Articles Posted in Industry News

On April 23, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued a final rule that drastically changes the employment landscape by banning most types of noncompete provisions nationwide and rendering some existing ones unenforceable. The rule was adopted following a review of the non-competition landscape by the FTC. That review of noncompetes and their impact on the employment market and US economy was extensive. The FTC estimated that 1 in 5 Americans are subject to noncompetes as part of their employment.[i] In total, the FTC received over 26,000 comments regarding the proposed ban on noncompetes, over 25,000 commentors supported the proposed ban on noncompetes.[ii] Continue reading ›

On April 12, 2024, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced they had settled charges against 5 registered investment advisers for violations of the SEC’s Marketing Rule. The announcement follows prior enforcement actions for similar violations, which we have previously addressed: SEC Fines 9 RIAs for Marketing Rule Violations, SEC Fines Adviser Under New Marketing Rule, and SEC Announces Examinations Under New Marketing Rule.

Collectively, the 5 investment advisers, GeaSphere LLC; Bradesco Global Advisors Inc.; Credicorp Capital Advisors LLC; InSight Securities Inc., and Monex Asset Management Inc., were censured, ordered to cease and desist from further violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and pay civil penalties ranging from $20,000 to $100,000.

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Last month, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released notice of a proposed rule that would impose new requirements on certain investment advisers under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). Specifically, the new rule would include some advisers within the rule’s definition of “financial institution,” thereby bringing those new advisers within the scope of the rule, which sets out requirements for complying with the US Treasury Department’s counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering (collectively, “AML”) program.  FinCen proposed a similar rule in 2015, but that rule never became effective.

This proposed rule is another step in a larger effort by FinCen to collect more relevant information that would allow for better AML enforcement and follows on the heels of the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”), which became effective on January 1, 2024. The CTA requires most US companies to submit reports relating to the beneficial ownership of the company. The impetus for the new rule proposal, according to a statement issued by FinCEN’s director, is the concern that foreign adversaries may be taking advantage of vulnerabilities within the US financial system, and a recognition that, collectively, US advisers manage many trillions of dollars. Continue reading ›

In connection with its recently proposed amendment to the definition of investment advice fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code (Code), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) also released a proposed amendment to PTE 2020-02: Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees.

Under PTE 2020-02 Financial Institutions and Investment Professionals, which includes investment advisers and their representatives, can receive compensation for recommending certain transactions to Retirement Investors (i.e., a plan, plan fiduciary, plan participant or beneficiary, IRA, IRA owner or beneficiary or IRA fiduciary) which would otherwise violate the prohibited transaction rules under ERISA and the Code.

Requirements include complying with certain Impartial Conduct Standards (i.e., providing advice that is in the best interest of the Retirement Investor, receiving only reasonable compensation, and avoiding materially misleading statements), providing certain disclosures, adopting policies and procedures, conducting an annual retrospective review, and maintaining records of compliance for six years. Continue reading ›

This past October the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a proposed amendment to the definition of investment advice fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code (Code). Investment advice fiduciaries must generally avoid engaging in certain prohibited transactions absent an exemption. In connection with this proposed amendment, the DOL also released proposed amendments to class prohibited transaction exemptions (PTEs) available to investment advice fiduciaries, including PTE 2020-02 and PTE 84-24.

Whether an individual is providing fiduciary investment advice under ERISA and the Code is currently determined by the DOL’s five-part test set forth in its 1975 regulation. Generally, a person will be deemed to be rendering fiduciary investment advice if: 1) the person renders advice to a  plan or IRA (including plan participants or beneficiaries) as to the value of, or advisability of investing in, securities or other property; 2) on a regular basis; 3) pursuant to a mutual agreement with the plan or IRA; 4) that the advice will serve as a primary basis for investment decisions with respect to plan or IRA assets; and 5) that the advice will be individualized based on the particular needs of the plan or IRA.[1] Section 3(21)(A)(ii) of ERISA and section 4975(e)(3)(B) of the Code further provide that this investment advice must be “for a fee or other compensation, direct or indirect.” Continue reading ›

