U.S. Advisor Regulation

On March 25, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued an order granting temporary relief for filing and delivery obligations of Form ADV and Form PF for investment advisers whose operations may be affected by the coronavirus. This relief supersedes the SEC’s previous order from March 13. The March 25 order extends the time of the relief to June 30, 2020, and eliminates the requirement for the adviser to provide the SEC and clients with a description of the reasons why the adviser is relying on the order and an estimated date by which the required filing will occur.

The relief applies to both registered investment advisers and exempt reporting advisers. In providing the relief, the SEC explained that it is necessary “[i]n light of our current understanding of the nationwide scope of COVID-19’s disruptions to businesses and everyday activities, and the uncertainty as to the duration of these disruptions.”


Continue Reading SEC Provides Relief For Form ADV and Form PF Filing and Delivery Obligations in Response to COVID-19 (Updated 4/2)

On January 27, 2020, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) released observations on cybersecurity and resiliency (the “Observations”). In them, OCIE presented several key cybersecurity issues that industry participants should seek to address such as the construction and implementation of a comprehensive cybersecurity program, the prevention of unauthorized access to systems, the theft of information, responding to cyber incidents, and vendor management. In doing so, OCIE highlighted elements of successful cybersecurity efforts.

Continue Reading OCIE Releases New Observations on Cybersecurity and Resiliency

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:


Continue Reading SEC Adopts Package of Reforms Aimed at Raising the Standard of Conduct for Brokers and Clarifying an Investment Adviser’s Fiduciary Duty

On December 21, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced enforcement actions against two robo-advisers, Wealthfront Advisors LLC (“Wealthfront”) and Hedgeable Inc. (“Hedgeable”), for making false statements about investment products and publishing misleading advertising. “Robo-advisers” are investment advisers that provide automated, software-based portfolio management services. In a press release related to these actions, the Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit stated that “[t]echnology is rapidly changing the way investment advisers are able to advertise and deliver their services to clients … [but] [r]egardless of their format … all advisers must take seriously their obligations to comply with the securities laws, which were put in place to protect investors.” These enforcement actions, the first by the SEC against robo-advisers, highlight the nuanced risks and requirements for robo-advisers under U.S. securities laws.


Continue Reading SEC Brings First Enforcement Actions against Robo-Advisers

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.

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

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.


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

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.

Continue Reading SEC Staff Warns About Cash Solicitation Rule Compliance

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.”
Continue Reading Best Interest or Disinterest—How Should We Label the Duties of an Investment Adviser?

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.

Continue Reading The SEC’s Fiduciary Rule Proposal — Implications for Investment Advisers (Part 4)

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.

Continue Reading The SEC’s Fiduciary Rule Proposal — Implications for Investment Advisers (Part 3)