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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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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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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There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.”—President Reagan

In a January 2018 letter to the ICI and SIFMA, Director Dalia Blass of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management posed the following question, among many others:

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

There is a simple answer to this: “Just like our custodian satisfies these requirements with respect to most other financial assets held in our securities account.” But structural differences between cryptocurrencies and more traditional financial assets may make this harder than it sounds.


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Apparently lost in the news of the impending departure of SEC Chair Mary Jo White is her recent suggestion to expand liability of corporate executives. In a speech on November 18, 2016, Chair White suggested a potential change in federal securities law that would hold executives accountable even if they are not involved in the misconduct and did not know about it. Given recent signals from the new administration in Washington, we believe this potential expansion of liability is unlikely to occur.

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