Articles Posted in Hedge Funds

On May 24, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint against an options trading instructor and unregistered investment adviser, Gustavo A. Guzman (“Guzman”).  The complaint alleges that Guzman obtained more than $2.1 million from investors, assuring them that their funds would be invested in equity options and real estate.  However, evidence showed that Guzman misappropriated a third of the funds “and lost the remainder through his options trading while misleading existing or prospective investors.”

Guzman was not registered as an investment adviser with the SEC or any state authority.  However, he was tasked with managing investments in two private funds specializing in options trading and one real estate hedge fund.  He also received management fees for managing these funds.  As a result, Guzman met the definition of an investment adviser in the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) and was subject to its anti-fraud provisions. Continue reading

Last month the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) commenced an administrative proceeding against an Augusta Georgia investment adviser to a hedge fund called Geier International Strategies Fund, LLC (“GISF”).  According to the SEC’s Order Instituting Administrative Proceedings, Christopher M. Gibson, the fund’s adviser, caused the fund to invest the  majority of the fund’s assets in a single security, then personally profited and helped both his friends and a preferred investor in the fund to personally profit at the expense of the fund and its other members by engaging in frontrunning and other fraudulent conduct.

More specifically the Order alleges that in 2011 GISF had 21 investors and a total asset value of approximately $60 million. In early, Gibson, who had previously advised the fund through a Georgia registered investment adviser called Geier Group, LLC, caused the fund to purchase large quantities of Tanzanian Royalty Exploration Corporation (“TRX”), and Alberta, Canada based gold mining resource company that has never been profitable. The fund held 10.3% of all of TRX’s outstanding common stock by April 29, 2011, a holding that was valued at over $70 million at the time.  However, as TRX’s value plunged from late April to late September, the fund’s value also declined precipitously.

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Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) brought and simultaneously settled administrative charges against an investment adviser and its owner for misleading clients regarding the historical performance of a private fund managed by the adviser and for making misleading statements regarding the fund’s investment strategy.  Specifically, the SEC announced it had settled an administrative proceeding on January 28, 2016, against QED Benchmark Management LLC and its owner, Peter Kuperman, in which administrative proceeding the SEC alleged that QED and Kuperman represented that they would follow a scientific stock selection strategy.

According to the SEC, QED deviated from that strategy, which deviation resulted in heavy losses to QED’s fund.  After experiencing the losses, according to the SEC allegations, QED and Kuperman provided investors in the fund with information about the fund’s performance and supported that misleading information with statements of returns that included both actual and hypothetical returns, in violation of SEC guidance prohibiting misleading performance advertising. Continue reading

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 the past six months two states, Iowa and Texas, have adopted private fund adviser exemptions to their investment adviser registration requirements under their respective state securities acts. Another state, Washington, has proposed a private fund adviser exemption. These state actions reflect a continuing trend to exempt private fund advisers from registration under certain carefully circumscribed conditions.

The Iowa exemption, which became effective at the end of 2013, exempted advisers providing advice to one or more qualifying private funds so long as neither the advisers nor their affiliates are subject to the “bad boy” disqualification provisions of Rule 262, Regulation A and the adviser files the required exempt reporting adviser’s reports mandated by Rule 204-4 of the Investment Adviser’s Act of 1940 via the IARD filing system. The exemption further provides that representatives of exemption-eligible investment advisers are also exempt from the investment adviser representative registration requirements if they do not otherwise act as representatives, that is, if they only act as representatives in connection with the activities of the exempt private adviser. The Iowa rule also provides that private fund advisers that are registered with the SEC are ineligible for the state exemption and therefore must comply instead with the notice filing requirements under the Iowa Securities Act for federal covered advisers.
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On January 30, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission hosted a compliance outreach program for investment companies and investment advisors. The national seminar, which was jointly sponsored by the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations and the Asset Management Unit of the Division of Enforcement, was held at the SEC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The seminar outlined the priorities of SEC Divisions or Programs as well as general regulatory priorities of the SEC in the coming years. These priorities included the Wrap-Fee Programs, General Solicitation under the JOBS Act, Cybersecurity, and IABD Harmonization. One program of note that will be taking on more importance over the next two years is the Examination Initiative. The National Examination Program intends to review a substantial percentage of registrants that have not had an examination in the last three years. These examinations will take the shape of either a Risk Assessment Exam or a Presence Exam.
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Typically, offshore funds are not subject to regulation under the U.S. securities regulations as long as they are not sold to U.S. citizens or residents. Offshore funds were not liable for fraud under §10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act unless they met the standards for the “conduct or effects” test. The test focused on:

