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SEC Adopts Final Rules Regarding Investment Adviser Registration

Written by Jay Gould and Michael Wu

On June 22, 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted final rules that implement provisions of Title IV of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) amending the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”).   The amendments include:

  • Statutory Threshold for SEC Registration.   The Dodd-Frank Act increases the threshold for SEC registration by creating a new category of advisers called “mid-sized advisers.”  A mid-sized adviser has assets under management between $25 million and $100 million.  If the mid-sized adviser’s principal office and place of business is located in a state that requires it to register as an investment adviser, the adviser must register with the state.  A mid-sized adviser must register with the SEC if it is not required to register in the state where it maintains its principal office and place of business, or if registered with that state, the adviser would not be subject to examination by that state’s securities commissioner.
  • Transition to State Registration, Registration Deadline.

    Existing SEC-registered adviser as of January 1, 2012 – must amend its Form ADV no later than March 30, 2012.Mid-sized adviser no longer eligible for SEC registration – must amend its Form ADV no later than March 30, 2012 to switch to state registration and withdraw its SEC registration by filing Form ADV-W no later than June 28, 2012.

    New Applicants.  Until July 21, 2011 (effective date of the final rules), advisers applying for registration that qualify as mid-sized advisers may register with either the SEC or the appropriate state securities authority.  Thereafter, mid-sized advisers must register with the appropriate state securities authority.

  • Exempt Reporting Advisers.  These are advisers that rely on either the venture capital exemption or the private fund advisers exemption.  The final rules require these exempt reporting advisers to submit an annual report with the SEC by filing an abbreviated Form ADV Part 1 completing only Items 1 (Identifying Information), 2.B (SEC Reporting by Exempt Reporting Advisers), 3 (Form of Organization), 6 (Other Business Activities), 7 (Financial Industry Affiliations), 10 (Control Persons), 11 (Disclosure Information), and any corresponding section of Schedules A, B, C and D.  There will be fees associated with the filing which will be the same as those for registered advisers.
  • Form ADV.  The SEC is amending Part 1 of Form ADV to require advisers to provide additional information: 1) about private funds they advise, 2) about their advisory business and business practices that may present conflicts of interest, and 3) about their non-advisory activities and financial industry affiliations.
  • Family Office exemption.  By defining “family office,” the SEC is allowing family offices to continue to be exempt from regulation of the Advisers Act.  The final rules expanded the exemption by including additional categories of family members and key employees as family clients.
  • Pay-to-Play Rule.  The final rules permit an adviser to pay a registered municipal advisor, or an SEC registered investment adviser or broker-dealer, to act as placement agent to solicit government entities on its behalf, so long as the municipal advisor is subject to the MSRB-adopted pay-to-play rule, or the SEC registered adviser or broker-dealer is subject to a FINRA-adopted pay-to-play rule, that is at least as stringent as the investment adviser pay-to-play rule.

The SEC also adopted final rules that eliminated the private adviser exemption under the Advisers Act and created three new exemptions from SEC registration for:

  • Advisers solely to venture capital funds (venture capital fund exemption).  The final rules define “venture capital fund” as a private fund that: 1) holds no more than 20% of the fund’s capital commitments in non-qualifying investments (other than short-term holdings); 2) does not borrow or is not leveraged except for a limited short-term borrowing; 3) does not offer redemption or liquidity rights to its investors; 4) represents itself to investors as pursuing a venture capital strategy; and 5) is not registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 and is not a business development company.The SEC also adopted the grandfathering provision for this exemption provided the following three requirements are met by the fund: (i) represented to investors that it pursues a venture capital strategy; (ii) has sold securities prior to December 31, 2010; and (iii) does not sell securities to, or accept any capital commitments from, any person after July 21, 2011.
  • Advisers solely to private funds with less than $150 million in assets under management in the U.S. (private fund adviser exemption).  The instructions to Form ADV will be revised to provide a uniform method of calculating assets under management for regulatory purposes.
  • Certain foreign advisers without a place of business in the U.S.  A non-U.S. adviser that has no place of business in the U.S. is not required to register with the SEC if it has fewer than total 15 U.S. clients and private fund investors, has less than $25 million in aggregate assets under management from U.S. clients and private fund investors, and does not hold itself out to the public as an investment adviser.