Articles Posted in Form ADV

The SEC’s Divisions of Investment Management and Trading & Markets have issued guidance in the form of a set of Frequently Asked Questions (or “FAQs”) addressing the upcoming implementation of the newly-created SEC Form CRS Relationship Summary (“Form CRS”).

As previously profiled on this blog, Form CRS is a new SEC disclosure document that will be applicable to both RIAs and broker/dealers offering services to retail investors. Indeed, for RIAs, the new Form CRS will function as a new Part 3 to the RIA’s existing Form ADV. The purpose of Form CRS is to summarize basic information about the firm’s services, fees, and costs, as well as its conflicts of interest and material disciplinary events. As noted, Form CRS obligations only arise for firms dealing with “retail investors,” which the SEC defines as “natural persons” or their legal representatives, who seek to receive or receive services “primarily for personal, family or household purposes.” Full implementation of Form CRS is slated for June 30, 2020. Continue reading

The SEC, on June 5th, adopted a comprehensive set of rules and interpretations that will have a profound effect on the brokerage and advisory industries going forward, first and foremost by revising the standard-of-conduct applicable to broker-dealers and their registered representatives in dealings with retail customers. Even casual observers will likely be familiar with the various proceedings just concluded at the SEC, which resolve debates that have raged in the investment industry for decades as to the need to align the higher fiduciary “standard-of-conduct” applicable to investment advisers with the lesser suitability standard applicable to broker-dealers. While the June 5th releases do not equalize the two standards—as many commentators would have desired—they do significantly raise the standard applicable to broker-dealers from suitability to “best interests.” The SEC’s releases number four separate documents, each covering a distinct aspect of the standard-of-conduct controversy, and run over 1200 pages. Accordingly, this note will seek to identify the major headlines from the various releases. Look for future writings, wherein we will explore the nuances of the June 5th releases in greater detail.

As noted, the SEC released a package of Final Rules and Interpretive Releases comprising four separate components: (1) Final Rules implementing Regulation Best Interest (“Reg BI”), the new enhanced standard for brokers; (2) Final Rules implementing a new Form CRS Relationship Summary (“Form CRS”), a new disclosure document applicable to both brokers and advisers (that, for advisers, will function as a new Part 3 to Form ADV); (3) an Interpretive Release clarifying the SEC’s views of the fiduciary duty that investment advisers owe to their clients; and (4) an Interpretive Release intended to more clearly delineate when a broker-dealer’s performance of advisory activities causes it to become an investment adviser within the meaning of the Advisers Act. All four components of the regulatory package were approved by a 3-1 vote of the SEC’s Commissioners, with Commissioner Robert Jackson being the sole dissenter.

While the June 5th releases are the culmination of a decades-long controversy, they are the proximate result of a formal rulemaking commenced on April 18, 2018, at which time the SEC published initial proposed versions of Reg BI, Form CRS and the advisory interpretations. The Final Rules for Reg BI and Form CRS will become effective 60 days after they are formally published in the Federal Register; however, firms will be given a transition period until June 30, 2020 to come into compliance. The two Interpretive Releases will become effective upon formal publication.  Continue reading

The amendments to Form ADV, Part 1 that became effective October 1, 2017 are presenting some registered investment advisers with unforeseen problems as we move into “annual amendment season” in 2018.  As we previously highlighted among those changes to Form ADV is the requirement for advisers to disclose estimated percentages of assets held within separately managed accounts in twelve categories of assets.

Advisers with more than $10 billion in regulatory assets under management are required to report the same data as of mid-year and year-end.  Smaller firms must report the same data as of year-end only.

This has not proved a simple exercise for some firms.  Many have assumed that the custodians of their clients’ assets would readily be able to categorize their clients’ holdings and provide them reports summarizing the data.  Continue reading

Beginning October 1, 2017, registered investment advisers are required to use revised form ADV, which requests certain information not sought on previous versions of the form. Advisers will also have to comply with amendments to Rule 204-2 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”).  With the compliance date less than three months away, advisers should examine whether to modify their internal policies and procedures pertaining to Form ADV reporting and recordkeeping, and also should begin the process of collecting the new information and assuring that the information remains available for future Form ADV filings.

The amendments to Form ADV changed the requirements of Item 5 of Part 1A of Form ADV and Section 5 of Schedule D.  The amendments will obligate investment advisers to disclose the estimated percentage of regulatory assets under management (“RAUM”) held in separately managed accounts (“SMAs”) and to indicate those assets “that are invested in twelve broad asset categories.”  Investment advisers with $10 billion or more in RAUM connected to SMAs will be obligated to report both mid-year and end-of-year percentages for each category.  Investment advisers with fewer than $10 billion in RAUM connected to SMAs will only be obligated to report only end-of-year percentages.  The amendments to Form ADV will also require investment advisers to disclose the identity of custodians that make up 10 percent or more of an investment adviser’s total SMA RAUM. Continue reading

On March 8, 2017, 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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