Articles Tagged with Private Equity Funds

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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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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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The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) released a “Risk Alert” on November 9, 2015, the purpose of which is to raise awareness of compliance issues observed in connection with the examination of registered investment advisers and investment companies that outsource their Chief Compliance Officers (“CCO”) to unaffiliated third parties.

We encourage our registered investment adviser clients, including hedge fund and private equity managers, that have outsourced their firm’s CCO function to compliance service providers or other third parties to carefully review the following SEC risk alert summary and review their outsourcing arrangement in view of the SEC’s observations.

Outsourced CCO Initiative

The OCIE staff (the “staff”) conducted 20 examinations as part of an Outsourced CCO Initiative to evaluate the effectiveness of compliance programs and outsourced CCOs by considering a number of factors such as:

  • Whether the CCOs appropriately identified, mitigated, and managed compliance risk;
  • Whether the compliance program was designed to reasonably prevent, detect and remedy violations of federal securities laws;
  • Whether there was open communication between those with compliance responsibilities and service providers;
  • Whether the CCOs have authority to influence compliance policies and procedures of the registrants and had sufficient resources to carry out their responsibilities; and
  • Whether compliance was an important part of the registrants’ culture.

Observations of successfully outsourced CCOs

The staff observed compliance strength in outsourced CCOs with the following characteristics:

  • Regular and often in-person communication between the CCOs and registrants;
  • Strong relationships between the CCOs and registrants;
  • Registrants’ support of the CCOs;
  • CCOs having independent access to documents and information; and
  • CCOs having knowledge of the registrants’ business and regulatory requirements.

Observations of unsuccessfully outsourced CCOs

The staff observed compliance weakness in outsourced CCOs with the following characteristics:

  • CCOs providing compliance manuals based on templates not tailored to the registrants’ businesses and containing inappropriate policies and procedures;
  • CCOs visiting registrants’ offices infrequently, conducting limited annual reviews of documents or insufficient evaluation and assessment of training pertaining to compliance matters;
  • CCOs not performing critical control testing procedures and lacking documentation to evidence testing of control procedures;
  • Critical areas of the registrants’ operations were not identified by CCOs resulting in certain compliance policies and procedures not being adopted, including those necessary to address conflicts of interest;
  • CCOs using generic checklists to gather pertinent information regarding the registrants;
  • Registrants providing incorrect or inconsistent information to the CCOs about firm business practices;
  • Lack of follow-up by CCOs with registrants to resolve discrepancies; and
  • CCOs having limited authority within the registrants’ organizations to improve adherence to compliance policies and procedures and implement necessary changes in disclosure practices, such as fees, expenses and other areas of client interest.

Conclusion

The staff reminds registrants that CCOs, whether direct employees, contractors or consultants, must have sufficient knowledge and authority to fulfill their role. In addition, each registrant is responsible for the adoption and implementation of its compliance program and accountable for any deficiencies.

Finally, the staff emphasizes that all registrants, and especially those that use outsourced CCOs, may find the issues identified in the Risk Alert useful to evaluate whether (i) their business and compliance risks have been appropriately identified (ii) policies and procedures are tailored to the specific risks their businesses encounter and (iii) their respective CCOs have the necessary power to effectively perform their responsibilities. Registrants and their funds are advised to review their business practices regularly to determine whether the practices are consistent with compliance obligations under Rule 206(4)-7 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 38a-1 under the Investment Company Act of 1940.

Please contact the Investment Funds and Investment Management Group if you would like to discuss the SEC alert or need help reviewing your outsourcing arrangement.

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The regulatory environment for SEC-registered advisers has become more complex as the result of a more aggressive and interconnected Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The connecting hub within the SEC is the Office of Compliance Inspection and Examination (OCIE), which serves as the “eyes and ears” of the SEC. The OCIE often is the first line of contact between an investment adviser and a potential referral to the SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit (AMU), which is devoted exclusively to investigations involving investment advisers, investment companies, hedge funds and private equity funds.

The OCIE’s three main areas of focus for their 2015 exam priorities are (i) protecting retail investors, (ii) issues related to market-wide risks, and (iii) data analysis as a tool to identify registrants engaging in illegal activity.

Overlapping with the OCIE’s frontline examination role is the Compliance Program Initiative, which began in 2013 by sanctioning three investment advisers for ignoring problems within their compliance programs. The Compliance Program Initiative is designed to address repeated compliance failures that may lead to bigger problems. As such, any issues raised in a deficiency letter resulting from an examination are ripe for follow-up as the starting point of a subsequent examination. In the current regulatory environment—where violations of compliance policies and procedures can serve as the basis of enforcement actions—investment advisers and their compliance professionals need to pay close attention to the implementation, follow-through and updating of every aspect of their compliance program.

