In our previous post, we described the SEC’s announcement of examination priorities in 2020 for the Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). In that post, we discussed areas of examination that will apply to a large percentage of registered investment advisors and other regulated entities. In this post, we focus on another priority, namely robo-advisers.
Otherwise known as automated investment platforms, “robo-advisers” have come under increased scrutiny by OCIE. The number of these advisers has increased substantially over the last four years. OCIE intends to focus on issues such as the eligibility of the robo-adviser to register with the SEC, marketing practices engaged in by robo-advisers, the ability to comply with fiduciary duty, the adequacy of the adviser’s disclosures, the effectiveness of the adviser’s compliance program, and the firm’s cybersecurity policies, procedures and practices.
Advisers Act Rule 203A-2(e) permits “internet only advisers” to register with the SEC, provided certain conditions are met and maintained. Specifically, the adviser must provide investment advice to all clients exclusively through an interactive website and maintain records demonstrating that it does so. Under the rule, an adviser may provide investment advice through means other than the internet to up to fourteen clients during any twelve-month period. Undoubtedly there are some firms that registered on this basis who were either not eligible at the time or, through the evolution of their business, have strayed from the conditions required to remain eligible for registration.