Articles Posted in Solicitors

As discussed in our most recent posting on this blog, the SEC has proposed a wholesale rewrite of its existing advertising and cash solicitation rules. While that last post delved into the specifics of the SEC’s proposed amendment of its advertising rule, in this installment, we take up the Commission’s plans for revamping its cash solicitation rule.

The SEC’s Release No. IA-5407, published on November 4th, aims to modernize both rules to reflect the dramatic changes seen in technology and the advisory industry since the initial adoption of these rules decades ago. While just a proposal for now, it offers the best view into what any ultimate final rules will probably look like. At this stage, RIAs and other industry participants are closely reviewing both proposed rules, and many will be submitting public comments to the SEC as permitted pursuant to the Commission’s public comment process. While the public comment process runs a fixed 60 days, the ultimate publication of final rules is at the SEC’s discretion. Continue reading

The SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) periodically issues “Risk Alerts” highlighting common deficiencies encountered by its staff during routine investment adviser compliance exams. These Risk Alerts serve the dual purpose of providing advisers with both useful insight into the results of recent OCIE examination activity as well as advance warning of areas that OCIE may be paying closer attention to in the future. Accordingly, a recent Risk Alert issued by OCIE details the most common deficiencies the staff has cited relating to Rule 206(4)-3 (the “Cash Solicitation Rule” or “Rule”) under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. See National Exam Program Risk Alert, Investment Adviser Compliance Issues Related to the Cash Solicitation Rule (Oct. 31, 2018).

By way of background, the Cash Solicitation Rule prohibits SEC-registered investment advisers from paying a cash fee, directly or indirectly, to any person who solicits clients for the adviser unless the arrangement complies with a number of conditions specified in the Rule, including that the fee must be paid pursuant to a written agreement to which the adviser is a party. Notably, the Rule discerns between solicitors that are affiliated with the registered adviser versus those that are not, setting-up more comprehensive requirements for the latter third-party solicitors. For example, third-party solicitors must provide potential clients with both a copy of the adviser’s Form ADV Part II (or other applicable brochure) and a separate written solicitor’s disclosure document containing specific data about the solicitation arrangement—including the terms of the solicitor’s compensation. Moreover, with respect to third-party arrangements, the Rule obliges advisers to: (i) collect a signed and dated acknowledgment from every potential solicited client that such client has in fact received the adviser’s brochure and the solicitor’s disclosure document; and (ii) make a “bona fide effort” to ascertain whether the solicitor has complied with its duties under the Rule.

In this context, OCIE cited the following as the most noteworthy deficiency areas encountered by its front-line examiners:

Several Congressmen and an SEC Commissioner have independently urged the SEC to move forward with adopting proposed rules that impose additional requirements on public solicitations of Rule 506 offerings. At the same time that the SEC finalized its initial rulemaking on the subject last September, it proposed additional rules that would require filing Form D prior to any general solicitation and would impose advertising restrictions, among other things. We discussed that action and the proposed rules in two earlier posts.

Rule 506 was adopted as a safe harbor under Section 4(2) of the Securities Act of 1933, which provides that securities sold “by an issuer not involving any public offering” are exempt from registration under the Act. However, under Title II of the JOBS Act, passed in 2012, Congress required the SEC to adopt a rule allowing for the use of public solicitation in those offerings under conditions to be prescribed by the SEC. The initial rule adopted last September – requiring enhanced verification of accredited investor status – was the Commission’s first small step on the issue.

The comment period on the simultaneous rule proposal imposing additional requirements expired on November 4, 2013, but the Commission has taken no further action to date. On December 5, 2013, however, SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar, speaking at a Consumer Federation of America conference, forcefully called upon the rest of the Commission to move forward in adopting the strengthened rules. “Every day that these proposals are not adopted is another day that investors face great harm. I’m frustrated because investors are going to be damaged” said Commissioner Aguilar. “Unfortunately, it’s been almost five months since those proposals have been issued for comment.”
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The Georgia Secretary of State issued an Implementation Order that became effective yesterday (December 31, 2010) excluding many solicitors from the definition of “Investment Adviser Representatives,” thereby eliminating the registration requirement for those coming within the exclusion. Entered pursuant to the Georgia Uniform Securities Act of 2002, Secretary of State Uniform Act Implementation Order No. 2010-4 substantially preserves, but slightly modifies, the practice that prevailed under the Georgia Securities Act of 1973.

Under the Georgia Uniform Securities Act of 2008, an individual associated with an investment adviser who “receives compensation to solicit, offer, or negotiate for the sale of investment advice” must register as an “investment adviser representative.”

The Implementation Order, however, excludes from the definition of “investment adviser representative” a solicitor that does not provide investment advice and who meets a number of other requisites. The effect of the Order is to allow persons who typically provide client solicitation services under SEC Rule 206(4)-3, without advising solicited clients, to avoid registration in Georgia. Care should be taken to insure that the solicitor who seeks benefit of the exclusion follows a number of unique provisions of the Georgia order, among them that compensation can be received for no more than 10 clients in a calendar year, unless the solicitor does nothing more than provide a list of investment advisers without determining or representing the advisability of a prospective client entering into a relationship with a particular adviser. Attorneys and CPAs may also solicit persons with whom they have existing relationships.