Articles Posted in Form ADV

On March 8, 207, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued an Order Instituting Administrative and Cease-and-Desist Proceedings (“Order”) against Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. (“Voya”), an SEC-registered investment adviser.  The Order, to which Voya consented, obligates Voya to pay disgorgement of $2,621,324, prejudgment interest of $174,629.78, and a civil money penalty of $300,000.

The SEC’s Order claims that Voya did not inform its clients that it was receiving compensation from a third-party broker-dealer and that these receipts created a conflict of interest.  Section 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) states that investment advisers are forbidden from participating in “any transaction, practice, or course of business which operates as a fraud or deceit upon any client or prospective client.”  Section 207 provides that investment advisers are not allowed to “make any untrue statement of a material fact in any registration application or report filed with the Commission, or to omit to state in any such application or report any material fact which is required to be stated therein.”  Finally, Rule 206(4)-7 under the Adviser’s Act compels investment advisers to “[a]dopt and implement written policies and procedures, reasonably designed to prevent violation” of the Adviser’s Act and the rules thereunder. Continue reading

Parker MacIntyre attorneys Steve Parker and Bryan Gort attended the 2015 annual conference of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) held last week in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As usual, the conference provided valuable guidance and updated information on areas of importance to state-registered investment advisers, as well as federal notice filed broker-dealers and SEC registered investment advisers.

Of interest to state-registered investment advisers are proposed amendments to Part 1B of Form ADV that would attempt to capture an RIA’s use of social media and information on the use of third-party compliance professionals.

NASAA also presented the findings of its 2015 coordinated investment adviser examination review, compiled from the results of over 1100 investment adviser examinations. Once again, books and records deficiencies was the leading category, with 78% of all examined entities having deficiencies in that area. Within that category the failure to maintain adequate client suitability data was the leading deficiency, accounting for 10% of the deficiencies noted within the books and record category.
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Amendments have been proposed to form ADV and certain rules under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 that would have significant effects on reporting requirements for investment advisers. In addition to codification of “umbrella registration” which was initially proposed in an SEC no action letter to the American Bar Association in 2012, new information would be required regarding separately managed accounts and general advisory business.

Umbrella Registration
Larger investment managers to private funds or other pooled vehicles are often comprised of many legal entities conducting a single advisory business. The proposed modifications to form ADV, which are a codification of the SEC no action letter, would if approved allow for umbrella registration which would permit multiple private fund investment advisers that operate as a single business, on an affiliate basis, to register on a single form ADV as opposed to individual registrations. This new codification would require that the principal office of the filing investment adviser be located within the United States, that each investment adviser operate under a single code of ethics under the Advisers Act, that each adviser be subject to the Advisers Act (and therefore subject to SEC examination), and that the filing advisor and each relying advisor would advise only private funds or qualified clients (as defined in Rule 205-3 under the Advisers Act). While this is a more efficient method of reporting, as only one Form ADV would be required to be submitted by the filing adviser, it would require additional information on proposed Schedule R to Form ADV which includes more detailed information on the ownership structure of each relying investment adviser falling under the umbrella of the filing investment adviser submitting the Form ADV. Under proposed Schedule R each relying adviser would be required to provide identifying information, basis for registration and ownership information.
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In a consented-to Administrative Order dated July 2, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission fined a Missouri-based Registered Investment Adviser, SignalPoint Asset Management (“SignalPoint” or “SAM”), $215,000 for breaching its’ fiduciary duty to clients.

Prior to the formation of SignalPoint, the Principals of SignalPoint were registered as registered representatives and investment adviser representatives for a dually-registered broker-dealer and investment adviser. In 2008, the principals asked the dually-registered broker-dealer and investment adviser to allow them to have ownership and control of SignalPoint but were told that they could not have an ownership in an outside RIA.
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As we first reported on this blog site in September, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) held a forum, through its Investment Adviser subcommittee, to discuss transition issues for Mid-Sized Advisers under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. As we approach the annual December moratorium on new registrations and renewals, it seems appropriate to review and comment on some of NASAA’s suggestions.

The first step that any Mid-Sized Adviser should take should be to contact his or her state regulatory agency to determine whether it has adopted special rules, forms, or timetables for use. However, the NASAA committee generally provided the following procedure that its state members intended to follow:
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Two Parker MacIntyre attorneys — Bob Terry and Steve Parker — attended forums held this week by the Investment Adviser Section of the North American Securities Administrators Association, and by the NASAA members of the Joint NASAA/FINRA CRD/IARD Steering Committee, at the NASAA Annual Conference in Wichita, Kansas. The forums’ panelists included Melanie Senter Lubin, Securities Administrator for the State of Maryland, NASAA General Counsel Joseph Brady, Michigan Securities Director Linda Cena, and other Section and Committee members. Bob Terry, Counsel to Parker MacIntyre, served as Vice Chair of the CRD/IARD Committee for over three years until he left the office of the Georgia Secretary of State in January of 2011.

The hottest topics of both forums were details relating to transitioning to state registration of mid-sized advisers, as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank’) and implementing regulations.

At least 20 states to date have conducted training seminars to investment advisers seeking information about switching to state registration and what to expect from becoming state-registered. NASAA has provided training materials and logistical support to securities administrators in those states. The goal is to introduce the prospective registrants to state-specific issues that may affect their registration process or their ongoing operations, particularly in the areas of regulation that may differ slightly or even significantly from the SEC rule or practice that the adviser to which the adviser is accustomed.
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On June 22, 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted new rules and rule amendments under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Among other things, the rules, as adopted, provided transitional provisions for investment advisers required to switch from SEC to state registration because they fail to meet the new requirement of $100 million in assets under management, require advisers to hedge funds and other private funds to register with the SEC, require reporting by certain exempt investment advisers, and make substantial changes to the Form ADV.

The final rule relating to transition differed somewhat from the rule originally proposed by the SEC. The final rule requires that any “mid-sized” registrant with the SEC (defined as any firm with between $25 million and $100 million under management) that is registered as of July 21, 2011 (Dodd-Frank’s effective date) must remain registered with the SEC through the transition. New applicants that meet the definition of mid-sized advisers and who seek to apply between January 1, 2011 and July 21, 2011 can apply either with the SEC or the state or states in which it must register.
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Although the U S Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) has publicly stated that the July 21, 2011 deadline for “Mid-Sized Investment Advisers” to register with the States will likely be moved, as of yet there is no rule formally postponing the deadline. The same looming deadline applies to hedge funds required to register for the first time.

The switch delay is thought to have been driven primarily by Investment Advisor Registration Depository (IARD) programming delays and the logistical issue of collecting asset under management data from all firms in order to qualify them for the switch. Some advisers, out of caution, are registering dually with the SEC and the states so as to cover their bases; they plan on de-registering with the SEC at the appropriate time.

The deadline may be formally moved at the upcoming June 22 SEC meeting, whose agenda identifies consideration of adoptions of new rules and amendments to implement Dodd-Frank; considering Investment Adviser Act exemption rules for venture capital funds and advisers with assets under management of less than $150 million; and considering the proposed rule defining “family offices” that will be excluded from the definition of an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act.

The Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) issued a press release this week encouraging all federal covered investment advisers with less than $100 million under management to consider dually registering with OFR and the SEC, and to initiate OFR registration as soon as possible. Dual registration would allow the investment adviser to continue as a federal covered adviser while Florida reviews the firm’s application. Upon being approved by OFR, the firm can then withdraw its SEC registration after July 21, 2011.

Florida’s recommendation was prompted by the time it takes to renew and approve applications. Early application increases a firm’s chance of being approved prior to July 21.
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