On October 18, 2016, Parker MacIntyre hosted a seminar addressing legal issues that registered investment advisers (“RIAs”) often face, including developing cybersecurity guidance and implications of the new Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule.  The attendees consisted of sixteen individuals representing thirteen RIAs registered from around the southeast.  Both SEC-registered and state-registered RIAs were represented among the attendees.

Parker MacIntyre was pleased to welcome Noula Zaharis, the Director of the Securities and Charities Division of the Secretary of State of Georgia, as a guest speaker.  She began the seminar with a presentation on how the Georgia Secretary of State registers and regulates investment advisers and common deficiencies encountered by the Georgia regulators.  Highlights from another presentation, entitled “Common Deficiencies, Exam Priorities, and Regulatory Initiatives,” included common deficiencies found in RIA examinations, exam priorities that RIAs should ideally be aware of, and the Secretary of State’s regulatory initiatives. Continue reading

The Massachusetts Securities Division (the “Division”) recently issued regulatory guidance for state investment advisers who use third-party robo-advisers to provide advisory services to clients.  Robo-advisers have enjoyed a significant growth in popularity in the financial services industry based on perceived simplicity, ease of accessibility, and ability to service investment advisory clients who may not have sufficient assets to begin a relationship with a traditional investment adviser.  As discussed previously, the Division issued a policy statement in April 2016 declaring that because automated robo-advisers cannot provide fiduciary duties to clients as traditional human investment advisers can, the Division will evaluate their Massachusetts registration applications on a case-by-case basis.

The new regulatory guidance provides that to the extent a state-registered investment adviser (“state-registered adviser”) uses a third-party robo-adviser’s services to provide asset allocation and trading functions to clients, the state-registered adviser must meet a minimum of six requirements.  These six requirements are as follows: Continue reading

The Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions recently adopted amendments to the written examination requirements that enable investment adviser representatives to be registered with the Louisiana Securities Commissioner.  These amendments became effective on September 1, 2016.  The Office of Financial Institutions explained that the amendments were adopted to ensure that all investment advisers are properly qualified to provide investment advice to Louisiana’s citizens.

The amendments that the Office of Financial Institutions made are detailed in LAC 10:XIII.1301-1311, Investment Adviser Registration Procedure.  The amendments are as follows: Continue reading

On July 18, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) settled charges against two SEC-registered investment advisers (“investment advisers”).  The investment advisers, Advantage Investment Management, LLC (“AIM”) and Washington Wealth Management, LLC (“WWM”) failed to disclose receipt of revenue from third-party broker-dealers in the form of forgivable loans and the consequent conflicts of interest.

Investment advisers are prohibited from engaging in any transaction, practice, or course of business that operates as a fraud upon any client or prospective client under Section 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”).  They are also prohibited from making any untrue statement of a material fact or omitting any material fact in any report filed with the SEC under Section 207 of the Advisers Act. Continue reading

The F-Squared Investments matter continues to have far-reaching consequences for those investment advisers who used F-Squared’s falsely inflated and improperly labeled backtested performance results in advertisements. As discussed previously, in November of 2015 Virtus Investment Advisers was fined $16.5 million for including the false and misleading performance results in its own advertisements and filings with the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”). More recently, the SEC charged Cantella & Co. (“Cantella”), a Boston-based investment adviser that licensed F-Squared’s Alpha Sector strategy, with securities violations for employing F-Squared’s false track record in its marketing materials.

F-Squared is an investment adviser that creates and markets index products using exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”). It sub-licenses these indexes to various unaffiliated investment advisers who manage assets pursuant to those indexes. In 2014 F-Squared admitted in a settled SEC administrative proceeding that it had materially misrepresented the performance results of its largest ETF strategy, AlphaSector, by labeling these results as actual results from a seven-year period when they were in fact hypothetical results derived through backtesting. In addition, F-Squared claimed that the strategy had outperformed the S&P 500 Index from 2001 to 2008 when in fact the hypothetical data contained a calculation error that falsely inflated results by 350 percent. F-Squared agreed to pay disgorgement of $30 million and a penalty of $5 million to settle the claim.

