Articles Posted in Custody

The Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) recently released a no-action letter allowing sub-advisers in certain situations to avoid the annual surprise examination requirement of Rule 206(4)-2 for investment advisers with custody of client funds or securities. Going forward, sub-advisers who do not have actual custody of client assets but are deemed to have custody because they are related to the qualified custodian and primary adviser will no longer have to comply with this burdensome requirement, so long as certain conditions are met.

As a review, custody is defined by Rule 206(4)-2 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 as the holding, directly or indirectly, of client funds or securities, or having any authority to obtain possession of them. This includes situations where a “related person,” or a person controlled by you or under common control with you, has custody of client funds. Pursuant to SEC Rule 206(4)-2, investment advisers with custody of client funds must take certain steps to safeguard such client assets. Those steps include: 1) maintaining assets with a qualified custodian; 2) notifying clients about the qualified custodian; 3) ensuring that the qualified custodian sends quarterly account statements to client; and 4) obtaining an annual surprise examination by an independent public accountant.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission announced last week that it has charged Sands Brothers Asset Management, LLC and three of its officers with violating the custody rule as it relates to firms who manage funds in which their clients invest. Investment advisers who have custody, as defined by Rule 20642, must engage in certain “safekeeping practices.” If the adviser has custody by virtue of any reason other than the mere authority to deduct client fees from advisory accounts, one of the safekeeping requirements is that of obtaining an independent audit of fund assets. In the case of a private fund, that requirement can be met by the employment of an auditor approved by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board who audits and reports to shareholders, (i.e., investors in the funds), annually and reports to shareholders within 120 days from the end of the fiscal year.

In its recent enforcement action, the SEC enforcement division alleged that Sands Brothers had been late in providing investors with audited financial statements. According to the Order instituting administrative proceeding, Sands Brothers was 40 or more days late in distributing the financial statements for ten different private funds for the fiscal year 2010. In the following year, the financial statements for those same funds were between six and eight months past due. In 2012, the financial statements for those funds were distributed approximately 90 days late.
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On October 13, 2011 the Georgia Secretary of State published proposed rules under the Georgia Uniform Securities Act of 2008 (“the 2008 Act”). Among the proposed rules are twenty (20) rules governing investment advisers and investment adviser representatives.

Although many of the proposed rules are consistent with the applicable rules under the prior Georgia Securities Act of 1973, quite a few of the proposed rules are new, and are designed to respond to the changing business and regulatory environment, including passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Firms currently registered in Georgia should pay careful attention to the regulatory changes. In addition, formerly SEC-registered advisers that are switching to Georgia registration will find the Georgia regulatory landscape, under both the old rules and the new ones, if adopted, to be quite different than what they are accustomed to.
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The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) today published for comment a proposed custody rule for investment advisers. The proposed rule modifies the account statement detail requirement in subsection (b)(4)(A) of a proposed rule previously issued by NASAA relating to the same subject.

Comments to the previous proposed rule focused on the requirement that an investment adviser to private funds provide detailed quarterly statements to all clients. In response to these overwhelming comments, NASAA modified subsection (b)(4)(A) to reduce the level of detail to be contained in the quarterly statements that are to be sent to investment fund participants. Under the new proposed rule, the quarterly statements need only contain the quarter-end holdings and transactions during the quarter.

The basic structure of the proposed custody rule is consistent with prior model custody rules proposed by NASAA pursuant to Uniform Securities Acts of 1956 and 2002 and adopted by many states. More specifically, it provides for a number of safekeeping requirements including, among other things, providing notice to the state’s securities administrator, employing a qualified custodian, and giving certain notices to clients. In particular, the NASAA proposed rule requires any investment adviser who sends a statement to a client to urge the client to compare the account statements received from a qualified custodian with those received from the investment adviser. Any adviser who has a reasonable basis for believing that the qualified custodian sent account statements to the investors directly need not provide a separate account statement.
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