Articles Tagged with CCO

In SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White’s opening statement to about 1,000 broker-dealer compliance officials at the Annual Broker-Dealer Compliance Outreach Program, she was clearly dismissing a growing sense that compliance professionals are being singled out by the SEC enforcement program, “To be clear, it is not our intention to use our enforcement program to target compliance professionals” she said, adding “We have tremendous respect for the work that you do. You have a tough job in a complex industry where the stakes are extremely high.” White also drew on the close similarities between the SEC and compliance officials, “Like you, much of our work at the Commission centers on protecting investors. We want to support you in your efforts and work together as a team.”

White’s statement came shortly after a public difference of opinion between commissioners Daniel Gallagher and Luis Aguilar. Gallagher, who issued dissents in the SEC’s cases against BlackRock Advisors in April and SFX Financial Advisory Investment Management in June, argued that the SEC rules governing compliance officials issued in 2003 are vague and leave too much uncertainty “as to the distinction between the role of CCOs and management in carrying out the compliance function.” In addition to the ambiguity in the rules, the only rule interpretations which have been provided by the SEC have come in the form of enforcement actions which Gallagher wrote “are undoubtedly sending a troubling message that CCOs should not take ownership of their firm’s compliance policies and procedures, lest they be held accountable for conduct that is the responsibility of the adviser itself.” Gallagher suggested that the SEC consider either amending the rules or providing commission-level guidance which would help clarify what is expected of compliance officers in their roles.
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In a matter underscoring how important it is for investment advisers to dedicate sufficient resources and attention to their compliance program, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has sanctioned a firm for multiple compliance failures. On June 23, 2015 the SEC instituted cease-and-desist proceedings against Pekin Singer Strauss, a registered investment advisor firm boasting approximately $1.07 billion in AUM which primarily serves high-net-worth clients.

Among the violations cited, the order states that Pekin Singer failed to conduct timely annual compliance program reviews in 2009 and 2010 and failed to implement and enforce provisions of its policies and procedures and code of ethics during this same period. The firm has been ordered to pay a civil money penalty in the amount of $150,000.
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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is taking an increased interest in examining chief compliance officers (CCO) to determine whether enforcement action should be taken against them. At the Investment Adviser Association’s annual compliance conference, CCOs were given a number of stern warnings. Director of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management Robert Plaze spoke about changes and improvements being made by the SEC. He warned CCOs that a newly created Asset Management Unit, which is part of the Division of Enforcement, “is dedicated to suing you.” He also claimed that the new unit will be staffed with people who understand the asset management business. It will also collaborate with both the Investment Management Division and the agency’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations. Mr. Plaze stated that the unit will make the SEC’s oversight of registered investment advisers more efficient, allowing it to be able to perform more effective examinations. These warnings should concern CCOs who have taken a supervisory role within their firm.

The SEC has the authority to impose sanctions on people who are associated with a broker-dealer or an investment adviser if those people have reasonably failed to supervise. Both broker-dealers and investment advisers employ legal and compliance personnel to provide advice to them and their firms regarding the application of laws and regulations. One major issue that arises is whether the CCO is considered a supervisor within the firm. If so, the CCO could be subject to sanctions by the SEC for failure to supervise.
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