nation to pursue other spoofing cases with vigor. Given the real possibility of a felony indictment and conviction for spoofing—the latter of which exposes a defendant to imprisonment for up to ten years and significant monetary fines—high-frequency traders should carefully evaluate their strategies and conduct.2

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