Articles Posted in Registered Investment Companies

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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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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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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.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) today proposed rules, forms and amendments to modernize and enhance the reporting and disclosure of information by investment advisers and investment companies.

Investment advisers. The investment adviser proposed rules would amend the investment adviser registration and reporting form (Form ADV), and Investment Advisers Act Rule 204-2. On Form ADV, the proposed rules would require investment advisers to provide additional information for the SEC and investors to better understand the risk profile of individual advisers and the industry. Investment advisers would be required to report, among other things, detailed information about their separately managed accounts, including assets under management and types of assets held in the accounts. The proposed amendments to Investment Advisers Act Rule 204-2 would require advisers to maintain records of performance calculations and communications related to performance.

Investment companies. The investment company proposed rules would enhance data reporting for mutual funds, ETFs and other registered investment companies.  The proposals would require a new monthly portfolio reporting form (Form N-PORT) and a new annual reporting form (Form N-CEN) that would require census-type information.  The information would be reported in a structured data format, which would allow the SEC and the public to better analyze the information.  The proposals would also require enhanced and standardized disclosures in financial statements, and would permit mutual funds and other investment companies to provide shareholder reports by making them accessible on a website.

Highlights of the investment adviser and investment company proposals are available HERE.

The SEC is requesting for comments which should be submitted to be received within 60 days from publication of the proposed rules in the Federal Register.

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The Division of Investment Management (the “Division”) of the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a cybersecurity guidance identifying cybersecurity of registered investment companies (“funds”) and registered investment advisers (“advisers”) as an important issue. Recognizing the rapidly changing nature of cyber threats and consequently, the necessity for funds and advisers to protect sensitive information including information of fund investors and advisory clients, the Division is suggesting a number of measures that funds and advisers may wish to consider in addressing the issue. To mitigate cybersecurity risk, the Division suggests that funds and advisers: 1) conduct a periodic assessment of their technology system and security controls and processes to identify potential cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities, 2) create a strategy that is designed to prevent, detect and respond to cybersecurity threats, and 3) implement the strategy through written policies and procedures, training of officers and employees, and investor and client education. In addition, the Division also suggests that funds and advisers may wish to consider reviewing their operations and compliance programs whether they have measures in place that mitigate their exposure to cybersecurity risk, as well as assessing whether protective cybersecurity measures are in place at service providers that they rely on in carrying out their business operations.

A full version of the cybersecurity guidance is available HERE.

Please call an Investment Funds and Investment Management attorney with your inquiries regarding your firm’s cybersecurity risks and compliance procedures that address them.

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In a February 2015 Guidance Update, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Investment Management (“SEC”), provided guidance on the acceptance of gifts or entertainment by fund advisory personnel under Section 17(e)(1) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “Act”). Section 17(e)(1) provides that any affiliated person of a registered investment company, or any affiliated person of such person acting as agent, is prohibited from receiving any compensation, outside of regular salary or wages, for the purchase or sale of any property to or for the registered company or any controlled company thereof. The SEC has found that gifts or entertainment meet the definition of “compensation” as it is used in Section 17(e)(1), and proof of any intended or actual influence is not required. Pursuant to Rule 38a-1 of the Act, a fund must implement written policies and procedure designed to prevent the fund and its service providers from violating securities laws. The Guidance Update suggests that the policies and procedures concerning the receipt of gifts or entertainment should be included in the fund’s compliance policies and procedures, though it defers to the fund to determine whether there should be an outright ban, or a type of pre-clearance to determine if the gift or entertainment would violate Section 17(e)(1).

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a cease-and-desist order on February 19, 2015 against SEC-registered Logical Wealth Management, Inc. and owner, Daniel J. Gopen, (together, “Respondents”).  The list of violations the SEC found the Respondents committed is extensive and includes improper registration, compliance, and recordkeeping. The SEC found the Respondents exaggerated their assets under management in order to register with the SEC, falsely reported their place of business as Wyoming, a state in which advisers are not regulated, and did not have compliance policies and procedures in place or books and records available to the SEC.  The SEC has ordered the Respondents to cease and desist, revoked Logical Wealth’s registration, barred Mr. Gopen from any advisory activity and imposed a $25,000 civil penalty.

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By William M. Sullivan, Jr. and Jay B. Gould

Under the Second Circuit’s new ruling, prosecutors have two large hurdles they must clear to convict under securities laws. First, they must prove that a defendant knew that the source of inside information disclosed tips in exchange for a personal benefit. Second, the definition of “personal benefit” is tightened to something more akin to a quid pro quo exchange.

For years, insider trading cases have been slam dunks for federal prosecutors. The United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York had compiled a remarkable streak of more than eighty insider trading convictions over the past five years. But that record has evaporated thanks to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s ruling in United States v. Newman, in which the Second Circuit concluded that the district court’s jury instructions were improper and that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction.

The Second Circuit relied upon a thirty year old Supreme Court opinion, Dirks v. SEC, 463 U.S. 646 (1983), and highlighted the “doctrinal novelty” of many of the government’s recent successful insider trading prosecutions in failing to follow Dirks. Accordingly, the Court overturned insider trading convictions for Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson because the defendants did not know they were trading on confidential information received from insiders in violation of those insiders’ fiduciary duties. More broadly, however, the Court laid down two new standards in tipping liability cases, both likely to frustrate prosecutors for years to come.