Last week the Securities and Exchange Commission issued Proposed Amendments to the “internet adviser” basis for SEC registration found in Rule 203 A-2 (e). Currently, the rule provides that an adviser who provides investment advice nearly exclusively via an interactive website is eligible to register with the SEC, as long as the adviser maintains records demonstrating that it provides investment advice to its clients exclusively through an interactive website and does not control, is not controlled by, and is not under common control with another investment adviser registered with the SEC solely in reliance on the internet adviser registration basis. An adviser can still qualify to register on this basis if it provides investment advice outside the interactive website (e.g., by telephone, in person, or via email) to not more than 15 clients in a 12-month period.

In proposing the amendments, the SEC noted that the investment management industry has experienced considerable growth and change in the 20-plus years since the rule was adopted. The proposal purports to address some of the more significant changes in the industry, particularly as it relates to the use of technology.

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The DOL recently dismissed its appeal of an earlier ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (the Court) invalidating part of the DOL’s guidance regarding application of its fiduciary duty to rollover recommendations. The guidance was in the form of an FAQ issued in connection with PTE 2020-02 that explained how a recommendation to roll over retirement assets from a plan to an IRA at the beginning of an ongoing relationship could still be subject to ERISA and/or Code fiduciary duties.

Whether an individual is providing fiduciary investment advice under ERISA or the Code is determined by the DOL’s five-part test set forth in its 1975 regulation. Generally, an individual will be deemed to be rendering fiduciary investment advice if: 1) the individual renders advice to a plan or IRA as to the value of, or advisability of investing in, securities or other property; 2) on a regular basis; 3) pursuant to a mutual agreement with the plan or IRA; 4) that the advice will serve as a primary basis for investment decisions with respect to plan or IRA assets; and 5) that the advice will be individualized based on the needs of the plan or IRA.[1]
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PTE 2020-02 is a prohibited transaction exemption under ERISA. It requires Financial Institutions, including RIAs, to meet several enumerated requirements, including adhering to the “Impartial Conduct Standards,” in order to rely upon the exemption with respect to certain transactions, including rollover recommendations. It also requires Financial Institutions to adopt policies and procedures to assure compliance with all of the substantive provisions of PTE 2020-02.

RIAs relying on PTE 2020-02 are required to conduct an annual retrospective review of their policies and procedures for compliance with PTE 2020-02. The retrospective review must be documented in a written report that is certified by a senior executive officer of the firm. The review must be reasonably designed to assist the RIA in detecting and preventing violations of the Impartial Conduct Standards and its policies and procedures governing compliance with PTE 2020-02.
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The SEC’s Division of Examinations recently released their Observations from Examinations of Newly-Registered Advisers. Issued as a Risk Alert, the release provides guidance for what investment advisers new to SEC registration should expect, but also warns were previously examined advisers failed to meet the SEC’s expectations.

The SEC typically initiates an examination of new-to-SEC registration investment advisers within the first year of registration. In our experience, this can occur as soon as six months after the registration is approved. The purpose of these examinations is as much informative as it is about enforcing the securities regulations. In the SEC’s own words, “[s]uch examinations allow the staff to: provide advisers with information about the Division’s examination program, conduct preliminary risk assessments, facilitate discussions regarding the advisers’ operations and risk characteristics, and promote compliance with applicable statutes and regulations.”[1]

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently released the 2023 Examination Priorities from the Division of Examinations, formerly known as the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations. This annual release provides insight into the areas that the SEC plans to highlight when examining investment advisers during the coming year.

Over the last few years, the SEC has adopted several new rules that include compliance obligations. As the implementation dates for these new rules have passed, the SEC will prioritize examining how investment advisers have incorporate the rules into their compliance programs. While impacting a limited number of investment advisers, the amended rules include changes to the Derivates Rule and Fair Valuation Rule.[1] Continue reading ›

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