Articles Posted in Investment Advisers

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

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Earlier this month, the SEC announced the creation of its Office of Risk and Strategy  to operate within its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE).  The new office will consolidate and streamline OCIE’s risk assessment, market surveillance, and quantitative analysis teams and provide operational risk management and organizational strategy for OCIE.

Headed by Peter B. Driscoll, a former E&Y auditor with law and CPA degrees, the Office of Risk and Strategy will lead the OCIE’s risk-based and data-driven National Examination Program.  Mr. Driscoll emphasized at the Investment Adviser Association’s annual compliance conference in Washington that private equity funds and private fund advisors would “continue to be a big focus” for the exam unit as well this year.  While this is no surprise, Driscoll also added that the focus on hedge funds will zero in on such areas as portfolio management, trading and back-office operations.  This may suggest a broader, deeper and more focused scrutiny on hedge funds than just the trading offenses we are familiar with from national headlines.

The SEC has been busy: it has visited at least 25% of ‘never-before-examined’ advisers, numbering over 700, which surpasses the SEC’s own goal.  There is no reason to expect the SEC’s enthusiasm to decline in this area in 2016.  If you are a hedge fund manager that has never been examined before, you may get a knock on your door this year.

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In February, California State Treasurer, John Chiang along with State Assemblyman Ken Cooley sponsored Assembly Bill (AB) 2833 which, if enacted, would require private equity firms to disclose fees and expenses for public pensions or retirement systems in California.

On March 17, 2016 Assemblyman Cooley submitted an amendment to the legislation that would include the University of California pension system as a pension covered by the newly proposed disclosure rules.  Additionally, the legislation has been broadened to include all Alternative Investment Vehicles (defined as private equity funds, venture funds, hedge funds or absolute return funds) and require a disclosure of:

  • Annual fees and expenses paid to an alternative investment vehicle
  • Annual fees and expenses not previously disclosed including carried interest
  • Annual fees and expenses paid by portfolio companies of the alternative investment vehicle
  • The gross rate or return of each alternative investment vehicle since inception

Finally, the legislation would require public pensions or retirement systems to have an annual meeting that is open to the public.  At the public meeting the public pension or retirement system would be required to disclose:

  • Any fees and expenses required to be disclosed as listed above, subject to the exceptions provided in the California Public Records Act Section 6254.26

The full text of the amended AB 2833 can be found here.

Our prior post on the public pension fee and expense disclosure can be found here.

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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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In commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Investment Company Act and Investment Advisers Act, David Grim discussed his views about the past, present and future of the investment management industry.  He selected four topics which in his opinion best illustrate the adaptability which the authors gave the 1940 laws governing the asset management industry.

Those topics are: (1) the role of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), (2) the role of private fund advisers, (3) the role of disclosure and reporting in our regulatory framework, and (4) the role of the board in fund oversight.

He called disclosure one of the critical pieces of the 40 Acts, and noted that the amount of information available to investors about funds and advisers through publicly available forms, prospectuses and offering documents has increased exponentially since 1940.  Specifically regarding private funds, he noted that the vast number of newly registered advisers after the passage of Dodd-Frank have resulted in a new era of transparency that has been beneficial to both investors and private fund advisers, in addition to the SEC.  The public availability of aggregated information has shed light on persistent questions and some misconceptions about the private fund industry. Investors have also benefitted by being able to make more informed choices when investing.

The full remarks are available here.

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(This article was published in the first February 2016 issue of “The Review of Securities and Commodities Regulation” and is reprinted here with permission.)

The last half of 2015 has been characterized by a lot of debate and press attention on the role of the Chief Compliance Officer (“CCO”) at investment advisers. It has attracted attention within the highest levels at the SEC as reflected in a series of public statements and speeches, including the public disagreement of two Commissioners on whether or not there is a new trend targeting CCOs. While this debate has been unusual, it has led to a healthy and productive discussion about the CCO’s role. Below, we will discuss in turn: (a) recent statements over the past six months by SEC leaders about CCOs and whether or not there is a new trend targeting them, (b) what qualities are essential to an effective CCO and whether or not the job should be outsourced, and (c) how an effective compliance leader can prevent and detect any problems and be truly effective in preparing the firm for SEC examinations.

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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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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 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.