  • Whether the wrongful conduct occurred in the United States; and
  • Whether the wrongful conduct had a substantial effect in the United States or upon United States citizens.

The “conduct or effects” test was rejected in Morrison v. Nat’l Austl. Bank Ltd. in 2010. The court established a new transactional test that stated that §10(b) and Rule 10b-5 do not apply extraterritorially, but only apply to “transactions in securities listed on domestic exchanges and domestic transactions in other securities.” The court stated that domestic transactions should focus on the purchase and sale of securities. The case did not specifically define the term “domestic transactions,” however, because the parties to the case were foreign and the dispute occurred outside the United States.
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One of the most significant provisions of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act is its elimination of the general solicitation ban currently contained in Rule 502 for Rule 506 offerings sold only to “accredited investors.” As a result, hedge funds will be able to advertise to investors through the internet, mass mailings, and other media. Previously hedge funds have been banned from soliciting or advertising their private offerings to the general public. This prohibition has created confusion among hedge fund managers because of uncertainty about the meaning of “general solicitation.”

The JOBS Act requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to eliminate the ban on general solicitation and advertising as long as all purchasers are either “accredited investors” or “qualified institutional investors.” An “accredited investor” includes an individual whose net worth is at least $1 million, excluding the value of his/her primary residence or who meets certain income criteria. We have previously discussed the definition of “accredited investor” in Financial Advisers Should Note More Restrictive Accredited Investor Definition. A “qualified institutional investor” includes companies that manage a minimum at $100 million in assets. Under the JOBS Act, the SEC must adopt rules to eliminate the ban on advertising for an offering by a private issuer within 90 days.
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Virginia’s previous private fund adviser exemption could be short-lived because it may be replaced by a new proposed rule. The previous rule was effective September 7, 2011 and the current proposed rule is expected to be effective on May 1, 2012. Interested persons may submit their comments on the proposed rule on or before April 12, 2012. This new rule is also currently being considered by California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. We previously discussed the California proposed exemption rule in a blog, California Extends Comment Date on its Proposed Private Fund Exemption Rule.

Currently, the rule provides for an exemption for any adviser where the adviser advises only clients that are either a corporation, general partnership, limited partnership, limited liability company, trust or other organization that:

  • Has assets of $5,000,000 or more and
  • Receives investment advice based on the investment objectives of the entity instead of individual investment objectives, provided that the adviser was exempt from registration pursuant to §203(b)(3) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and the adviser is subject to SEC rule 203 1(e).

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The California Department of Corporations has extended the comment period for a proposed rule to amend Rule 260.204.9 of Title 10 of the California Code of Regulations, which exempts private advisers from registration under certain circumstances. The public comment period for this exemption was extended from February 20, 2012 to March 25, 2012. To date, there are no public hearings scheduled; however comments may be mailed to the Department of Corporations.

The amended proposed rule significantly changes the current rule in place. Currently, the rule provides for an exemption for any adviser that:

  • Has had fewer than 15 clients in the preceding 12 months;
  • Does not hold itself out to the public as an investment adviser;
  • Does not act as an investment adviser to a registered company or a company that has elected to be a business development company; and
  • Either has assets under management of $25 million or more or provides investment advice solely to one or more venture capital companies.

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