OCIE Announces Risk-Based Exam Initiatives for Mutual Funds—Part 2

My first post discussed the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examination’s (“OCIE’s”) recent Risk Alert (the “Alert”) and specific fund categories in its crosshairs. This post will cover the three remaining fund categories and general examination issues identified by OCIE in the Alert.

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OCIE Announces Risk-Based Exam Initiatives for Mutual Funds—Part 1

Recently, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) issued a Risk Alert (the “Alert”) identifying six categories of mutual funds and mutual fund advisers it plans to examine: (i) index funds tracking custom-built indexes; (ii) smaller and thinly-traded exchange traded funds (“ETFs”); (iii) funds with aberrational underperformance relative to their peers; (iv) funds with higher allocations to securitized assets; (v) advisers “new” to managing mutual funds; and (vi) advisers who also manage private funds with similar strategies or that share managers with the mutual funds. The Alert provides a list of practices, risk and conflicts for each specific type of fund, but also notes OCIE will also look at standard fund examination topics.

This post reviews the first three specific categories of funds identified in the Alert. A subsequent post will discuss the final three categories, general examination issues mentioned in the Alert and additional considerations for any exam.

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2018 Recap: Tokens, Coins, Cryptocurrencies, and Other Digital Assets under the Federal Securities Laws

This post continues my recap of where things stand regarding the treatment of tokens, coins, cryptocurrencies, and other digital assets under the federal securities laws. My prior post discussed actions and statements made by the SEC in 2017. This post reviews significant enforcement actions and statements this year prior to the recent Coburn enforcement action. Continue Reading

2017 Recap: Tokens, Coins, Cryptocurrencies, and Other Digital Assets under the Federal Securities Laws – Facts and Circumstances

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) recent action against a digital trading platform illustrates the continued uncertainty surrounding the treatment of tokens, coins, cryptocurrencies, and other digital assets under the federal securities laws. Senior SEC officials have expressed concern that a significant amount of activity in this industry may not comply with federal securities laws and increasing SEC enforcement activity evinces these concerns. This set of posts offers a recap of the SEC’s previous enforcement actions and statements, providing a reminder to market participants that there is not yet any formal, comprehensive guidance on the reach of federal securities laws in this area. As a result, whether the SEC or a court determines that a particular token, coin, cryptocurrency or digital asset is a security remains a case-by-case, facts and circumstances analysis.

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EtherDelta Founder Sanctioned for Operating an Unregistered Securities Exchange

On November 8, the SEC announced an enforcement action charging the founder of a digital “token” trading platform for operating as an unregistered national securities exchange. The SEC has previously brought enforcement actions relating to unregistered broker-dealers and unregistered ICOs, including some of the tokens traded on EtherDelta. Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, commented that “EtherDelta had both the user interface and underlying functionality of an online national securities exchange and was required to register with the SEC or qualify for an exemption.”

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SEC Staff Warns About Cash Solicitation Rule Compliance

Periodically, SEC staff issue alerts describing deficiencies observed during exams, as a tool to help advisers improve their compliance programs. the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations issued a Risk Alert identifying common deficiencies in adviser compliance with Rule 206(4)-3 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Cash Solicitation Rule”), and suggesting that deficiencies in this area could indicate that an adviser is struggling with its fiduciary duties to clients under Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Advisers Act.

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ETF Proposed Rule: Portfolio Holding Transparency

The following post gives an overview of the portfolio holding disclosure requirements contained in proposed Rule 6c-11 (“ETF Rule”). As further set forth below, the SEC is proposing full transparency of portfolio holdings and is not proposing to permit non-transparent or partially transparent ETFs (although they did request comment on the subject).

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Why Blockchain Custody Is So Difficult—Paths Forward?

In the first post on this topic, we provided a simple answer to a question posed by the Director of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management (the “Division”):

To the extent a fund plans to hold cryptocurrency directly, how would it satisfy the custody requirements of the 1940 Act and relevant rules?”

Our simple answer was to treat cryptocurrencies as “financial assets” under Article 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code. In the second post, we explained how this simple answer may be hard to implement when it comes to trading cryptocurrencies, because their markets require trades to settle in the next block. Thus, rather than a custodian implementing a portfolio manager’s instruction to settle a trade, a portfolio manager trading a cryptocurrency will normally need to have immediate control over the transfer of the cryptocurrency, which is inconsistent with the custody requirements of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “1940 Act”).

In this post, we consider three potential solutions to the dilemma faced by an investment company that must hold cryptocurrency in compliance with the custody requirements of the 1940 Act while allowing its adviser to trade the cryptocurrency.

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Why Blockchain Custody Is So Difficult—A Hard Part

In our previous post, we provided a simple answer to the following question posed by Director Dalia Blass of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management:

To the extent a fund plans to hold cryptocurrency directly, how would it satisfy the custody requirements of the 1940 Act and relevant rules?”

Our simple answer was to treat cryptocurrencies as “financial assets” under Article 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code. But, as Director Blass knows, this is not the end of the questions relating to custody. Her letter included additional questions, such as:

If the fund may take delivery of cryptocurrencies in settlement, what plans would it have in place to provide for the custody of the cryptocurrency?”

This question relates to a core operation of investment companies: trading.

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PROPOSED ETF RULE: AN OVERVIEW

On June 28, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) proposed a new rule for exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”). Proposed Rule 6c-11 (the “Proposed Rule”) would impose a more streamlined process for new ETFs, and create more standardized compliance requirements for existing ETFs. This is the first in a series of posts on the new Proposed Rule, its requirements, and next steps for the Proposed Rule.

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