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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 November 3, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that Fenway Partners, LLC (Fenway Partners), a private equity fund adviser, agreed to pay more than $10 million to settle charges that it failed to disclose conflicts of interest to a fund client and omitted material facts to investors.

SEC Findings

Fenway Partner’s current and former principals as well as the chief financial officer did not:

  • Disclose to Fenway Capital Partners Fund III, L.P. (the Fund) or its investors that Fenway Partners caused certain portfolio companies of the Fund to cancel management services agreements—subject to management fee offsets—between Fenway Partners and portfolio companies.
  • Disclose to the Fund or its investors the creation of the affiliated entity Fenway Consulting Partners, LLC (Fenway Consulting).
  • Disclose to the Fund or its investors that Fenway Consulting received $5.74 million for providing services to portfolio companies similar to those previously provided by Fenway Partners and often using the same employees—without a management fee offset against the fees paid to Fenway Partners.
  • Disclose in its capital call notice to investors in connection with a portfolio company investment that $1 million of the $4 million total capital call would be used to pay Fenway Consulting fees.
  • Disclose to the advisory board or the investors the conflict of interest concerning cash incentive plan payments to current and former Fenway Partner principals.
  • Disclose, as related party transactions, in the financial statements provided to investors, those payments received by Fenway Consulting for its services to portfolio companies.

The press release is available HERE.

A full copy of the SEC order is available HERE.

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In a letter addressed to CalPERS and CalSTRS, California State Treasurer, John Chiang, has called for state legislation to require private equity firms to disclose all fees paid by California public pension funds.  According to the letter, the disclosure requirements should be applicable to the private equity investments of all public pension funds in California and apply to management fees, fee offsets, fund expenses and carried interest.

Read the full article 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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The U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on August 25, 2015 which, among other things, would add SEC-registered investment advisers to the “financial institutions” regulated under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). This represents another step by the U.S. government to expand the professions and industries deemed anti-money laundering (AML) gatekeepers. Covered investment advisers will face new AML program, reporting and record-keeping requirements, with implications for hedge, private equity and other funds; money managers; and public or private real estate funds.

FinCEN has long expressed an interest in regulating investment advisers, which it believes may be vulnerable to or may obscure money laundering and terrorist financing. Should the rule become final, SEC-registered investment advisers would be included in the regulatory definition of “financial institution” and, as a consequence, required to establish and implement appropriately comprehensive written AML programs and comply with a variety of reporting and recordkeeping requirements under the BSA. Investment advisers that already implemented AML programs would need to evaluate them to ensure they comply with BSA requirements.

Who are Covered “Investment Advisers”?

Investment advisers provide advisory services, such as portfolio management, financial planning, and pension consulting, to many different types of clients, including institutions, private funds and other pooled investment vehicles, pension plans, trusts, foundations and mutual funds. According to the proposed rule, an “investment adviser” would be defined as “[a]ny person who is registered or required to register with the SEC under section 203 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (15 U.S.C. 80b-3(a)).”

The definition would cover all investment advisers, including subadvisers, subject to Federal regulation which, generally speaking, would include advisers that have $100 million or more in assets under management. This includes investment advisers engaging in activities with publicly or privately offered real estate funds. Small- and medium-sized investment advisers that are state-registered and other investment advisers that are exempt from SEC registration requirements would not be captured by the proposed rule. FinCEN indicated, however, that future rulemaking may include those types of advisers.

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In the Federal Register for July 23, 2015, the Treasury Department published proposed regulations regarding the circumstances under which partnership allocations and distributions will be treated as disguised payments for services. These proposed regulations are aimed at attempts by investment fund managers to convert ordinary, management fee income into tax-favored long-term capital gains through the use of management fee waivers.

The proposed regulations draw heavily on the legislative history to Internal Revenue Code section 707(a)(2)(A), enacted as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-369), which provides that allocations and distributions to a partner by a partnership will be disregarded and instead treated as disguised payments for services if the performance of such services and the related direct or indirect allocation and distribution, taken together, are properly characterized as a transaction between the partnership and a partner acting other than in his capacity as a member of the partnership.

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Related post: Proposed Treasury Regulations May End Private…

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It has been a common practice of private equity firms to convert their right to receive management fees from the funds they manage into the right to receive profits and distributions from the funds through management fee waiver arrangements.  As a result of these arrangements, the firms achieve a lower tax rate because the profits and distributions they receive in place of the fees usually receive capital gains treatment while the fees would otherwise have generated ordinary income, subject to higher tax rates.  In the proposed regulations, the IRS suggests that these arrangements may be disguised payments for services and result in ordinary income anyways.

While the proposed regulations would be effective when final regulations are published, the IRS has indicated that it believes the principles reflected in the proposed regulations generally reflect Congressional intent—signaling that it may apply these principles to existing arrangements even prior to the adoption of final regulations.

Read the proposed rule in the Federal Register HERE.