On June 5, 2019, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) adopted a package of rules and interpretations relating to the standards of conduct for broker-dealers and investment advisers, including a new “best interest” rule for broker-dealers. The package was adopted by a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Robert J. Jackson Jr. as the lone dissenter. Chairman Jay Clayton, who supported the package, stated that the SEC was not adopting a uniform fiduciary rule for broker-dealers and investment advisers. Instead, Chairman Clayton explained that “Regulation Best Interest incorporates fiduciary principles, but is appropriately tailored to the broker-dealer relationship model and will preserve retail investor access and choice.” Chairman Clayton, as well as the SEC’s press release, emphasized that Regulation Best Interest cannot be satisfied by disclosure alone, but rather through compliance with each of the rule’s four substantive obligations.

The actions taken on June 5 include the following:


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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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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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At lunch with my broker the other day (my tab naturally), I asked the waiter for a hamburger and soda, but my broker interjected and told him to bring me a kale salad, no dressing, and a carrot and beet smoothie. “I’m supposed to look after your best interest,” my broker said, “and you’re clearly a bit overweight. By the way, I have scheduled an hour with your personal trainer after lunch.” I couldn’t deny it; this was all in my “best interest.”
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Welcome back for Part 4, the final installment in our discussion of the SEC’s April 18, 2018 fiduciary rulemaking proposal (the “Proposal”). We will summarize the SEC’s proposed Regulation Best Interest (“Regulation BI”), which seeks to create a “best interest” fiduciary duty standard for broker‑dealer relationships with retail customers. We will then delve into some of the specific requirements and open questions surrounding the regulation.

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Welcome back for Part 3 of our discussion of the SEC’s April 18, 2018, fiduciary rulemaking proposal (the “Proposal”). Here, we dive into the SEC’s proposed Form CRS Relationship Summary and its proposed amendments to Form ADV. We also discuss the proposed rulemaking to restrict broker‑dealers’ use of the term “adviser” and variations thereof.

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This post continues our discussion of the SEC’s April 18, 2018, fiduciary rulemaking proposal (the “Proposal”). Here we address the Proposed Interpretation Regarding Standard of Conduct for Investment Advisers and Request for Comment on Enhancing Investment Adviser Regulation portion of the Proposal which would, in sum, (i) restate advisers’ fiduciary duties under the Advisers Act and (ii) impose a variety of new requirements on advisers similar to those applicable to broker-dealers.

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On April 18, 2018, the SEC held an open meeting where it approved the long‑awaited and much-discussed fiduciary rulemaking proposal package. The proposal primarily recommends disclosure- and principles and procedures-based rules, and has garnered three main criticisms: (1) it would establish a “best interest” standard without defining the term; (2) while intending to provide clarity, it would likely generate litigation around the scope of the restated investment adviser fiduciary duty; and (3) it fails to cover how a new “relationship summary” disclosure would function in the robo-adviser context. Part one of this series provides a high‑level overview of the recent history behind the proposal and summarizes its key provisions. Forthcoming posts will discuss the proposal in greater detail and suggest key takeaways for investment advisers.
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Recently, I have had an opportunity to review many “tokens” that can be transferred over the Ethereum blockchain and used for various “smart contracts.” Depending on their facts and circumstances, certain kinds of tokens being sold in so-called “initial coin offerings” were the subject of a recent SEC Section 21(a) report. I have also seen correspondence from family offices seeking to participate in these token offerings, in some cases before the developer has fully worked out the token. This raises a concern that a family office may wound itself trying to get in on the “cutting edge” of this new way to disseminate technology.
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The SEC’s recent settlement (the “Order”) with Pacific Investment Management Company (“PIMCO”) reflects a new twist on an old issue: buying securities at bargain prices and then marking them up when calculating NAVs. The SEC first addressed this issue in 1969 in the context of what we now refer to as “PIPEs.” The first part of this post examines the similarities and differences between PIPEs and the mortgage-backed securities (“MBS”) addressed in the Order. The second part explains why “odd lot” MBS may be more problematic than PIPES.
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