Articles Tagged with Code of Ethics Rule

On February 7, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) released a list of five compliance topics that are the most commonly identified topics “in deficiency letters that were sent to SEC-registered investment advisers.”  OCIE published this list in a National Exam Program Risk Alert in order to help advisers who are conducting their annual compliance reviews.

The first compliance topic was compliance with the Compliance Rule, Rule 206(4)-7, which requires an investment adviser to create and execute written policies and procedures that are reasonably tailored to prevent the investment adviser and its supervised persons from violating the Advisers Act and to detect potential violations.  The rule also requires an investment adviser to review the sufficiency of its policies and procedures at least annually and to appoint a chief compliance officer.  According to OCIE, common violations of the Compliance Rule include not having a compliance manual that is reasonably suited to the adviser’s method of doing business, failure to conduct annual reviews or annual reviews that did not cover the sufficiency of the investment adviser’s policies and procedures, failure to follow policies and procedures, and compliance manuals that are outdated.

The second topic that OCIE identified was compliance with the Advisers’ Acts rules on regulatory filings.  For example, Rule 204-1 provides that investment advisers must make amendments to their Form ADV on at least an annual basis, and the amendments must be made “within 90 days of the end of their fiscal year and more frequently, if required by the instructions to Form ADV.”  For investment advisers to private funds, Rule 204(b)-1 provides that an investment adviser must file a Form PF if the investment adviser is advising a private fund or fund with assets of $150 million or more.  Finally, Rule 503 of Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933 provides that issuers of private funds must file a Form D, and investment advisers usually file the Form D for their private fund clients.  OCIE determined that the most frequent violations of these rules were inaccurate disclosures on Form ADV Part 1 or Part 2A, late modifications to Form ADVs, faulty and late Form PF filings, and faulty and late Form D filings.

The Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Division last week settled enforcement actions against three mid-sized registered investment advisors for failing to establish, maintain and follow written compliance procedures. Two of the firms had assets under management less than the new $100 million cutoff for federal registration, and the other firm’s assets were just over that amount.

OMNI Investment Advisors, Inc., was a two-advisor firm with 190 accounts and $65 million under management. The SEC found that it had no compliance program in place for over two years, during which time the owner and CCO was out of the country and not actively engaged in the firm’s business. When the SEC announced an examination of the firm in late 2010, the firm apparently purchased an “off-the-shelf” compliance manual designed for both broker-dealers and investment advisors, but did not customize it for its own advisory business. No annual compliance reviews were conducted, and the firm’s advisors were apparently not supervised. The firm’s owner was also found to have backdated and failed to review a number of documents containing his signature, including client advisory agreements. As a sanction, the SEC barred the firm’s owner from the securities industry and fined him $50,000, in addition to censuring the firm.
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