Continue reading

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Coumbia recently denied a petition to review an order of the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) imposing sanctions against Raymond J. Lucia and investment adviser Raymond J. Lucia Companies, Inc. (“Lucia Companies”) for violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and the advertising rule thereunder, Rule 206(4)-1. In denying the motion, the DC Circuit affirmed the SEC’s broadened views on the use of back-tested performance in marketing and advertising materials.

As discussed previously, this case involves the improper use by an investment adviser of back-tested performance data in retirement-planning seminars. Raymond J. Lucia, and Lucia Companies allegedly used a hypothetical inflation rate that was lower than actual historical rates to make their performance results more favorable. In addition, the performance data allegedly failed to reflect the deduction of advisory fees and was not calculated in a manner fully consistent with the advertised investment strategy. As a result, the SEC barred Raymond J. Lucia from the securities industry and imposed civil penalties of $300,000.

Continue reading

Earlier this month, FINRA issued a regulatory notice advising that it has proposed various changes to the rules relating to gifts, gratuities and non-cash compensation.  If adopted, the proposal would amend FINRA Rule 3220 (the “Gifts Rule”) and would create two new rules, Rule 3221 (“Non-Cash Compensation”) and Rule 3222 (“Business Entertainment”).

The current Gifts Rule prohibits any FINRA member or associated person from giving anything of value in excess of $100.00 per year to any person, if such payment is connected with the business of the recipient’s employer.  Under the proposed revised Gifts Rule, the $100.00 limit would be increased to $175.00 per recipient per year.  The proposed increase is designed to account for the rate of inflation since the adoption of the original Gifts Rule.  The current requirements that all associated persons’ gifts must be consolidated with those of the member firm and that records be maintained with respect to all such gifts, will be continued in the new rule.  Continue reading

Pursuant to an order entered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on June 14, 2016, the exemption contained under Rule 205-3 of the Investment Advisers Act (“Advisers Act”), which allows registered investment advisers to charge performance-based compensation to clients notwithstanding the general prohibition against same contained in Section 205(a)(1) of the Advisers Act, will be slightly modified.  This modification is the result of a provision in the Dodd-Frank Act (“Dodd Frank”) implementing a provision of that act under Rule 205-3, which requires the SEC to adjust the dollar amounts contained in the exemption for inflation and to round the adjustment to the nearest $100,000.00.  This adjustment must occur every five years.

Continue reading


Last month the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) sanctioned a registered investment adviser and its managing member for violating the Investment Adviser’s Act of 1940 (“Adviser’s Act”) and for acting as an unregistered broker-dealer in connection with the services the adviser provided to a private fund that it managed and the fees charged for those services.

Blackstreet Capital Management, LLC (“Blackstreet”) serves as the manager of two private equity funds (the “Funds”).  In the Funds’ governing documents, Blackstreet disclosed to the Funds’ investors that it would charge fees for brokerage services rendered in connection with acquiring portfolio companies.  Blackstreet did, in fact, perform brokerage services including soliciting transactions, identifying buyers and sellers, negotiating and structuring transactions, arranging for financing, and executing transactions. In exchange for those services it received over $1.8 million.

Continue reading

Increased focus on cybersecurity by the Security Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) continues as it recently issued charges against Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (“Morgan Stanley”) for failing to adopt written policies and procedures reasonably designed to protect confidential client information. These charges stemmed from a cybersecurity breach which began in 2011 and continued until 2014, resulting in the misappropriation of confidential client information in over 730,000 client accounts.

Broker-dealers and investment advisers are required pursuant to Regulation S-P and comparable regulation of the Federal Trade Commission to adopt written policies and procedures reasonably designed to protect client records and information. These policies and procedures must address the administrative, technical, and physical safeguards in place, and must be reasonably designed to insure the security and confidentiality of client records and information, protect against unanticipated threats, and prevent unauthorized access.

Continue reading