Tougher Disclosure Requirements

Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Securities and Exchange Commission rules 10b-5 and 10b5-1 generally prohibit trading on the basis of material nonpublic information, more conventionally known as insider trading. In addition, federal law also prohibits an individual (the “tipper”) from disclosing private information to an outside person (the “tippee”), if the tippee then trades on the basis of this private information. This disclosure—a breach of one’s fiduciary duty—is known as tipping liability. As with most crimes, tipping liability requires scienter, a mental state that demonstrates intent to deceive, manipulate, or defraud. In these cases, the government must show that the defendant acted willfully—i.e., with the realization that what he was doing was a wrongful act under the securities laws.

Until last week, willfulness had been fairly easy to show, and that was one of the principal reasons for the government’s string of successes. Prosecutors only had to prove that the defendants traded on confidential information that they knew had been disclosed through a breach of confidentiality. In Newman, however, the Second Circuit rejected this position outright. The Court held that a tippee can only be convicted if the government can prove that he knew that the insider disclosed confidential information in exchange for a personal benefit, and one that is “consequential” and potentially pecuniary.

This distinction may seem minor, but its impact is enormous. The government now must prove—beyond a reasonable doubt, no less—that a defendant affirmatively knew about a personal benefit to the source of the confidential information. From the prosecution’s perspective, this is a massively challenging prospect.

Tightened “Personal Benefit” Standards

The Second Circuit also clarified the definition of “personal benefit” in the tipping liability context. Previously, the Court had embraced a very broad definition of the term—so broad, in fact, that the government argued that a tip in exchange for “mere friendship” or “career advice” could expose a trader to tipping liability.

The Court retreated from this position and narrowed its standard. Now, to constitute a personal benefit, the prosecution must show an exchange “that is objective, consequential, and represents at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature” —in other words, something akin to a quid pro quo relationship. This, too, complicates a prosecution’s case significantly.

Implications of the Ruling

What effect will this ruling have moving forward? Of course, one effect is obvious from the start: prosecutors are going to have a much more difficult time proving tipping liability. But as with many new appellate cases, it may take some time to see how this rule shakes out on the ground in the trial courts. Here are a few things to keep in mind over the next few months and years.

  • This ruling may cause some immediate fallout. For example, there are currently several similar cases in New York that are pending for trial or appeal, and these may now result in acquittals or vacated convictions. In fact, some defendants who previously took guilty pleas in cooperation with Newman and Chiasson’s case are considering withdrawing their pleas in light of this decision. Moving forward, look to see the SEC and potential defendants adjusting their behavior and strategies in light of this ruling. In fact, just this week, a New York Federal Judge expressed strong reservations about whether guilty pleas entered by four defendants in an insider trader case related to a $1.2 billion IBM Corp. acquisition in 2009 should remain in light of Newman.
  • This is also welcome news for tippees who did not interact directly with the source of the inside information. Although the source of the leak may still be prosecuted as usual, this ruling may shield a more remote party from an indictment. As the Newman court noted, the government’s recent insider trading wins have been “increasingly targeted at remote tippees many levels removed from corporate insiders.” Now, without clear evidence that the insider received a quantifiable benefit and that the tippee was aware of such benefit for providing the information, cases against such “remote tippees” will be tremendously more difficult to prove.
  • But, caution should still reign where tippees deal more directly with tippers. The tippees in this case were as many as three or four steps removed from the tippers. It is not difficult to imagine the Court coming out the other way if Newman and Chiasson had been dealing with the tippers themselves.
  • One enormous question mark is to what extent the standards expressed in this case will affect the SEC’s civil enforcement suits. We will have to wait and see, but traders should still use caution. Because civil suits require a substantially lower burden of proof and lesser standard of intent compared to criminal cases, it is possible that these new rules may offer little protection from a civil suit. Additionally, SEC attorneys will probably emphasize this distinction to courts in an attempt to distinguish their enforcement suits from Newman and Chiasson’s criminal case, but whether this tactic is effective remains to be seen.
  • Although the Court refined the meaning of a personal benefit, the definition is still purposefully flexible. This case tells us that abstract psychic benefits—friendship, business advice, church relationships—are not enough, but what about anything just short of exchanging money, favors, or goods? We don’t yet know, and for that reason clients should exercise care.
If you have any questions about the content of this alert,   please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work, or the   authors below.
Jay B. Gould (bio)San Francisco

+1.415.983.1226

jay.gould@pillsburylaw.com

William M. Sullivan (bio)Washington, DC

+1.202.663.8027

wsullivan@pillsburylaw.com

 

The authors wish to thank Robert Boyd for his valuable assistance with this client alert.

 

About Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
Pillsbury is a full-service law firm with an industry focus on energy & natural resources, financial services including financial institutions, real estate & construction, and technology. Based in the world’s major financial, technology and energy centers, Pillsbury counsels clients on global business, regulatory and litigation matters. We work in multidisciplinary teams that allow us to understand our clients’ objectives, anticipate trends, and bring a 360-degree perspective to complex business and legal issues—helping clients to take greater advantage of new opportunities, meet and exceed their objectives, and better mitigate risk. This collaborative work style helps produce the results our clients seek.